A few years ago, I made these pretend play food printables for my daughter. My original plan was for both of us to learn how to say and read food names in Chinese and Korean. These are our family’s heritage languages, and I’ve been learning Mandarin plus a tiny bit of Korean with my kids.
Of course, the best way to learn about real food is through shopping, cooking, and eating! (And of course gardening if you have that opportunity.) The multi-sensorial experience of the kitchen has been a fun way to enhance language learning for our family.
However, my pretend play food “flashcards” help us create a print-rich environment for our minority languages.
On each play food, the names are clearly visible, and the definition is obvious by the shape of the food.
These printables have also been an amazing resource for learning food groups, sorting by color, discussing nutrition, understanding food allergies – plus hours of imaginative play!
Today, the pretend food is still a big hit for 6-year-old big sister and 3-year-old little brother!
I’m excited to share the printables with you in English, Chinese, and Korean!
Fun and useful resources for learning about food
- 25+ Great Books About Food in Chinese and English
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- Kids Water, Snack, and Self-Care Station Makes Life Easier for Everyone
From paper craft to reusable printable pretend play food
When my daughter was 3, the play food printables stemmed from a cutting and pasting food craft that I made up on a whim!
I used this simple craft to teach my daughter food names in Chinese. At the top of each page was a sentence for her to practice reading Chinese characters.
Since we try to follow the one person, one language method, our nanny helped her with learning Korean translations and reading simple Korean words.
At that time, my daughter was obsessed with cutting, and this was a wonderful opportunity to practice scissor skills with various shapes!
When she started to use the paper food cut outs for pretend shopping, I realized that I should create a more durable version of this activity!
The laminated food printables have lasted over 3 years while encouraging my children to play and speak their minority languages!
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Pretend play food printable – important vocabulary in Chinese and Korean
The pretend play food printable has 7 pages of food organized by food color. To create white food, you can simply print the brown food page on white paper.
Color names in Chinese and Korean
The following relevant translations for colors are in simplified Chinese, traditional Chinese, Hanyu Pinyin, and Korean.
- 红色 / 紅色 (hóng sè)
- 橙色 (chéng sè)
- 黄色 / 黃色 (huáng sè)
- 绿色 / 綠色 (lǜ sè)
- 蓝色 / 藍色 (lán sè)
- 紫色 (zǐ sè)
- 棕色 (zōng sè)
- 白色 (báisè)
Common food names in Chinese and Korean
Here are Chinese and Korean translations for each of the foods on the printables.
Carrots, corn, and peppers are repeated a few times since these foods naturally come in different colors.
Page 1: Red-colored food
- Apple: 苹果 / 蘋果 (Píngguǒ), 사과
- Cherry: 樱桃 / 櫻桃 (Yīngtáo), 체리
- Hot pepper: 辣椒 (Làjiāo), 칠레 고추
- Red pepper: 红椒 / 紅椒 (Hóng jiāo), 피망
- Strawberry: 草莓 (Cǎoméi), 딸기
- Tomato: 西红柿 (Xīhóngshì), 토마토
- Watermelon: 西瓜 (Xīguā), 수박
Page 2: Orange-colored food
- Carrot: 胡萝卜 (胡蘿蔔 Húluóbo), 당근
- Clementine: 橘子 (Júzi), 귤
- Orange: 橙子 (Chéngzi), 오렌지
- Pepper: 胡椒 (Hújiāo), 피망
- Pumpkin: 南瓜 (Nánguā), 호박
- Yam: 甘薯 / 甘藷 (Gānshǔ), 고구마
Page 3: Yellow-colored food
- Banana: 香蕉 (Xiāngjiāo), 바나나
- Carrot: 胡萝卜 / 胡蘿蔔 (Húluóbo), 당근
- Cheese: 奶酪 (Nǎilào), 치즈
- Corn: 玉米 (Yùmǐ), 옥수수
- Lemon: 柠檬 / 檸檬 (Níngméng), 레몬
- Pear: 梨子 (Lízi), 배
Page 4: Green-colored food
- Broccoli: 西兰花 / 西蘭花 (Xī lánhuā), 브로콜리
- Cucumber: 黄瓜 / 黃瓜 (Huángguā), 오이
- Edamame: 毛豆 (Máodòu), 에다마메
- Green pepper: 青椒 (Qīngjiāo), 피망
- Lime: 酸橙 (Suān chéng), 라임
- Peas: 豌豆 (Wāndòu), 완두콩
- Spinach: 菠菜 (Bōcài), 시금치
Page 5: Blue-colored food
- Blueberry: 蓝莓 / 藍莓 (Lánméi), 블루 베리
- Fish: 鱼 / 魚 (Yú), 생선
- Popsicle: 冰棒 (Bīngbàng), 아이스 팝
Page 6: Purple-colored food
- Carrot: 胡萝卜 / 胡蘿蔔 (Húluóbo), 당근
- Corn: 玉米 (Yùmǐ), 옥수수
- Eggplant: 茄子 (Qiézi), 가지
- Grape: 葡萄 (Pútáo), 포도
- Plum: 李子 (Lǐzǐ), 자두
Page 7: Brown-colored food (some of these can be used for white)
- Bread: 面包 / 麵包 (Miànbāo), 빵
- Chicken: 鸡腿 / 雞腿 (Jītuǐ), 닭고기
- Cookie: 饼干 / 餅乾 (Bǐnggān), 크래커
- Hamburger: 汉堡 / 漢堡 (Hànbǎo), 햄버거
- Ice cream: 冰淇淋 (Bīngqílín), 아이스크림
- Potato: 土豆 (Tǔdòu), 감자
What you need for the pretend play food printable activity
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- Food template: free download in simplified Chinese, traditional Chinese, Korean, and English
- Colorful paper
- White paper
- Laminating pouches
- Divided tray – we repurposed a tray that came with our Melissa and Doug vehicles set; we’ve also used a divided serving platter
- Plain bowls and plates – we use the Avanchy baby food set that my kids use for play since it’s too small for eating
- Toy pots/pans – we love this Melissa and Doug set!
*Note: If you’re planning to laminate, cardstock paper is NOT recommended. With extra thickness, cutting will be more challenging due to the variety and amount of food shapes.
How to set up the printable pretend food activity
- Print templates on paper; page numbers follows rainbow order as explained with the translations
- Laminate each sheet
- Cut outside of the black lines
Note: Due to the irregular edges of the play food, consider spreading out cutting over a period of time. For example, cut red foods and focus on teaching and mastering those. Then prepare orange foods, yellow foods, etc.
Language teaching tips
- Introduce new words gradually by comparing with read food and/or realistic drawings of related food.
- For example, focus on red foods only; then add orange foods when the child seems familiar with most red foods.
- Have your child touch, smell, and taste the real food while showing them the play food printable.
- Present the flashcards in a systematic but intriguing manner
- Display play food on a tray with bowls and toy pots/pans as if you are serving a nice meal! If the set up is attractive and enticing, your child will naturally be curious!
- Often, kids will likely have their own ideas, so consider their plan, too!
- Note that our bowls, pots, pans, and trays are all plain. This allows the food and words to stand out. Busy designs may visually distract from focusing on the play food.
- Through pretend play, kids are naturally looking at the flashcards repeatedly. Therefore, they have a better chance at memorizing Chinese characters, Korean words, and English names (depending on language version) through frequent exposure.
10 educational ways to learn with play food!
Here are some fun ways that our kids have enjoyed our play food printables in Chinese and Korean!
- Match with REAL food!!! It’s so important that kids develop strong understanding of items in real life!
- Shopping – practice grocery store vocabulary
- Cooking with pots and pans
- Match different language versions (eg, simplified and traditional Chinese; English and Chinese; Chinese and Korean)
- Sort food by color
- Compare more healthy food versus less healthy
- Sort by food group (fruit, vegetables, protein, grains, desserts)
- Plant the play food printables in a pretend garden
- Discuss food allergies and symptoms
Have you used these pretend play food flashcards with your kids or students?
If you try this activity, please let us know in the comments below! What age(s) are your kid(s) and how did it go? We’d love to hear about your learning experience!
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