Chinese New Year is a great time to tell the exciting Chinese Zodiac ranking race story. I made this 12 Chinese Zodiac Animals Learning Board for Miss 21 months to relate to the story visually and also for Chinese character familiarisation/recognition.
12 Chinese Zodiac Animals Interactive Learning Board for Toddlers!
The Chinese Zodiac Story
The Chinese zodiac, or "十二生肖", is a continuous cycle of 12 years. Each Chinese New Year is represented by one of the 12 zodiac animals.
The 12 Chinese zodiac animals, in their order, are: Rat "鼠", Ox "牛", Tiger "虎", Rabbit "兔", Dragon "龙", Snake "蛇", Horse "马", Goat "羊", Monkey "猴", Rooster "鸡", Dog "狗" and Pig "猪". 2020 is a year of the Rat "鼠".
The story behind this order stems from an ancient Chinese myth. Chinese mythology has it that the ruler of all gods, the Jade Emperor, had hosted a legendary race to decide which animals would make it into the Zodiac calendar and the order of ranking. Full story here on China highlights.
How to Create this Chinese Zodiac Learning Board
- Large cardboard
- Wet wipe snap lids
- White copy paper
- Black permanent marker
- Hot glue gun
- Trace outline of 1 wet wipe snap lid on white paper. Stack folded pieces of paper beneath and cut out 12 pieces shaped like the lid
- Draw the 12 zodiac animals on the 12 pieces of paper with the marker. I intentionally left the animals uncolored to give Miss 21 months the honor of coloring and to pique her interest in this activity
- Glue 2 rows of wet wipe snap lids onto large cardboard, 6 lids in each row
- Glue the zodiac animal drawings on the lids in the right order
- Open the lids and write the corresponding Chinese names of the zodiac animals beneath
- (Optional) You might like to write the rank number beneath each lid to teach counting
How to Introduce the Activity to Toddler
- Start by telling the zodiac race story as animatedly as you can (or seek the help of Youtube!)
- Recap the zodiac race ranking by using this learning board (point to each number and then to the corresponding zodiac animal)
- Open the snap lid to reveal the "name" of the zodiac animal in Chinese
- Invite your toddler to freely explore the learning board
- When interest starts to wane, bring out art supplies and engage your toddler in coloring of the zodiac animals and decoration of the "names" beneath the snap lids
- Animal recognition
- Chinese character familiarisation/recognition
- Cultural appreciation
- Counting in Chinese
- Fine motor workout (Manipulating the lids + coloring the animals)
For preschoolers with some Chinese proficiency and who like a bit of a challenge, you can level up this activity by turning the activity into games. Game ideas:
- Memory game (Put sticky notes over the animals and ask your child to name the animals in the right order)
- Matching game (Flip the lids up and ask your child to name the animals by reading the Chinese characters)
Chinese Zodiac Craft Ideas
To extend the interest in the Chinese zodiac, venture into craft-making activities with your toddler! Some fantastic ideas from the blogosphere include:
- Chinese zodiac crafts by Activities for Kids
- Interactive Chinese zodiac spinning wheel by Chalk Academy
- Chinese zodiac animal matching by Happy Tot Shelf
I hope you and your little one would enjoy the Chinese zodiac storytelling and learning activity. Happy New Year to you, 新年快乐!
To follow our play adventures, check out @miraculove_sg (Instagram), save our pins or join A Toddler Activity A Day Facebook Group.
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Hi! I am Yunnie. I am the newly minted mama to a little baby girl and a mum friend to everyone on this special (and many times scary) journey of motherhood. Also a graduated bride with a penchant for weddings.