Super Fun and Easy Ways to Teach Kids Mandarin Chinese

Published on February 7th, 2013 | by Emma

Guess which language many people consider the hardest to learn and yet has more native speakers than any other language? That’s right my friends it’s Mandarin Chinese! Mandarin is the umbrella term used for dialects spoken in the north and south-west of China.

It has been predicted that China will become the world’s most powerful economy by 2027, making workers who can speak Mandarin highly valuable (i.e. your kids). Don’t worry though, there are A LOT of fun and educational resources to help your kids learn to speak Mandarin Chinese – even if you don’t happen to know your Ni hao from your Zai jian.

Mandarin lessons for child

*There is so much stuff in fact that we have done a super huge separate directory to list all of the great resources that we found but couldn’t fit into this post, check it out!

The Best DVDs to Teach Kids Mandarin

Most of the DVD’s that we checked out combine English and Mandarin. The standouts for the DVDs based on user reviews are Journeys to the East: The River Dragon King and Let’s Go Guang! Chinese for Children (or their kit that includes flash cards, a guide for parents, an illustrated storybook with audio CD and the DVD of episode one.) Both of these DVD’s have great reviews for the educational value of the content and they both have engaging storylines that help keep kids entertained. There are a few negative comments about the production value compared to Nick Jr.’s Ni Hao Kai-lan, but overall they are the best choice if you are looking for a Mandarin-English DVD.

If you are looking for a total immersion DVD Smart Tiger is a great choice or Bin Bin’s Magical Bubble Adventures: Learning Mandarin Through Stories (Colors, Foods and Sleepy Time) also has really good reviews. There are lots of DVDs available so have a look at our resource directory for more options. Or you are looking for something that is free you can try Sesame Street’s Mandarin Learning Program.

The Best Mandarin Language Learning Programs/Websites

There are quite a few options for language learning programs for children to learn Chinese. If you don’t mind spending some money Muzzy is one way to go ($200 plus) it’s a very popular program but the negative reviews seems to outweigh the positive for this program. One of the big complaint with Muzzy is that some people find the animation to be a  little primitive.  If you are looking for a something to expose a baby to mandarin you can try Baby Learns Chinese, this program has generally positive reviews.

As far as what might be the best bet for a language program, the choices we narrowed our search down to were Chinese for Smart Kids and Language Nut. If we were going to purchase a language program for our own children we would probably go with Language Nut. Language Nut was primarily designed as a teacher resource to be used in schools, but they do offer a home user, single computer license for $29.50. It has 24 units, with songs, stories and games the graphics are super cute, modern and child friendly.

If you are looking for a DVD based learning system, you could try Dino Lingo’s Chinese for Kids or Little Pim Chinese . Both systems generally get good reviews and are good for younger kids who are just starting to learn a new language.

As far the best free sites we like Poisson Rouge School of Chinese and  Kid Chinese (Happy Chinese) they both have lots of free and fun lessons.

Top Five Free Online Games to Help Teach Mandarin

No big surprise, but there are lots of online games to help with Mandarin practice. The following are our top five favourite games. See our more extensive list of games in our resource guide.

  1. Zon is a multiplayer, online learning environment designed to teach Chinese language and culture through gameplay. Kids can practice their language skills and learn about the Chinese culture.
  2. Kid Chinese is an amazing free resource for helping you teach your kids Mandarin. The ‘Fun World’ section of the site has very good games.
  3. Chinese iLab has games and quizzes that use audio, so you need to have headphones or speakers. With these games you listen to the words and match up to the items in the game.
  4. Digital Dialects gives you a list of words to learn and then it tests your knowledge of the words with a game.
  5. Chinese Staff Room is another really good resource that has games that help kids learn greeting emotions, colours, clothes, verbs, etc.


Best Apps to Help Kids Learn Mandarin

There are too many great apps for helping kids learn Chinese to pick just one, so we are highlighting the top five apps that we found for helping kids learn Mandarin Chinese based on app review sites and user reviews.

  1. Animal Fun: Chinese for Kids has good reviews from The Language Playground  and Famigo. Highlight of this app include flashcard and games that have great animation and fun background scenes including the sea, insects, the jungle, and the farm.
  2. Learn Chinese (Mandarin) by MindSnacks has five games and a really polished interface. One of the language apps for this company was named as “One of the best education apps of the year” on the App Store Rewind 2011.
  3. Learn Mandarin Chinese Vocabulary from Penyo Pal is another great app to help teach kids Mandarin. This app has super cute graphics that uses a combination of story, games and language learning to help children learn to identify new words in Mandarin Chinese. The stories are narrated in spoken Mandarin and basic Mandarin Chinese vocabulary.
  4. Check out Speak Mandarin Chinese with Private Eyealso from Penyo Pal that can help kids start speaking conversational Mandarin Chinese by playing a mystery game.
  5. LinguPinguin – English Chinese / 汉语 英语 has nine different visual worlds: e.g. animals, transportation, body and toys. A total of ninety objects are made available to explore. When tapped, each object comes to life with sounds revealing the spoken word for the object in Mandarin Chinese.

Mandarin Kids Books

If you are looking for some websites to buy Mandarin Chinese books try Chinese Child Book or Read with me Mommy. Both sites have a good selection of books to choose from. Another interesting place to find Chinese books is Language Lizard, this site offers dual language books for popular titles like Dear Zoo or The Wheels on the Bus, which just means that each page of the book includes Chinese and English text on the page.

For those people who are just looking for some good Chinese language titles for kids a good one to start with is Mandy and Pandy. These books use easy Chinese to teach kids up to grade 3 . The books have topics that include Chinese greetings, counting, traveling, sports, colors, and animals. Each book has audio CD which includes both English and Chinese text. Another great title to look for is Taoshu Learn Chinese if you are looking for a book that includes an audio CD.

A great workbook that you might want to have a look for is Chinese Made Easy for Kids, although you might need to have some knowledge of Mandarin to get the most out of this book.

If you are looking for books for very young kids you can try the board book series Gordon & Li Li. There are three books in the series: Words for Everyday, Animals in Mandarin and Count in Mandarin.

If you are looking for a reading system in Chinese that is like the LeapFrog Tag Reading System or Vtech Bugsby Reading System you should have a look at Touch Reading Pen with Chinese Books, this could be very helpful for non-Chinese speaking parents.

And Finally …

Since the more exposure kids get to a language the more likely they will pick it up here are a few more super fun resources to check out.

photo credit: GlobalCitizen01 via photopin cc
photo credit: BC Gov Photos via photopincc



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