It’s Mandarin time at The Harbour and as Educator Kai Zhang starts up a song, the children gather round to join in.

The language program, which was introduced last year as part of a State Government initiative, runs twice a week for kinder children at The Harbour.

Kai says the children’s engagement with the play-based program is inspiring and he has been impressed at how quickly they take to the language. “I speak Mandarin to the children a lot of the time – at lunch, at nap time – to continue their engagement with the language,” he says. “The feedback from the families has been very encouraging. Some of the children will practice at home, while others are trying to teach their siblings.”

The program incorporates song, stories, games, cooking and art, and focuses on culture as well as language. “We have been learning about all the traditional Chinese festivals and spent a week exploring Lunar New Year in the lead-up to the celebration,” Kai says. “This included making puppets to celebrate the Chinese Year of the Rabbit, cooking our own dumplings and sharing songs and stories. We even had our own traditional Chinese dragon dance.”