A nursery assistant has begun incorporating Chinese Mandarin into her lessons to help with children’s language and development skills.

Emily Parker, from Blackburn, works at Early Start Nursery in Oswaldtwistle and has introduced "Chinese circle time" into the children’s daily routine, and says the children love it.

Emily, who taught English as a foreign language for six years in China said she has been able to use many of the skills and teaching methods she used over there, but in reverse for her nursery children, with the youngsters soaking it up "like a sponge".

She said: “Every day at 10.45am the children know that it’s Chinese circle time and they get into their circle and greet each other with, Zao Shang Hao, which means good morning.

“Each week we cover a new theme in a fun and immersive way, and we introduce the new vocabulary using props and interactive games.

“We’ve already learnt songs and rhymes such as Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, I Like To Eat Apples And Bananas, and a song about different body parts in Chinese.

“I also use Mandarin as a medium of instruction throughout the day, for example I will say, Xi Shou, and the children will wash their hands. And other times I will say, Pai Dui, and they know that means to line up.”

Emily said that many of the themes she covers with the youngsters fit nicely into the nursery’s own early years foundation stage themes which include communication and language, personal, social and emotional development, physical development, literacy, mathematics, understanding the world and expressive arts and design.

She added: “My colleagues and I are amazed at how well all the children have immersed themselves into the language and are not at all reluctant to get involved and have a try at repeating new words and phrases.

“Even the more shy and reserved children surprised us with how they’ve embraced learning Mandarin. They really are like little sponges.

“The feedback from parents has been wonderful too. Many parents saying that their children are saying Chinese words at home and in the supermarkets and they don’t have a clue what they’re saying.

“As I’m studying early childhood education at university I’m using this for my dissertation as a form of action research on teaching pre-schoolers a second language and its benefits.”

Emily, 28, said that current research already suggests that some of the benefits of learning a second language at such a young age include problem solving skills, enhancing creativity, divergent thinking and critical thinking skills and improving memory.

She said: “It also helps children to stay focussed. It is said that people who are bilingual have synapses in the brain which are stronger and therefore their grey matter is much denser.

“The benefits of learning a second language are endless and already we are seeing that our children are becoming so much more confident in themselves.”