Spinning Chinese Zodiac Wheel – Fun Interactive Printable (VIDEO)

Printable interactive Zodiac wheels in English and Chinese

To help kids learn about the 12 zodiac animals and the Chinese calendar system, I created an interactive Chinese zodiac wheel. This fun printable zodiac wheel is available in English, simplified Chinese, and traditional Chinese. I hope your family or school can use it to learn about Chinese culture!

Chinese Zodiac Wheel - Interactive printable in Chinese and English

I also have put together a list of the best Chinese Lunar New Year crafts and activities for celebrating the holiday at home or school. From making paper lantern decorations to practicing Chinese calligraphy, your kids will stay busy and learn plenty about Chinese culture.

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What is the Chinese zodiac 十二生肖?

Coloring a fun printable Chinese Zodiac Wheel

The Chinese zodiac is a major part of Chinese culture and its calendar system. Based on a recurring 12-year (not month) cycle, each year corresponds with an animal, based on the traditional folklore of the Chinese zodiac race.

The story of the Great Zodiac Race

As the 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.

Based on the traditional Chinese folktale, the cat and rat were initially friends who were planning on racing together. But on the day of the race, the cat slept! When the rat woke up and realized the cat was still asleep, he decided to sneak out on his own.

And so the zodiac race began! The order of the animals that arrived are rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig. The cat didn’t make it!

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

What is your Chinese zodiac animal sign?

Depending on what year you are born in, you have different attributes associated with your zodiac animal. Your kids can learn which one they are by using this Chinese animal calendar! For example, 2023 will be the year of the rabbit, followed by the dragon in 2024.

Important Chinese zodiac vocabulary in Chinese, Pinyin, and English

I made a variation of the Chinese animal calendar in English, simplified Chinese, and traditional Chinese. While kids work on their calendar skills, they can also practice their language skills, depending on which they need to work on the most. Here are some of the words you will see on the spinning Chinese zodiac wheel:

  1. 十二生肖 (Shí’èr shēngxiào / Chinese Zodiac)
  2. 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)
Chinese Zodiac Wheel - Chinese New Year printable in simplified and traditional Chinese

Download Chinese zodiac wheel template

Other materials for Chinese zodiac wheel activity

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

*In the images in this post, you’ll see that we’ve used red & yellow cardstock as well as plain white paper for coloring. Choose whichever works best for you! My daughter enjoyed coloring the Zodiac wheel.

Preparing the Chinese Zodiac Wheel

How to make a spinning Chinese zodiac wheel

  1. Print Chinese zodiac wheel templates in your language of choice
  2. Optional: Color the different triangles. This is a fun way to get the kids involved in making the wheel, though you want to make sure to only use pencils or crayons so you can still read the years.
  3. Optional: Laminate the paper
  4. Cut along the edge of inner circle on first page
  5. Optional: Cut along the edge of outer circle on second page
  6. Place smaller circle on top of larger circle
  7. Insert paper fastener at center of both circles
  8. Start spinning and matching the years
Chinese Zodiac Wheel - Interactive way to learn about the Zodiac animals and Chinese calendar

For durability, consider laminating or using thick cardstock paper! Then your child can spin it frequently without worrying about ripping the Chinese zodiac wheel. We want to save ours to use next year, so we decided to laminate.

Chinese Zodiac Wheel - Interactive way to learn about the Zodiac animals and Chinese calendar

Chinese zodiac wheel video tutorial

If you’re more of a visual learner, watch my video on how to make a spinning chinese zodiac wheel! See how we make the zodiac sign wheel and spin it to match up the years.

Ways to learn with the 十二生肖 Chinese zodiac wheel

Put it on the wall

Here is an example of how we put up two language versions of the zodiac sign wheels with painter’s tape on the wall. When the zodiac wheels are at eye level, it encourages kids to spin and check the zodiac animal!

Chinese Zodiac Wheel in Chinese and English - Chinese New Year Animals

Since Chinese is a minority language for my children, I try to make sure that my children have easy access to the Chinese language and culture throughout our house.

To use it, your child can match up the year on the inner wheel with the correct label on the outer wheel. For example, this year will match the tiger with “this year,” and it will show rabbit under “next year” and ox under “last year.”

My daughter has a lot of fun spinning it, counting how many years until it’s a certain animal’s year, and finding everybody’s zodiac animal! Have your child find the year everyone in the house was born so they can identify what their zodiac animal is.

Last year, my youngest son had fun trying to take them off the wall! This year, he understands that he should leave it in place. Next year, maybe he can start spinning! For all of the parents of babies and toddlers – our little ones will eventually learn to keep things in place! 🙂

Chinese zodiac wheel coloring sheet

Here’s another way that the zodiac printable can be presented! My daughter had fun beautifying the Chinese zodiac wheel with a rainbow of colors!

Chinese Zodiac Wheel - Interactive printable for Lunar New Year

十二生肖 Chinese Zodiac toys

If your kids love cute mini toy animals like mine, they might also enjoy matching them with the Chinese zodiac wheel! Here are links to the same or similar mini toy animals that we have:

  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)

Get the spinning Chinese Zodiac wheel

Chinese zodiac 十二生肖 matching activities

Playroom with easel showing the Chinese zodiac years

Older kids can work on math concepts through various matching games, such as the one pictured above. The zodiac wheel, along with our calendar wheel printable, helped my daughter understand the relationship between last year, this year, and next year!

Months of the year printable in Chinese and English | Kids activities | School resources for learning time and seasons

What did your kids think of the Chinese zodiac wheel?

If you use this interactive Chinese zodiac wheel, please let us know! What is your child’s zodiac symbol? I hope they had fun learning about it!

Please leave a comment below. We’d love to hear about your experience!

More Chinese Lunar New Year crafts for kids

Happy Chinese New Year, friends!


  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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