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REVIEW: Gallery Children’s Biennale Bilingual Storytelling Tours for Kids in English, Mandarin, Malay and Tamil

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Want your kids to speak their mother tongue more? We review the free bilingual storytelling tours at Gallery Children’s Biennale, which include fun activities for kids

In multilingual Singapore, we all want our kids to hone their skills in both English and their mother tongue. With the rise in kids consuming online content, kids’ TV shows and books all predominantly in English, they just tend to have less exposure to their mother tongue these days, right? If you’re looking for a fun way for kids to practise Mandarin, Malay or Tamil while learning about art, take them to the National Gallery Singapore! We got the chance to join a Malay storytelling tour of the Gallery Children’s Biennale: Why Art Matters – keep reading for our review of the experience.

Conversations with an Octopus Children's Biennale at National Gallery Singapore

Storytelling tours in 4 languages

The Gallery Children’s Biennale storytelling tours take kids 5 to 8 years old through the installations of the festival with songs, dance, and other participatory activities. For the first time ever, these free tours are available in English, Mandarin, Malay and Tamil. We reckon it’s a great way to learn about art through different languages!

Read more about the kid-friendly exhibits at the National Gallery here.

national gallery children's biennale bilingual storytelling
Lead Art Explorer Juriah telling us the story of Amrita and The Forest in the Conversations with an Octopus installation by Sandra Lee

Review: Why we liked the Gallery Children’s Biennale storytelling tour

As someone who’s also in the camp that speaks far more English than Malay on the daily, even I was nervous about sitting through an art tour that would be conducted in Bahasa Melayu. If I can’t understand half of the words, what more would my Bluey-watching, American-accented 3-year-old?!

But I had nothing to worry about after all. From start to finish, the Lead Art Explorers, Juriah and Karen, led the kids through two of the Gallery Children’s Biennale installations in an engaging way.

Despite being a little younger than the recommended age group, my daughter was enthralled right from the beginning, and didn’t seem to lose interest even once (parents of toddlers will know how big of a deal that is!). I watched her like a hawk throughout the session, looking for signs of any confusion or boredom. But all the kids were very engaged, singing along and answering questions when prompted – even the ones in Malay.

Lead Art Explorers. Karen and Juriah, telling the story of Bangau, Ikan dan Ketam (Stork, Fish and Crab) in the Calling for Rain installation by by Khvay Samnang

The kids got to learn about the environment (which was the main focus) through song, dance and storytelling. Even us parents learned a thing or two! The story of Amrita and The Forest explained why trees are important to us, while the story we were told about Bangau, Ikan dan Ketam (Stork, Fish and Crab) explained the effects of global warming in a kid-friendly way. I appreciated that the Lead Art Explorers went at a comfortable pace, and translated whenever necessary so everyone could understand and felt included.

Before long, 45 minutes was up and we were free to explore the rest of the installations on our own. The storytelling sessions are kept short, and usually within a maximum of two installations, to accommodate families with young children and minimise movement from one area to another.

national gallery children's biennale review bilingual storytelling

All in all, the storytelling tours seem to be a highly underrated activity at the National Gallery and we can’t recommend it enough! We learned some new Malay words and the Lead Art Explorers did a fantastic job of being quick on their feet and involving the kids throughout the session.

Coming soon: 2023 Gallery Children’s Biennale Opening in May

The Gallery Children’s Biennale is open to visitors till 26 February 2023, but you should also keep your eyes peeled for the next edition of the Gallery Children’s Biennale in May 2023! We hear there’ll be works from 10 international artists, so watch this space!

Admission to the Gallery Children’s Biennale is free for everyone (including non-Singaporeans!). General Admission to National Gallery Singapore applies if you are visiting the other cool exhibitions that they have ongoing, such as Living Pictures: Photography in Southeast Asia.

National Gallery Singapore, 1 St Andrew’s Road, Singapore 178957

Brought to you in partnership with National Gallery Singapore

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