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!
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!
Have you looked in your games closet lately? I bet that there are a ton of games in there that you can use for building vocabulary and fluency in your target language!
The other day, I rummaged around in my own closet and found a great game that I had forgotten about — Story Cubes! This game’s premise runs on a very simple concept. Players of Story Cubes use 9 cubes with images on them to tell a continuous story. It starts with one player throwing the cubes on the table. Each player takes turns picking one of the cubes and telling part of a story inspired by the image shown on the cube. The next player picks a cube and adds to the first person’s story using the image as inspiration. And so on, until all of the cubes are gone and the story is over.
The story possibilities are unlimited since the combination of the 54 images will always be different. My kids love story telling and Story Cubes is a wonderful little game to spark their little imaginations. Besides — if we did not have Story Cubes as our foundation, my daughters would probably start off every story with a mermaid 🙂 !
A Bonus: This box is travel-sized at about 6 x 3 inches so perfect for taking to a restaurant or on an airplane.
Set up ground rules: No one is allowed to criticize the other person’s story.
Timing: Limit each person to a certain amount of time that they can tell his/her part of the story. We usually limit it to one minute — otherwise, the story can lose momentum if one person takes up too much of the plot.
I think this is my favorite tradition. I started it in June of 2014 to avoid the summer slack and we just kept on at it. The kids write to me during the day and then I write back. I love that part of the night. After the cuddling, reading and talking with the kids, I make a nice cup of tea (or wine, depending on the day). I don’t turn on my computer or look at my phone. I just get an old fashioned pen and start writing back. Sometimes I write a paragraph — other times pages.
I use it as a way to talk with them about things that may not get the time that they deserve during the day. I have three kids, two kittens, a dog,.. and oh yes, a husband 🙂 and life can get hectic. It is often hard to have a “real” dinner conversation or even a simple one-to-one conversation with one child without the others chiming in with his/her own needs/questions/running commentary.
I also use the journal to build up anticipation about an upcoming vacation or trip (even a simple apple picking adventure) as research shows that savoring an adventure before it arrives actually gives you more “happiness buck” for your money.
Why not use it for second language development?
I asked my babysitter if she would be able to write to my kids in a “special Chinese” journal and voila! A new routine that inspires more Chinese writing! For Lousha, at 8, she is just starting out exploring Chinese characters but I hope that it turns into the same wonderful connection she and I have in her English journal.