Headbands is probably my favorite game in our house. Everyone can play it and everyone enjoys it! The concept is simple. Someone picks a card for you that has an image on it (cat, spoon, rake, etc.) and you need to figure out using yes/no questions the object that is on your head.
How is this a language game?
You can play this game in any language! The object is simply to guess what the object is on the top of your head and just THINK about all of the vocabulary needed to figure it out! We play this game with our Chinese-speaking babysitter because she is able to provide the kids with a ton of vocabulary of objects (like hammer, fire hydrant, etc.) that the kids might not know.
Make it more challenging by using a timer with the game. The student needs to guess the answer in the set time (2 minutes or so). This way the guesser and the other players don’t get frustrated as it can take a long time to figure it out.
If your child gets stressed out with a timer (as one of my kids does) don’t use it! Just let the child guess the object in his/her own time. This version may work better if there is an adult giving the answers as children might lose patience if the guessing lasts too long.
Instruct your kids to ask big questions. I have to remind my little one, Hudson, of this idea every time because otherwise she will just start guessing random words and you can imagine how long that game might take (yikes!) Some questions that you can give them as starters are the following:
Does it fly?
Does it live in the ocean?
Would you see it in a farm?
Do we have one in our bathroom? Kitchen? Garage?
Is it a food?
Have fun! Let us know how it went in the comments section of this post!
How can you use basketball to make learning flashcards more fun? Lucas, my 11-year-old son, came up with this idea to do with his Chinese tutoring students. He and I brainstormed tons of ideas to make learning Chinese characters more fun and this one is one of our favorites!
Find flashcards that you want your children to use or make them yourself. Put one word on each card.
Decide on the number of cards that you want your student to learn
Review those cards with your student
Place the cards in a semicircle around the basketball hoop (farther for older kids, closer for younger ones)
HOW TO PLAY:
The student needs to say the word on the flashcard before he/she can try to make a basket
If the student gets the basket, he/she gets to keep the card as a “point”
If the student does not make the basket, he/she needs to move to another card and read that one.
The student keeps on moving from card to card until all of the cards are “won”.
If playing with multiple students, make sure that they take turns. One child goes, and then the other. You don’t want the students so focused on making the basket that they forget to stay the word on the card.
Designate a spot for students to put the cards that they have “won” so that the cards don’t get messed up in a pocket or mixed up with another child’s cards.
If your children enjoy competition, set up a challenge to see who can get the most cards.
If your children do not enjoy competition with one another, set up the game so that the children see how well they can improve. How many cards can they get in a certain time period? Can the student get the points within two shots for each card? Set up the game so that your child finds it enjoyable.
Have fun! Please let us know how it went in the comments section of this post!
I have lots of parents ask me how I get my kids to watch TV in Chinese. The answer is uncomplicated. They either get TV in Chinese or no TV at all. They know the rules. They never ask to watch TV in English simply because they know that it is not an option. They would rather have TV than no TV at all. Simple.
If you are starting out on this second language journey and up until now, your kids have only know TV in English — of course — it will be challenging. AT THE BEGINNING! But if you are firm with your rules and stick with it, I guarantee you that your kids will pick TV over no TV every time.
Now, I am not saying that Mandarin TV takes over ALL TV in our house. For us, TV comes in English on family movies nights on Fridays and when we have non-Chinese speakers over the house for a sleepover. But other than that, it is in Mandarin!
TV is a wonderful tool to introduce new vocabulary that may not come up in ordinary conversation.
“To infinity, and beyond!” — Buzz Lightyear
It is fun! And, gives you a bit of time to tackle those dishes without distractions.
Try it out with your kids, regardless of how many years of English TV they have had prior to this decision! If you are unyielding in your decision, your kiddos will get it and soon happily watch Zootopia in whatever language you choose!
We just love this game Rush Hour. It is challenging! It is fun! It is portable! It is hard to lose too many pieces! 🙂
Seriously, though, we love it. My son, Lucas (11) recently decided to start a Chinese tutoring class fueled in part by a desire to buy Pokeman cards (which he has yet to purchase – thank goodness) and a new-found pride in his Mandarin-speaking skills. He has used this game often during his tutoring sessions because it is a great way to explore numbers, directions and simple vocabulary while still challenging his students. His students range from 5 to 11 and so he needs to find games that will appeal to all ages — and this one is it!
Here are some colors to get you started:
brown marrón, pardo
The other day, I looked at Hudson’s stack of Chinese cards and realized that she had quite a little bundle. We took them out and laid them on the floor to get a good look. I had never counted them before — and after taking out duplicates — found that she had 120 of them. How many did she actually know?
So, we turned it into a little game. Say all of the cards you know! No order to it. Just go! It was fun to watch her run through these cards at lightening speed. I thought she would get through half? Maybe three-quarters. Nope. The whole shebang. The activity itself was fun for her — crawling around on the floor — finding the cards that came to mind the quickest — and racing through it! It was much more fun than the traditional way of going through the stack one by one! In a few weeks, we will probably do it again!I will keep you posted!
I do believe that learning Chinese characters is actually easier for Hudson, my four-year-old, because she does not have a deep understanding of English writing yet. She is able to soak up the characters because, at this time, they are simply pictures. She is not translating in her head what the word would be in English or looking for the pinyin to help her figure it out. The Character simply means that word — nothing else gets in the way!
This year we play a lot with ithese fun Reusable Chinese Calligraphy Brush Water Writing Magic Cloths with the kids. It is an easy and inexpensive way to explore writing in Chinese characters. You simply dip the calligraphy pen into water and write on the cloth. A few Chinese characters are pre-written for your child to trace and the rest are blank squares for your child to explore writing any character he/she desires.
I also love how the words disappear quickly! For kids just learning how to write in Chinese (and adults too!), it can be frustrating to not have a character turn out the way that you expected. With this Reusable Chinese Calligraphy Brush Water Writing Magic Cloth, the words just disappear after a few minutes! If the character is not perfect — POOF — it disappears quickly so that you can start fresh again!
Check out this video of my older daughter (8) teaching my younger daughter (4) how to write simple Chinese characters.
There is really no better way to learn something than to teach it to someone else. Studies have shown that active learning is the best way to learn. So you can see why we were thrilled when my son wanted to make use of his Chinese speaking and writing skills to teach other kids (and gain a little money to buy Pokeman cards!)
Lucas and I have had a lot of fun coming up with creative ways to make learning Chinese fun for the beginner. Flashcards are sort of a necessary evil with learning Chinese. A ton of characters need to be memorized before you can even begin to start reading. And as I am sure you remember — flash cards are super boring.
Lucas and I have taken this as a fun challenge — how to make Chinese flashcards learning fun! He has been testing all of these games with his little sisters and have enjoyed every one!
Hiding Flashcard Game:
box large enough to be able to lay down 5 cards so that they don’t hide another card
How to Play:
Show the student the 5 (or however many you are going to study at that time) cards
Put the cards in the box so that the student can see all of the cards
Cover the box with a blanket
Take out one of the cards while the student covers his/her eyes
Take off the blanket and see if the student can figure out which card is missing
I struggled writing this post. Do I tell the truth? That sometimes keeping up with Chinese in our home is exhausting. On my blog, I make it seem as if all is hunky-dory and that the kids jump for joy when we have Chinese time. But, there are times when the kids get home from school and they want nothing to do with Chinese — and yet we do it. I know that spending a little bit of time every day on a focused goal leads to great results (see my blog post about The Slight Edge here), but doing something every day can be taxing.
Why do I write this blog? Because it forces me to keep going. It holds me accountable to keep trying new things with my kids in Chinese. It forces me to not just give up. It is like a friend that you meet for that run. You don’t want to cancel on her because you know that she is out there waiting for you. It would be easy to just give up.
The idea of The Slightest Edge is simple — every day you work on your goal (your child speaking a second language/ losing weight/ adding meditation to your life) with dedication and discipline — it will lead to massive success!
What about for you?
Start a blog (even if you share it just with your family) detailing your experiences with second language learning.
Make a goal buddy where you share every day or every week what you are doing in that second language with your child.
Find a friend who is doing the same second language as you are and set up a sharing system where you each need to come up with something creative to do with your kids and share it with each other every Monday.
Create a second language journal where you write about your experiences, challenges, lessons learned when teaching your kids a second language.
Set up a language exchange with a friend who also speaks your target second language and take turns teaching the kids. This way all of the pressure is not just on you. You can set up a system where the kids get a creative lesson with you one day a week and your friend another day that week.
There is no better way to learn anything than by having fun! This is why I created these Battleship Games with simplified Chinese characters for my son to play.
My 9-year-old daughter loves writing and learning and writing Chinese characters. She is quite the little artist and so for her, they are more like small works of art. For Lucas, my 11-year-old, learning Chinese characters is more arduous. The repetition and the memorization that my daughter enjoys, it just plain old boring for him.
However, with this game — especially with this title 🙂 — he loves it!
The game is set up just like the Battleship that you remember from your childhood. You get 5 boats and you need “sink” your opponent’s boats. You have a grid as your playing area and you call out coordinates from the x-axis and y-axis to see if you have landed on your opponent’s ship. However, with the game I have made, the coordinates are marked with simplified Mandarin characters instead. You and your child call out two Chinese characters (one from the x-asis and one from the y-axis) and see if you have a hit!
The reason why this mom loves the game is that by the end of playing, my kids know all of the characters on this game board REALLY well since they have had to say them over and over again in their hunt for boats to sink.
Here is a link to free downloadable games for you to use with your family:
I used to teach 10th and 12th grade English in New Jersey. When the students wrote about Jane Eyre, their writing was less than fabulous. However, when they wrote to actual companies about something that they wanted to change or to an author that they loved, their writing was amazing. There was a direct correlation of their level of interest in the topic and their writing ability!
I feel as if the same thing is happening with my son’s blossoming interest in studying Chinese. He now thinks that learning Chinese is useful and valuable. A skill. Before this year, Chinese was just something that we did in the home, but did not have a translatable purpose.
Lucas’ desire to build his Pokeman card collection has inspired his interest to tutor in Mandarin! He came up with the idea himself and wrote the website himself!
Perhaps your kiddos can use their second language skills to teach other kids! If your child is just starting out, perhaps have your child teach a younger sibling or a younger neighborhood kid for a few dollars or a bump in his/her allowance — or just for fun!
I know that for Lucas, it has been inspiring to realize that his Chinese is a skill that is valuable and fun! He loves his new tutoring business and I love his enthusiasm!