Whenever the school holiday looms draws nearer, I am always on the look out for places, programmes and activities to occupy the boys – especially Xi En.
Full of energy and no afternoon naps needed, Xi En needs some structured activities to occupy his mind and time. In June this year, I decided to pick 1 holiday camp for him to attend. My criteria is simple:
1) Location is not too far to commute and preferably near public transport
2) At least 4 to 5 days of programme so that he is occupied for almost a week
3) Something educational (physically or mentally)
4) Affordable in price
Since I felt that he is still lacking in his Mandarin language, I decided to scout for a Mandarin-focused holiday camp. In the end, I decided on KidStartNow as it met most of my checklist. Some of my blogger friends have reviewed it positively as well. From their website I learn that KidStartNow uses animated stories as the main medium for engaging children to learn Chinese. Initially I was skeptical if children should be further exposed to animation since my kids are already “over-exposed” to television programs at home!
But as I read through some of the FREE learning resources on KidStartNow website, I realised with the changing of times, digital resources are inevitable and in fact very useful to draw the attention of young children and indirectly create a love for a language they might otherwise dislike.
The June camp turned out very well.
By the end of the 4 days camp, Xi En asked for more lessons! He wanted to watch more “episodes” of the story of on The Panda Superheros. Previously he used English or refused to complete sentences in Mandarin. But after the camp, he was more enthusiastic in trying to complete a sentence in Mandarin or at least asked for the Mandarin vocabulary if he doesn’t know the words. Although I didn’t sit in the lessons, I could hear the teacher’s lively voice encouraging class participation and the children warming up to each other and the language each day. It was a fruitful 4 day camp!
We are excited that KidStartNow’s December camp is back and they have kindly invited Xi En to be part of it as well! As we are planning a trip to Taiwan (more Mandarin exposure!) before this, it is timely that we come back to a Mandarin camp. Certainly hope that he will be inspired and not shun away from learning Mandarin.
Here, Dan Tang, one of the directors at KidStartNow had also answered some of my questions and provided tips which might be useful to many parents. I found his practical tips useful!
Who is the team behind KidStartNow and what is the motivation behind setting up KidStartNow?
“KidStartNow is founded by a team of educators, designers, and engineers that aim to help English-speaking kids love to learn and excel in Chinese. I created KidStartNow because I was raised in an English-speaking family and found learning Chinese a big struggle growing up until I lived and worked in Taiwan. I decided to give up a high-flying finance career in Taiwan to start KidStartNow because I wanted to help the next generation love and excel in Chinese.”
What qualification/experience do the teachers at KidStartNow come with? Do they come up with the programmes?
“We only hire A+ teachers who genuinely care about and love teaching kids and are extremely patient. This is because kids raised in English-speaking families typically find Chinese more foreign and it is easy for them to feel demoralised initially if they fall behind. All our teachers also have teaching diplomas, are native speakers and have several years of teaching experience. Our curriculum is created by our teachers in accordance with the latest MOE syllabus.”
Why do parents need to consider sending their children to a Chinese enrichment class and in particular what does KidStartNow have to offer which makes it a unique choice?
“Many parents lack the confidence or time to teach their kids Chinese, and thus send their kids to enrichment centres to build their kids’ interest in Chinese and prepare them for primary school. Unlike other centres, we are solely focused on English-speaking kids.
KidStartNow is different from other centres in three ways:
We hire only A+ teachers that genuinely love teaching kids and are incredibly patient
We focus on encouragement and growth mindset – kids are told they are good at Chinese and are rewarded with digital coins and stickers for trying
We are the only Chinese centre to create our own animated storybooks, which are incredibly effective at helping kids build interest and vocabulary (www.boshipanda.com)”
What advice do you have to offer to parents regarding encouraging their children to learn and enjoy Mandarin?
Be patient as getting comfortable with Chinese takes time. When your child refuses to speak or read Chinese, do not worry or express displeasure and instead praise your child for baby steps and encourage your child to keep on trying.
Reading is critical as it helps children develop a love for languages. If your child does not want to read Chinese books or if you are less confident in reading Chinese, consider using either KidStartNow’s animated storybooks or other apps that have audio read-aloud.
Start weaving Chinese into daily life – such as a set hour or day where the family communicates only in Chinese. Or when out, consciously point out street names and places of interest, etc in Chinese.
What can we expect from the upcoming school holidays camp program?
Our upcoming holiday camp aims to help kids develop interest in Chinese and build up their oral confidence through storytelling and role-playing (older kids will also have a chance to do a show and tell presentation). The camp will be a modern retelling of the Boy Who Cried Wolf story, except with a cast of superhero pandas, and teach the importance of honesty!
We have helped hundreds of children with our previous camps, many of whom attend multiple times. We are also highly recommended by 17 parent bloggers and have also been featured by Young Parents’ as “Enrichment class that best nurtures your child’s interest in Chinese” (Jan 2014).
I do find KidStartNow especially useful to those who come from English-speaking family background or non-Chinese ethnic groups and those who dislike or is “scared” of Mandarin. If you might be interested to know more about the Superhero Camp or weekly lessons, do check out their website for more details: http://www.kidstartnow.com/
See you there! 🙂
Details of KidStartNow
- Address: 209 New Upper Changi Road, #03-649, S(460209)
- Phone: (+65) 6481-1932 / 9820-7272
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Credit: All photos and pictures are courtesy of KidStartNow.