Family Members Learning Activity for Kids: Sight Word Envelope Surprise!

Family member titles are among the first words that my 5-year-old daughter learned to read and write in her 3 languages: English, Chinese, and Korean.

Teach family member names photo envelope surprise

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My daughter is constantly making cards for our family.  Meanwhile, my 2-year-old son can recognize the Chinese characters for some of our family members, and he’s especially excited when he sees “弟弟” (dìdì / little brother).

Although family member names are not simple words, I believe that both of my children learned to read these words early because they love and think our family all the time!

Parents often think that children learn “easier” things first.  However, children often can learn seemingly complex concepts due to emotional motivation.

Explore this: How I Taught My Child 1000 Chinese Characters as a Non-Fluent Speaker

Teach kids family member names with photos and special envelopes

For my son, I created a fun surprise envelope activity with family photos to reinforce these important sight words.

Family photos are special, because my kids get to see people they miss whenever they want.  When my husband and I are working, they can peek in these little envelopes and find us!

The grandparents’ photos are particularly special; my kids rarely see my husband’s parents who live on the other side of the country.  It’s also way for my kids to learn about my parents who passed away before they were born.

This low-prep activity includes a convenient printable template!  I’ll also show different ways the activity can be adapted for teaching various developmental levels.

Chinese family members: Important vocabulary

Immediate Family

  • Mom – 妈妈 / 媽媽(Māma)
  • Dad – 爸爸 (Bàba)
  • Older brother – 哥哥 (Gēgē)
  • Older sister – 姐姐 / 姊姊 (Jiějiě)
  • Younger brother – 弟弟 (Dìdì)
  • Younger sister – 妹妹 (Mèimei)
  • Son – 儿子 (Érzi)
  • Daughter – 女儿 (Nǚ’ér)


  • Paternal grandpa – 爷爷 / 爺爺 (Yéyé)
  • Paternal grandma – 奶奶 (Nǎinai)
  • Maternal grandpa – 外公 (Wàigōng)
  • Maternal grandma -外婆 (Wài pó)

Aunties and Uncles

  • Dad’s older brother – 伯伯 (Bóbo)
  • Dad’s older brother’s wife -伯母 (Bómǔ)
  • Dad’s younger brother – 叔叔 (Shūshu)
  • Dad’s younger brother’s wife -婶婶 / 嬸嬸 (Shěnshěn)
  • Dad’s sister’s husband – 姑夫 (Gūfū)
  • Dad’s sister – 姑妈 / 姑媽 (Gūmā)
  • Mom’s brother -舅舅 (Jiùjiu)
  • Mom’s brother’s wife – 舅母 (Jiùmu)
  • Mom’s sister’s husband – 姨夫 (Yífū)
  • Mom’s sister – 姨妈 / 姨媽 (Yímā)

Since Chinese relative names are confusing for me, I sometimes use the Relative Translator App 三姑六婆 Lite – 親戚稱呼計算機 (available on iTunes and Google Play) for reference.

Related: The Best Educational Apps to Learn Chinese

Learn Family Members Envelope photo surprise

What you need for the family member photos envelope learning activity:

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  1. Mini Envelopes free printable template – 4 envelopes per page measure approximately 3.2 in x 1.9 in (8.1 cm x 4.8)
  2. Scissors
  3. Cardstock
    1. Tip: We used construction paper, but I don’t recommend it because the paper is soft and thus sometimes difficult for my son to dump out the photos
  4. Printer paper or photo paper
  5. Printer
  6. Glue stick or double sided tape
  7. Family photos
  8. Marker

*Note: If you have extra envelopes at home, feel free to use those to conserve paper and save time from cutting.

How to make a mini envelope

How to set up the family member photos envelope learning activity:

  1. Cut envelope template
  2. Fold and affix edges of envelope
  3. Label envelopes with family titles
  4. Cut family photos smaller than the envelope length and width 3.2 in x 1.9 in (8.1 cm x 4.8) so that it’s easy for the pictures to be removed and replaced.
  5. Write family titles at back of the photo.  This will be the “control” so that your kids can have a way to check whether they have matched the family words to the envelope correctly.  For younger children, you you can also use a matching color to serve as an additional “control,” to facilitate independence.  However, the addition of color could make the activity too easy for some children.
  6. Insert into envelope

Here are our family member envelopes in Korean and Chinese!

Learn Family Members Envelope photo surprise

Time to peek inside!

Learn Family Members Envelope photo surprise

For more excitement, I used different photos of each family member for the different envelopes!

Learn Family Members Envelope photo surprise

Here’s a closer look at the labels at the back of each photo.  To facilitate independent exploration, the colored labels intentionally match the envelope to serve as a control for my son.

Learn Family Members Envelope photo surprise

Presenting the family members learning activity

When the activity is complete, the envelopes go back into little trays on the shelf in my kids’ play area.  These trays help keep different toys and activities organized on our shelf so our kids can easily find different things to play and learn.

After I guide them through the first exploration, they can explore the activity on their own.

Montessori-inspired shelf for children

Extension activities for further learning

  • For kids who are not yet ready to read, you can put a photo on the outside and have them match other photos in the envelope.
  • Instead of family member titles, teach names of family members and friends!
  • For my 5-year-old daughter who already knows family member names, she has been using the mini-envelopes to write letters and draw pictures for everybody!
  • In addition, we will be using these envelopes to review the family tree.  When I get a chance to take pictures of how we do it, I will update this post!

Have you taught your child about family members in Chinese?

I hope your kids have fun learning about their family members and discovering mini photos of everybody. If you try the family photos envelope learning activity, please let us know in the comments!

More ways to learn about family members

Happy playful learning, friends!

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