I've been introducing more play-based Chinese learning activities to Miss 22 months as she approaches 2 years of age and is showing an appetite to learn more Chinese! I believe play-based activities makes Chinese learning more fun and hands-on, enabling better recognition and recall.
Colors is one of the first learning topics I introduced to Miss 22 months as we embark on a more structured kind of Chinese learning together. Colors are all around us in the world and it's useful vocabulary to learn. Plus, Miss 22 months knows her colors in English (her awareness of color differentiation began at 16 months), so I'm hoping she would be able to easily associate words in a second language with the colors she's already familiar with!
These are the creative, hands-on ideas I used for teaching my toddler colors in Chinese. During these activities, I did my best to converse in Chinese so she could learn Chinese pronunciation in addition to character recognition.
5 Sensory Ideas for Toddlers to Learn Colors in Chinese!
1) Using Resist Art to Teach the Color White
I first tried crayon resist watercolor art with Miss 22 months when she turned 18 months. Then, she hadn't been aware of how the crayon mark remained white in spite of the layers of watercolor paint applied to it.
4 months down the road, her cognitive awareness has heightened and I found her rubbing paint deliberately over the white crayon drawing trying to make it change color. It's incredible seeing how a few months could bring about so much developmental change.
- Demonstrate to your toddler the white crayon application on the white paper prior to the painting session. This would help your toddler realise the crayon mark 'resists' the paint that goes over it.
- Use a darker color so the white crayon shows up more clearly.
- Using watercolor paints vs. acrylic paints helps reveal the writing more easily.
2) Play Dough Word Tracing to Teach the Color Blue
However Miss 22 months has no knowledge of Chinese characters and hasn't acquired the fine motor skills to manipulate play dough to form characters so I tailored the difficulty level of this activity to match her developmental age and current fine motor level.
First, I let Miss 22 months pick a color for the activity (from the food coloring bottles I have; I'm using Watkins Assorted Food Coloring which is derived from vegetable juices and spices) and she chose blue. I drew the Chinese character 蓝 (Lán) on paper for Miss 22 months to fill out with play dough, using a thick stroke and leaving the inner space 'hollow'. Thereafter, we made the blue play dough together. I'm still using my good old homemade play dough recipe (more details here.)
This activity is great for kinesthetic learners (people with excellent 'physical memory') who learn through their sense of touch.
The fantastic thing about this idea is that you can teach pretty much any color so long as you can turn your play dough into that color!
3) Making Symbolic Red Chinese Lanterns to Teach the Color Red
Chinese New Year was an opportune time of the year for my toddler to organically learn more Chinese! During Chinese New Year this year, making a red classic Chinese lantern together for Chinese New Year helped Miss 22 months pick up the color red in Chinese.
These are other Chinese festivals you can leverage to introduce symbolic Chinese food and items and teach colors at the same time:
In June during 端午节 (Duānwǔ jié / Dragon Boat Festival), you can make classic 粽子 (Zòng zi / glutinous rice dumplings) and teach the color 绿 (Lǜ / green) since the dumplings are typically wrapped in green bamboo or reed leaves.
In October during 中秋节 (Zhōng qiū jié / Mid-Autumn Festival), you can make 烤月饼 (Kǎo yuè bǐng / baked mooncakes) to teach the color 棕 (Zōng / brown) or 冰皮月饼 (Bīng pí yuè bǐng / snowskin mooncakes) to teach any other color!
In December during 冬至 (Dōngzhì / Winter Solstice Festival), you can make classic white and pink 汤圆 (Tāng yuán / glutinous rice balls) and teach the colors white 白 (Bái / white) and 粉 (Fěn / pink).
4) Color Themed Scavenger Hunt to teach the Color Yellow
I wrote 黄 (Huáng / yellow) on a yellow construction paper, cut it out and taped it to a neutral-colored tray. Then I tasked Miss 22 months to scour the house for any item that's yellow and return it to this yellow-labelled tray.
For older kids, it would be even more fun to include it a time challenge!
What's great about this idea is that it isn't specific to the color yellow and could be used to teach any other color.
5) Rotating Cup Spinner to Teach any Color
I made this rotating cup spinner craft with 22 months for Valentine's Day and it taught her colors and feelings at the same time. It's a great activity to teach color associations with feelings and enable little ones to be able to express their emotions through art in the future.
More about how to link colors to feelings here in my earlier post.
Legend for the Chinese labels I used in this rotating cup spinner:
- 今天我的心是 _ 色 (Jīn Tiān Wǒ De Xīn Shì _ Sè / Today the color of my heart is _ )
- 红 (Hóng / Red)
- 黄 (Huáng / Yellow)
- 蓝 (Lán / Blue)
- 绿 (Lǜ / Green)
- 粉 (Fěn / Pink)
Fun Sensory Play Activities to Teach Colors in Chinese
These are the terrific ideas I came across in the blogosphere that leveraged sensory play-based activities to teach young children colors in Chinese!
- Clothespin Color matching in Chinese by CHALK Academy
- Bottle cap color matching in Chinese by CHALK Academy
- Usborne Big Book of Colors activities in Chinese by CHALK Academy
- Popsicle stick word puzzle in Chinese by CHALK Academy
- Dot sticker color matching in Chinese by CHALK Academy
- Chinese color matching cards by Parenting Joy. She provides a free printable on her website!
For teaching Chinese characters not specific to colors, here are 10 interesting sensory activity ideas by Monkeys & Mooncakes.
I wish your little ones a fun time learning colors in Chinese!
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.