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. My daughter is constantly making cards for our family. 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.
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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 free printable that you are welcome to use! I’ll also show different ways the activity can be adapted for teaching various developmental levels.
Chinese family members: Important vocabulary
- 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)
What you need for the family member photos envelope learning activity:
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- Mini Envelopes free printable template – 4 envelopes per page measure approximately 3.2 in x 1.9 in (8.1 cm x 4.8)
- 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
- Printer paper or photo paper
- Glue stick or double sided tape
- Family photos
*Note: If you have extra envelopes at home, feel free to use those to conserve paper and save time from cutting.
How to set up the family member photos envelope learning activity:
- Cut envelope template
- Fold and affix edges of envelope
- Label envelopes with family titles
- 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.
- 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.
- Insert into envelope
Here are our family member envelopes in Korean and Chinese!
Time to peek inside!
For more excitement, I used different photos of each family member for the different envelopes!
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.
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.
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!
I hope your kids have fun learning about their family members and discovering mini photos of everybody!
More ways to learn about family members
- I highly recommend the Chinese Children’s Music album, I Can Sing in Mandarin, track 5, as a fun way to learn family member titles. This album has many catchy Chinese songs that are pleasant, in tune, and understandable. The 5th track is about family members.
- Learn About Chinese Family Members with Printable Heart Matching Game
More fun and simple educational activities for kids
Check out all hands-on learning activities organized by topic in our activities library!