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Many Melbourne council libraries offer bilingual storytime. These sessions are free drop-in sessions which run during the school term. They give you a chance to meet other bilingual families and children, help your child develop language and motor skills and provide a chance to hear and practice another language.

BY COUNCIL AREA

Council
Bayside GERMAN

4th Wednesday of the month 10.30am to 11.15am at Brighton Library

Boorondara CHINESE

1st Friday of the month 11am at Balwyn Library

Brimbank MANDARIN CHINESE

Every Wednesday 11.15-11.45am at Deer Park Library
VIETNAMESE

Every Monday 11-11.30am at St Albans Library

Every Thursday 11-11.30am at Sunshine Library

Hume ARABIC

Every Wednesday 11am at The Age Library Broadmeadows

ASSYRIAN

Every Thursday 1pm at The Age Library Broadmeadows

Every Friday 11am at Cragieburn Library
SINHALESE

Every Monday 11am at Cragieburn Library
TURKISH

Every Monday 11am at  The Age Library Broadmeadows

Maribyrnong VIETNAMESE, MANDARIN CHINESE

Wednesday 11.00am – 11.45am at Central West Shopping Centre, Ashley St. Braybrook
VIETNAMESE

Every 2nd Tuesday 10.30am – 11.00am at St Andrews Uniting Church—Community Hall 304 Barkly Street Footscray
CHIN

Every 2nd Wednesday 10.30am—11.00am (part of multicultural playgroup) at Dinjerra Primary School, 44 South Road Braybrook
VIETNAMESE

Every 2nd Thursday 11.15am – 11.45am (part of multicultural playgroup) Braybrook Community Centre, 107-139 Churchill Ave. Braybrook
INDIAN

Every 2nd Monday 11.30am – 12.00pm (part of multicultural playgroup) 118 Commercial Rd. Footscray

Monash MANDARIN CHINESE

1st Wednesday of the month 10.30am to 11.15am at Glen Waverley Library

3rd Thursday of the month 10.30am at Mount Waverley Library

2nd and 4th Wednesdays of the month 10.30am at Clayton Library

GREEK

1st and 3rd Mondays of each month 10.30 am at Oakleigh Library

Moreland ITALIAN

1st Tuesday of the month 10.30 am at Coburg Library
GREEK

4th Monday of the month 5.30 pm at Coburg Library

Port Phillip RUSSIAN

1st Monday of the month 11am at St Kilda Library

Whitehorse Manningham CANTONESE CHINESE

1st Friday of the month 11.00am -11.45am at Doncaster Library
GREEK

2nd Tuesday of the month 11.00 -11.45am at Doncaster Library

Yarra Plenty DUTCH

Last Friday of the month 10.30am –11.00am at Diamond Valley Library
GERMAN

Last Wednesday of the month 10.45am –11.45am at Eltham Library
FRENCH

1st Thursday of the month 10.00am –10.30am at Ivanhoe Library
ITALIAN

3rd Friday of the month 12.00noon –12.30pm at Lalor Library

2nd Friday of the Month 10.30am –11.00am at Mill Park Library

Last Wednesday of the month 10.00am –10.30am at Rosanna Library
ARABIC

Selected Tuesdays 6.30pm – 7.00pm at Thomastown Library
CHINESE

Selected Mondays 10.00am –10.30am at Watsonia Library
JAPANESE

Every 2nd Friday 10.00am –10.30am at Watsonia Library

BY LANGUAGE

ARABIC Selected Tuesdays 6.30pm – 7.00pm at Thomastown Library
Every Wednesday 11am at The Age Library Broadmeadows
ASSYRIAN Every Thursday 1pm at The Age Library Broadmeadows

Every Friday 11am at Cragieburn Library

CHIN Every 2nd Wednesday 10.30am—11.00am (part of multicultural playgroup) at Dinjerra Primary School, 44 South Road Braybrook
CHINESE Wednesday 11.00am – 11.45am at Central West Shopping Centre, Ashley St. Braybrook  (MANDARIN)

Selected Mondays 10.00am –10.30am at Watsonia Library

1st Friday of the month 11am at Balwyn Library

1st Friday of the month 11.00am -11.45am at Doncaster Library (CANTONESE)
1st Wednesday of the month 10.30am to 11.15am at Glen Waverley Library (MANDARIN)

3rd Thursday of the month 10.30am at Mount Waverley Library (MANDARIN)

2nd and 4th Wednesdays of the month 10.30am at Clayton Library (MANDARIN)

Every Wednesday 11.15-11.45am at Deer Park Library (MANDARIN)

DUTCH Last Friday of the month 10.30am –11.00am at Diamond Valley Library
FRENCH 1st Thursday of the month 10.00am –10.30am at Ivanhoe Library
GERMAN Last Wednesday of the month 10.45am –11.45am at Eltham Library

4th Wednesday of the month 10.30am to 11.15am at Brighton Library

GREEK 2nd Tuesday of the month 11.00 -11.45am at Doncaster Library

4th Monday of the month 5.30 pm at Coburg Library

1st and 3rd Mondays of each month 10.30 am at Oakleigh Library

ITALIAN 3rd Friday of the month 12.00noon –12.30pm at Lalor Library

2nd Friday of the Month 10.30am –11.00am at Mill Park Library

Last Wednesday of the month 10.00am –10.30am at Rosanna Library

1st Tuesday of the month 10.30 am at Coburg Library

JAPANESE Every 2nd Friday 10.00am –10.30am at Watsonia Library
TURKISH Every Monday 11am at  The Age Library Broadmeadows
VIETNAMESE Wednesday 11.00am – 11.45am at Central West Shopping Centre, Ashley St. Braybrook

Every 2nd Tuesday 10.30am – 11.00am at St Andrews Uniting Church—Community Hall 304 Barkly Street Footscray

Every 2nd Thursday 11.15am – 11.45am (part of multicultural playgroup) Braybrook Community Centre, 107-139 Churchill Ave. Braybrook

Every Monday 11-11.30am at St Albans Library

Every Thursday 11-11.30am at Sunshine Library

Please let me know if there are any other events to add!

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Raising bilingual children

Yesterday I met another Chinese mum married to an English-only speaking Dad. She was bilingual and was teaching her daughter to speak Chinese and we got chatting about the challenges of being a bilingual parent.

Many people are curious and impressed when they discover that I’m teaching my kids to be bilingual. For me, teaching my kids to be bilingual from birth is a no-brainer – but it got me thinking about sharing the WHY and HOW of raising kids to be bilingual.

I’m not a linguistic expert nor a qualified language teacher. However, I am only bilingual because of my parents and I have made the choice to teach my kids to be bilingual, so I feel I have some insights and experience to share.

Why you should raise your kids to be bilingual

There is lots of research about the benefits of bilingualism for children:

I have not found a single piece of research that says that bilingualism has negative consequences for children. I have heard some parents say that they don’t want their children’s English to suffer but research shows that learning another language can benefit children with their English numeracy and English literacy. Don’t worry – you kids will have lots of opportunity to hear, listen, learn and practise English all around them and at school.

I also know as a bilingual adult I feel privileged to be able to speak two languages. I was forced to only speak Chinese at home but I can’t really read or write Chinese (as I rebelled against Chinese school as a teenager). From my own experience I feel that:

  • Bilingualism has taught me to have a good ear for hearing and pronouncing other languages. Because Cantonese is a tonal language I can hear tonality in sounds much better than, say, my monolingual husband. My French accent is pretty good, my smattering of Vietnamese (another tonal language) is accurate and I can hear and replicate the six Cantonese tones of ‘maa’ (which could variably mean mother, horse, twin, question, scold or hemp) accurately.
  • some words in Chinese cannot be exactly translated into English. I find that there are many Chinese words that describe smells and tastes which do not have a direct translation in English. Having a second language expands my vocabulary to express exactly what I mean.
  • Speaking Cantonese connects me to my family. My grandmother doesn’t speak English and I naturally switch to Chinese when speaking to my parents. Without my language skills there would be a great barrier in our connectedness and understanding.
  • Speaking another language means that I can communicate with different people in different ways. I have been able to provide directions to lost elderly Chinese people, have conversations with bus drivers and helped asylum seekers navigate their way around Australian bureaucracy. I only wish my Mandarin was better so that I could communicate with more people.
  • Learning another language also means appreciating another culture. I go into a Chinese restaurant and know how and what to order!
  • There’s a benefit to having a ‘secret’ language – you can talk about people without them knowing you’re talking about them! While this may sound rude it has been helpful when Lady AB has said something much too honest about someone ‘That man is really fat!’ and I’ve been able to correct her in Chinese.

My view is that if can can pass on that knowledge and such far-reaching benefits to your children, why wouldn’t you? Well…

Challenges of teaching your kids to be bilingual

The first step to teaching kids to be bilingual is the one language-one parent rule. That means I speak to the kids only in Chinese (where possible, my vocabulary isn’t complete) and T speaks to the kids only in English.

This can pose problems when T doesn’t know what I’m saying to the kids – but that’s pretty rare. I don’t have complex philosophical discussions with my kids! Mostly I’m telling them to eat, drink, bathe, share, don’t do that etc and it’s pretty obvious from the context what I mean (I also still automatically use baby sign language).

Also my resolve weakens when I am tired, frustrated or angry. Even though Cantonese is my mother tongue, English is my predominant language, so I can’t find the words I need in the heat of the moment.

I find the hardest situations are when the kids and I are around other English-speaking people. When I talk directly to them I still speak Chinese but when I need the other people to know what I’m saying eg ‘please give the apple to that little girI’ I have to switch to English. That erodes the one language-one parent rule which means that Lady AB knows I can speak and understand English.

Which leads to my biggest challenge – getting the kids to speak Chinese. I know Lady AB and Baby 2.0 both understand Chinese perfectly well – but Lady AB responds to me in mostly English and Baby 2.0’s budding vocabulary is all English words. I have tried to force Lady AB to respond in Chinese by telling her I don’t understand her when she speaks English – but she’s stubborn and smart. For the moment I’ve let it slide as I figure the kids are still grappling with English and I’m hoping to handball the responsibility of teaching spoken and written Chinese to Chinese school!

My tips for teaching bilingualism

From my experience here are my tips for being a bilingual parent:

  • Be consistent. One parent-one language and avoid using English if possible. This is the golden rule!

My Pet Dragon

  • Introduce foreign language books and reading in the language. I can’t read or write Chinese which means I have to read the kids English books, but I still try to have Chinese books around for grandparents and where possible I translate sentences into Chinese after reading the sentence in English.
  • Use the TV to your advantage. Every kid loves screen time and sometimes the one-eyed babysitter is very helpful – so put on DVDs and TV shows in the language.
  • Make use of books and toys. Learning language should be fun so there are shops where you can buy children’s books and toys in other languages.

runaway wok book

Do you have any insights about your own journey to teaching bilingual children or advice for other bilingual parents?

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shorten reserve playground

Baby 2.0 has inherited his father’s bolter genes which means I’m on an everlasting hunt for a playground with a fence. You’d be surprised how few and far between a good fenced playground can be in Melbourne!

One of our local gated playgrounds is at Shorten Reserve, next to the oval for the West Footscray Roosters.

The large playground is more suitable for toddlers than older kids although students from nearby Footscray West Primary School often hang out there after school.

The main structure is a traditional metal/plastic playhouse with climbing frames, two double slides (not too high), steering wheel, binoculars (too high for Lady AB) and a music panel.

shorten reserve playground

There are two swings – one with a safety belt, one without – plus a netted ring (bird’s nest) swing which the kids loved sharing.

shorten reserve playground

There is also a small sandpit area with one lonely scoop and stepping stones in the garden.

shorten reserve playground

The biggest drawcard of Shorten Reserve, (other than the fence!) is the tractor. You can steer it, shake it and ride it. Brmm Brmm!

Features:
  • suitable for toddlers;
  • sandpit with equipment;
  • fully fenced;
  • toilets (West Footscray Football Club clubhouse, not open all the time);
  • some natural shade;
  • BBQ, picnic table, taps; and
  • seating.

Shorten Reserve playground, cnr Market St and Essex St, West Footscray

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holly lane mews

The Yarra Valley is probably the most popular day trip for Melburnians but with so many things to do and places to eat (and drink!) it’s worthwhile enjoying a longer stay.

Here are our family-friendly tips on Yarra Glen and Healesville, the two main towns in the Yarra Valley region.

STAY:

Holly Lane Mews, 28 Willow Bend Drive, Steels Creek

holly lane mews

We decided to base ourselves in Yarra Glen because it     was just that little bit closer to Melbourne (Healesville was another 25-30 minutes drive). I found Holly Lane Mews through Stayz and was perfect our family. The property is a working horse stud and the owners live in a big house on the land, with a few private cottages nearby. There were lots of animals to look at it, including the bird aviary and the resident dogs. Apparently native wildlife appear at night too.

holly lane mews

Our 2 bedroom cottage (which could be 3 bedroom if we needed) was $210 a night. This included a substantial cook-your-own breakfast with eggs, bacon, bread, cereal, yoghurt, fruit and even some home made biscuits. Parking was free and on site and if the weather had been better the kids could have enjoyed the swing set more. In summer there’s a small pool too!

holly  lane mews

They enjoyed looking out at the ponies from their cosy warm bedroom anyway.

holly lane mews

The owners provided a portacot and high chair at no extra charge.

EAT:

Yarra Valley Chocolaterie – a chocolate factory, shop, cafe and grounds to explore. READ THE REVIEW.

Zonzo – some of the best pizza I’ve had ever.  READ THE REVIEW.

zonzo

Hargreaves Hill – award-winning microbrewery and restaurant which is welcoming of kids. READ THE REVIEW.

Isabella’s at Rochford Wines – one of the best children’s menus I’ve seen with food I’d happily eat. READ THE REVIEW.

Yering Station – fine dining with expansive views which is still child-friendly. READ THE REVIEW.

Yering station Yarra Glen

Giant Steps Innocent Bystander – pizzas and beers in a stunning restaurant. READ THE REVIEW.

Healesville Hotel – we’ve not been since having kids but hear that it’s very child-friendly. READ THE REVIEW.

Other reader tips included Medhurst Wines, Healesville Harvest (part of the Healesville Hotel), Yarra Valley Dairy, Oak Ridge Winery, De Bortoli Wines.

PLAY:

Yarra Glen Adventure Playground – huge playground suitable for all ages just a hop, skip and jump from the main street in Yarra Glen. READ THE REVIEW.

yarra glen adventure playground

We have visited Hedgend Maze but do not recommend it, particularly if you’re short of time.

Other reader tips included TarraWarra Museum, Healesville Glass Blowing Studio

 

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