Chinese Zodiac Wheel Activities (VIDEO)

Chinese Zodiac Wheels Activities, Poster, Years Charts - Chalk Academy

Whenever I present Lunar New Year at school, kids always ask about the 12 Chinese zodiac animals. They want to know their Chinese zodiac sign and check the animal year for friends, parents, and teachers. So, I created a spinning Chinese zodiac wheel with fun activities! You can print it in English, Simplified Chinese, or Traditional Chinese.

How to find your Chinese zodiac sign

I also put together the best Chinese Lunar New Year crafts for celebrating at home or school. Kids can choose fun activities like paper lanterns, Chinese calligraphy, and Chinese zodiac wheels!

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What is the Chinese zodiac 十二生肖?

Coloring a fun printable Chinese Zodiac Wheel

In Chinese, zodiac translates to 十二生肖 (Shí’èr shēngxiào). The zodiac animals are a major part of Chinese culture and its calendar system. Twelve animals are assigned to certain years, but not just any animal. The special animals are based on the ancient Story of the Great Zodiac Race.

The Story of the Great Zodiac Race

Chinese zodiac animals and years chart

As legend goes, the Jade Emperor was planning to name the calendar years based on which animals reached him first in a great race. During the race, all types of animals would compete and have to cross a river.

According to the traditional Chinese folktale, the cat and rat were friends who planned to race together.

But on the day of the race, the cat slept too late. When the rat woke up and noticed the cat was still asleep, he snuck out on his own. And so the zodiac race began!

Printable interactive Zodiac wheels in English and Chinese

What are the 12 Chinese zodiac animals?

The order of the Chinese zodiac animals based on the Great Race are rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig.

Unfortunately, the cat lost the Chinese zodiac race. The cat and rat also became enemies.

Learn more about the Great Zodiac Race through the best Chinese Lunar New Year books.

How do you say the zodiac animals in Chinese?

In order, the 12 zodiac animals are as follows:

  1. 鼠 (Shǔ/ Rat)
  2. 牛 (Niú/ Ox)
  3. 虎 (Hǔ/ Tiger)
  4. 兔 (Tù/ Rabbit)
  5. 龙 / ( Lóng / Dragon)
  6. 蛇 (Shé / Snake)
  7. 马 / (Mǎ / Horse)
  8. 羊 (Yáng / Goat, Sheep, Ram)
  9. 猴 (Hóu / Monkey)
  10. 鸡 / (Jī / Rooster)
  11. 狗 (Gǒu / Dog)
  12. 猪 / (Zhū / Pig, Boar)

Download and print Chinese zodiac wheel

Since we’re raising bilingual kids, I made these Chinese animal calendars in English, simplified Chinese, and traditional Chinese.

Choose your preferred language! I’ve included a translation guide for the zodiac animal names.

How to make a spinning Chinese zodiac wheel

The printable template includes step-by-step instructions. But if you’re a visual learner, watch my video on how to make a spinning Chinese zodiac wheel! See how much fun it is to find the zodiac animal.

Supplies for making a Chinese zodiac wheel

  1. Printer paper or cardstock*
  2. Scissors
  3. Paper fastener
  4. X-Acto Knife or pushpin
  5. Cutting board
  6. Pencils or crayons
  7. Optional*: Laminating pouches and laminator

*Do you want to save the Chinese zodiac wheel for future years? You can laminate or use thick cardstock paper so the wheel can last longer. Then, your child can spin it without worry.

What is your Chinese zodiac animal sign?

Your zodiac sign depends on the month and year you were born. The zodiac year starts on the first day of the Lunar New Year, between January 21 and February 20.

Similar to holidays like Easter, Ramadan, and Rosh Hashana, the date changes every year depending on the lunar calendar.

Therefore, if you were born in January or February, your zodiac animal might not line up with the year on the wheel. That’s because different cultures have different ways of marking time.

In this case, check the chart for your zodiac animal! The chart is part of the printable zodiac wheel packet.

Chinese New Year zodiac activities for kids

How to use the spinning Chinese zodiac wheel

Match the “this year” label on the outer year to the correct animal and year. For example, this year is 2024, the year of the dragon. Last year was the year of the rabbit. Next is the year of the snake.

十二生肖 Chinese zodiac wheel activities

children looking for zodiac animal year
Old photo of my children enjoying the first version of our Chinese zodiac wheels!

Countdown to your favorite animal

How many years until your beloved zodiac animal? Spin the zodiac to find out! This is a fun way to practice basic addition and subtraction.

Color the Chinese zodiac wheel

Print the Chinese zodiac wheel on white paper. Then, add your favorite colors with a pencil or crayon. My daughter enjoyed using rainbow colors for her zodiac.

12 zodiac animal toys and spinning wheel activity

Play with 十二生肖 zodiac animal toys

If your kids like to collect cute mini toy animals like mine, match them with the Chinese zodiac wheel. Here are the same or similar toy animals.

  1. 鼠 (Shǔ/ Rat)
  2. 牛 (Niú/ Ox)
  3. 虎 (Hǔ/ Tiger)
  4. 兔 (Tù/ Rabbit)
  5. 龙 / 龍 ( Lóng / Dragon)
  6. 蛇 (Shé / Snake)
  7. 马 / 馬 (Mǎ / Horse)
  8. 羊 (Yáng / Goat, Sheep)
  9. 猴 (Hóu / Monkey)
  10. 鸡 / 雞(Jī / Rooster)
  11. 狗 (Gǒu / Dog) (more breeds here)
  12. 猪 / 豬 (Zhū / Pig, Boar)

Practice calendar concepts

With the Chinese zodiac wheel, we reviewed concepts like this year (今年 / jīnnián), next year (明年 / míngnián), the year after the next (后年/ 後年 / hòu nián), last year (去年 / qùnián), and the year before the last (前年 / qiánnián).

Calendar wheels to learn days of the week and months of the year

We also used our printable calendar wheels to learn the days of the week and months of the year in Chinese and English.

We reviewed yesterday, today, and tomorrow, as well as last month, this month, and next month.

Read the Great Race story

Here are two of our favorite books about the Chinese zodiac animal legend!

十二生肖的故事 book and Chinese Zodiac Wheel from Chalk Academy

十二生肖的故事 Story of the Zodiac with CD

This popular book by Taiwanese author 賴馬 (Lài mǎ) is one of my children’s favorites. The dynamic storytelling CD brings the gorgeous illustrations to life. The text is in traditional Chinese with Zhuyin. There is no English, however.

The Great Race: Story of the Chinese Zodiac / 动物渡河比赛 / 動物渡河比賽 bilingual children's book

The Great Race: Story of the Chinese Zodiac / 动物渡河比赛 / 動物渡河比賽

This bilingual book is perfect for kids learning Chinese. The Pinyin and English translations help non-fluent families understand new Chinese characters.

Did you try these Chinese zodiac wheel activities?

What is your child’s zodiac symbol? Did you use this interactive Chinese zodiac wheel to find out? We’d love to hear your experience in the comments below!

More Chinese Lunar New Year crafts for kids

Inclusive Lunar New Year Activities Book

Discover diversity with our fun printable Lunar New Year Around the World Activity Kit!

Printable red envelopes Lunar New Year craft activity for kids

Make lucky Chinese Red Envelopes 红包 with our printable template and video tutorial!


  1. Amy Rogers says:

    Hi there! I wanted to thankyou so very much for this post! My precious 12 year old daughter is from Nanchang China. We adopted her at 8 months old. I am always trying so hard to find ways to teach and incorporate the culture she was born into, into our home. I also teach preschool, so I love all your wonderful ideas for my classroom to teach them as well!!! And a bonus…I am a believer as well!!! Anyway, just wanted to say thanks!!! God bless you!

    1. Hi Amy! Thank you so much for sharing about your lovely family! So glad that you’re here. God Bless your family!

  2. Thank you for a great resource! We used it to help us find the animal for my oldest’s family members and then make a simple chart showing how many people in his family were born in each year (and which year has the most!).

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