Chinese for Kids: 18 Fun Ways to Teach Chinese to Young Learners
Children have a knack for grasping concepts quickly—and this is especially true with languages.
By using handy apps, fun games and other learning tools, we can absolutely teach children about the Chinese language.
The 18 resources below will help kids learn Chinese and get them enthusiastic and engaged!
- Apps and Digital Games
- Educational Videos and Television Programs
- Chinese Flashcards
- Children’s Books
- Hands-on Activities
- Why Should We Teach Kids Mandarin Chinese?
Apps and Digital Games
Apps are a great way to facilitate “lessons” for kids without having to do the work of designing the lessons yourself. Just download and install these apps on your smartphone or tablet, and let your child explore!
1. Fun Chinese
iOS | Android
This all-in-one app uses challenging but fun games to teach children how to read, speak and spell in Mandarin. With over thirty different games to choose from, your child is sure to get addicted to learning Chinese.
What’s great about this app is the lessons are organized. By the time your child finishes the last lesson, they will have picked up 150 Chinese words and expressions!
iOS | Android
Kids love learning with videos—and FluentU is a website and mobile app that teaches Chinese through interesting media clips from songs, cartoons, movies and more.
All of the clips are five minutes long at most, and they have interactive features, like subtitles that link to a video dictionary for each word:
Kids might also enjoy taking the personalized quizzes, which include audio snippets and speaking exercises.
Not only is this app free, but it’s also specifically designed for preschoolers. Cute and colorful cartoons and graphics are used to teach kids how to speak and listen in Mandarin.
This app has nine different topics including animals, transportation, food and more! The skilled animation and graphics make this app appeal to even adult learners.
4. Dinosaur Chinese
iOS | Android
Learning Chinese characters is often one of the most difficult parts of Chinese for kids, but this app turns it into an entertaining game.
Packed with fun animations and different settings, it incorporates more than 200 Chinese characters as well as basic vocabulary, and these get to stick because they come up over and over as your child keeps playing.
Educational Videos and Television Programs
We’re no strangers to educational television. “Sesame Street” and “Dora the Explorer” are just two examples of children’s media that are popular choices for teaching kids language skills, among other life lessons.
There are actually quite a few helpful Chinese videos on YouTube for kids, as well as television shows, that you can use to teach young learners about the Chinese language and culture.
Even when you’ve had your fill of the ones we suggest below, they’ll lead you to many more that are sure to be great additions to your Mandarin Chinese learning routine! Here are a few to get you started.
5. “Ni Hao Kai-lan”
This show is often hailed as the Chinese counterpart of “Dora the Explorer,” and that’s pretty accurate. “Ni Hao Kai-lan” uses similar interactive methods to teach kids Chinese words, such as posing questions and waiting for the child watching to answer.
This television show also boasts some pretty cool facts about Chinese history and culture, as well as life lessons.
6. “Busy Beavers: Chinese”
Be “edutained” with Busy Beavers’ animated videos and language clips. The video we’re highlighting is a full-length episode and can be watched all at once or divided into individual lessons. At 56 minutes long, you’ll learn some of the basics of the Chinese language like colors and basic phrases like “My name is…”
Kids and adults alike will appreciate how the topics are divided, as well as the pronunciation examples!
7. “Little Fox Chinese”
Little Fox Chinese is one of the best free resources out there for Chinese animated videos for young learners (some adults who are beginners practice with these too!).
You and your child can watch on either their YouTube channel or website. They have stories, songs and games that introduce simple words, and there are even video series that you can follow in order.
8. “Twinkle Trails: Chinese Lanterns”
The videos from Little Lives follow the learning adventures of Ms. Twinkle and her class as they discover the world around them (typically in song form).
This particular episode of the popular YouTube learning series focuses on teaching children how to count in Mandarin. Narrated in English, kids can hear the numbers in Chinese and see the corresponding character.
Flashcards have been a useful tool for teaching children just about everything for many, many years. You can get physical or digital flashcards, or even make your own with index cards!
To use flashcards, we recommend starting simple. Put together five or six easy basic words such as 你好(nǐ hǎo) — hello, 不 (bù) — no or 是 (shì) — yes. Give your child time to look them over, sound them out, etc. Make sure they can grasp tones a bit.
Then begin showing them the flashcards one at a time to see if they can associate the characters with the Chinese verbiage and English translations. Give him or her a minute or two between cards so they don’t get too frustrated or overwhelmed.
9. Tuttle Chinese for Kids Flashcards
Kids like physical flashcards with bright illustrations, which is why Tuttle’s Flash Cards Kit is pretty effective for helping kids remember essential words. It features 64 Chinese words like “milk” and “shirt,” with an illustration at the front along with the main information about the word. At the back, you’ll find the stroke order and example sentences.
It also comes with downloadable audio so your child can also hear how the words are pronounced.
10. Chinese Mandarin Pinyin Flashcards
Aside from words, you can actually also use flashcards to teach kids pinyin and pronunciation. These Chinese pinyin flash cards are handy for both kids and adult learners. It covers 57 Pinyin elements in total, with pronunciation details and example words as well as downloadable audio.
The cards are also very durable since they’re made of tear-resistant paper, so kids can play around with them!
11. YellowBridge Chinese Flashcards
If you’re not interested in being so creative, YellowBridge has some awesome digital flashcards specifically geared towards teaching children and adults the basics of 拼音 (pīn yīn) — Chinese romanization and 汉字 (hàn zì) — Chinese characters. You can also customize lessons using this resource as well.
12. DigMandarin Chinese Flashcards
Another website with digital flashcards for kids would be DigMandarin. It has sixteen flashcard sets for kids that focus on important vocabulary, with topics like food, school, family and numbers. The flashcards are all Quizlet-based, so aside from reviewing the cards directly, you can have your child try out a matching game too for each deck.
There are actually a lot of Chinese learning books that are geared towards kids as young as four years old (and even for babies, with some extra features). Bilingual storybooks can help kids get interested in the language, along with coloring books and workbooks. We’ve added our top picks here:
13. “My First Mandarin Words with Gordon & Li Li”
This bilingual book features two pandas—one from New York and the other from China. The story is all about them trying to talk to each other, despite speaking two different languages. It’s ideal for younger kids and toddlers, and each Chinese word mentioned includes the pinyin and pronunciation.
The book’s also appealing visually, with large, sturdy pages and colorful illustrations all around.
14. “Big Chinese Workbook for Little Hands”
This workbook series is meant to get kids started with handwriting characters!
It gives a gentle introduction by teaching how to make basic strokes first, and each page has activities like matching characters with their pictures, tracing the lines in characters and even coloring in strokes. To top it off, there are clear drawings per page so it’s easy to associate the characters with what they mean.
15. “I Found It!”
“I Found It!” is a Chinese-English storybook that’s very appealing to kids because it has gorgeous, full-scale illustrations on each page. For each scene in the book, kids are given a short list of objects in English, Chinese and pinyin, and they have to look for these objects in the illustration.
You can choose either the Simplified or Traditional Chinese version, and there’s a free audio of the book online:
16. “Celebrating Chinese New Year”
To teach your kid about Chinese culture, you can’t go wrong with this informative yet fun book! It delves into the legends and traditions behind the Chinese New Year, from why red is considered a lucky color to stories about the zodiac animals.
As a bonus, there are fun activities towards the end of the book, like chopstick games and instructions for cooking dumplings.
When all else fails, make it into a game! Hands-on activities are a stellar way to get a group of children excited about making something with their own two hands while teaching them something else at the same time.
17. Rosetta Stone’s Chopstick Game
This is a creative hanzi + pinyin + English chopstick game. It’s a great project that combines Chinese culture, games and translating words.
All you need to set up this project is a pen, paper, scissors, a bowl and chopsticks. It doesn’t get simpler than this!
18. Chinese Culture Day
You could also host a Chinese culture day for your children where you cook Chinese food, watch some “Ni Hao Kai-lan” and do some Chinese-style crafts together.
Even though you’re not actively teaching your children pinyin or hanzi, you’re still introducing them to Chinese culture in a way they can understand.
Why Should We Teach Kids Mandarin Chinese?
- It’s fun. Kids love to learn, but it has to be facilitated in a way that makes it click with them. Chinese culture is challenging, new and cool to kids. Why not teach them all about it?
- Mandarin Chinese is usually only offered at the high school level. However, learning a bit about the language at a younger age can only improve fluency in the long run!
- It could broaden their occupational and financial future as a bilingual adult. A bilingual or multilingual adult has a good chance of making more money in certain fields. By teaching a child a new language, you’re setting them up for a brighter future. And since Chinese is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world, you’re broadening their horizons even more.
- Learning a new language opens doors for kids to learn more about cultural diversity. Hate is a learned thing, not something children are born with. When you open doors and show how diverse and cool the world is, you’re playing your part in raising tolerant, open-minded children for the future. Teaching children about Chinese culture and a bit of Mandarin is one great way to do this.
Are you ready to teach Chinese to your children?
We can promise that with a little bit of planning and some fun hands-on activities and resources, your kids will definitely have a great time learning more about 中文 (zhōng wén) — Chinese!