My daughter and I have a lot of fun using craft sticks (aka popsicle sticks) to create cute craft stick airplanes! Since we love to learn through play, I thought of a fun way to incorporate sight word reading practice and review airplane vocabulary while building!
Chinese is our family’s minority language, and we try to make the language as fun as possible. As Chinese characters are essentially “sight words”. repetition is key to memorizing Chinese characters. Using Velcro, our craft stick airplanes become re-buildable and therefore can be used as a word-matching puzzle!
As always, all of our literacy activities can be adapted easily to any language (eg, English alphabet)! In addition, you can use it to teach numbers!
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Important vocabulary about airplanes!
- 飞机 / 飛機 (Fēijī / airplane)
- 飞机场 / 飛機場 (Fēijī chǎng / airport)
- 护照 / 護照 (Hùzhào / passport)
- 飞机票 / 飛機票 (Fēijī piào / airplane ticket)
- 驾驶员 / 駕駛員 (Jiàshǐ yuán / pilot)
- 飞行员 / 飛行員 (Fēixíngyuán / pilot)
- 乘客 (Chéngkè / passenger)
- 客舱 / 客艙 (Kècāng / passenger cabin)
What you need build Craft Stick Airplanes:
- Large natural craft sticks
- Mini natural craft sticks
- Mini 5/8″ velcro coins
- Black pen
- Optional: acrylic paint
I opted for a natural look this time due to lack of time. If you decide to paint it, I suggest limiting the colors and design so the Chinese characters stand out (see photo at end of post).
How to set up the Craft Stick Airplane Sight Word Matching Puzzle:
- Write desired word on 2 large craft sticks and 1 mini craft sticks.
- Repeat step 1 for desired number of words
- Affix one side of Velcro coin to the center back of each craft stick (opposite side of sight word)
- Affix other side of Velcro coin to clothespins: 2 on one side, 1 on the other
- Let the Velcro settle on the craft sticks for a few minutes
- Separate craft sticks into 3 different piles
- Match craft sticks by word
- Assemble airplane with matching craft sticks!
Tip: If you keep the craft sticks and clothespins unpainted, they can be resused/upcycled for other activities later!
Examples of how we used the Craft Stick Airplane Word-Matching Puzzle
Below is an example of how I set up the invitation-to-learn on a tray. I left the tray on our living room coffee table so that my 4-year-old daughter could explore it when she was ready.
(In case new readers are concerned about my 4-year-old doing sight word activities at her young age, this is because she was an early reader!)
When I first set out the craft stick airplanes, I had also set up other activities in the play area. For a few days, she seemed more interested in the other activities.
Then, on her own, she suddenly became interested in this when she was reading a book about airplanes! I showed her how to do the activity once, and she had fun figuring out how to put together the airplane by matching the Chinese characters!
Comparing simplified and traditional Chinese characters
Although we are mainly learning simplified Chinese characters, my daughter has been interested in learning traditional Chinese characters we well!
Below is an example of comparing simplified and traditional Chinese characters 机场 / 機場 (jī chǎng / airport)!
Sibling play with craft stick airplanes
My 18-month-old son also had so much fun with the airplanes! Although I wasn’t able to capture a photo of him for this post, he and big sister have been running around the house making airplane noises!
My daughter also pretended that our couch was an airplane, and she handed out different airplanes to each of us to “assign” passenger vs. pilot roles!
Play is the most natural way for children to practice using new vocabulary, and they don’t even realize they are learning!
Painted craft stick airplanes
As mentioned earlier in this post, we did paint a few of the airplanes with acrylic paint which you can see in the next photo. Which craft stick airplanes do you prefer – the painted or natural look?
If you try this Craft Stick Airplane Word-Matching Puzzle, please let us know! My daughter loves to see what other kids are doing for their hands-on Chinese learning!
More hands-on transportation activities
- Make-A-Sentence Post-It Note Train Literacy Activity
- Parking Lot Craft and Toy Car Matching Activity
- Writing 车 (chē) and 車 (chē) with Road Tape
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Happy playful learning, friends!