I don’t want to encourage too much screen time, but I have to admit that watching cartoons in Mandarin does significantly help with improving the language skills when you don’t have anyone at home who is conversing in Mandarin.
Screen time doesn’t have to be long though, as even a short 10 to 15 minutes toon once a week helps 🙂 The frequency (hearing it often throughout the week) seems to make a difference compared to adhoc long periods of time (one day of 1 hour!). Then again, watching the Lego movie in Mandarin will probably help your child’s Mandarin skills more than watching the same movie in English 😉
Subtitles didn’t seem to matter much to my kids when they were 3 to 6 years old, as they were happy to watch stuff in any language (or rather happy that they were being allowed to even watch a screen!). They may not have understood the language fully but somehow made sense of the pictures and picked up / imitated the sounds.
Now that my eldest daughter is at the age where she can read English subtitles quickly, it is great way of learning for her (and me!) as she sees the English meaning alongside listening to the Mandarin and it makes more sense and becomes familiar.
Screen time is always a balancing act but it will help. We’ll try to put up videos of the stories we read in class and any relevant cartoons on this blog so that the kids have this language resource at home if you wish to use it 🙂