How to Use Puffy Paint to Make Tactile Chinese and Korean Letters!

How to Make Tactile Chinese characters and Korean Letters with puffy paint

Puffy Paint Letters are very easy to prepare and can help kids learn to read and write by giving tactile input! Some words are learned quickly and others take forever to sink in and need help from sensory input.

Hands-on activities are an effective way to provide extra stimuli for remembering Chinese characters and Korean Hangul letters. But many parents worry that they don’t have time to prepare them. The good news is that puffy paint letters are a simple and fun writing activity for home or school.

Since my kids are learning Chinese and Korean as minority languages, this post features examples of sensory letters in these languages. However, you can make puffy paint tactile words in any language and even apply this to numbers!

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Tactile flashcards: What you need to make them

  1. Pencil
  2. Puffy (dimensional) fabric paint
    1. Make sure to get the one in this link, because the tip is narrow and thus writing is easier to control (see image below).
    2. If you don’t have puffy paint, you can make your own with glue, flour, and shaving cream foam.
  3. Index cards or flashcards
    1. 3″ x 2.5″ index cards (white or colored) – You may want to consider this shape/size over the standard 4×6″ index cards to mimic Chinese / Korean writing grid
    2. 4″ x 6″ index cards (white or colored) – standard index card size
    3. Square flashcards with rounded corners – I bought these for another project but have not used yet with puffy paint
  4. Parchment (wax) paper (eg, the kind that is used for lining baking pans)
  5. Index card holder or quart-sized ziplock bag
Puffy Paint

Tips on how to make effective Puffy Paint Flashcards:

  1. Choose colored or white flashcards.
    1. If using colored flashcards, use white or black puffy paint for contrast.
    2. If using white flashcards, use dark-colored puffy paint for contrast
  2. Use the blank side of the flashcards.  Do not use the ruled side, because the lines may distract from the Chinese character and Korean letters
  3. With pencil, write Chinese characters and Korean letters as large as possible.
  4. Trace character carefully with puffy paint.
    1. You may want to practice on scrap paper to get used to squeezing the bottle.
    2. Please note that when the paint is wet, some people may find the smell to be unpleasant and strong.
  5. Let dry.
  6. When dry, let child explore the texture while saying the Chinese name out loud!

Storage tips:

  1. Cut parchment paper to size of index cards
  2. Stack index cards with parchment paper in between
  3. Place in index card holder or ziplock bag
puffy paint flashcards

Teaching color names with Puffy Paint Flashcards

Here is a picture of the puffy paint tactile words in use!

When my daughter was 3, she was learning how to read color names in Chinese.

However, she kept mixing up the two ways orange can be described: 橙色 (chéngsè) versus 橘色 (júsè).

Therefore, I used puffy paint so she could feel the characters.

The interesting texture of puffy paint gives sensory input which in turn helped her remember the difference between 橙 and 橘.

My daughter had fun touching the paint and poking it with a pencil!

She thought it was fun to make dents in the paint, and it was great to see how she interacted with each Chinese character!

You can see the pencil lines from my daughter tracing around the raised character.

I also had paper napkins with oranges as the design, so it was a great opportunity to compare 橙 and 橘!

Here is my daughter exploring the Chinese character. For kids learning Chinese stroke order, you can show them how to trace each stroke in the correct direction and sequence.

Using puffy paint flashcards to teach light versus dark

I also prepared puffy paint flashcards to teach the Chinese characters 浅 (qiǎn / light) and 深 (shēn / dark).

My daughter was already familiar with these concepts, so she was ready to learn the Chinese characters.

Notice that I used different colors of puffy paint to contrast the cards, but I kept the characters the same color. For simplicity, it would be better to just use black or white puffy paint for all of the words so that your child can focus on the Chinese character details.

Teaching Chinese words for light and dark with puffy paint flashcards!

Sticky fun with puffy paint!

We also reinforced the Chinese character 胶 (jiāo / glue) with puffy paint flashcards!

Teaching Korean Hangul alphabet with puffy paint flashcards

Puffy paint can be used to teach any written language!

Here’s an example of how we used tactile flashcards for learning the Korean Hangul alphabet a few years ago.

Although we made the Hangul consonants black and the vowels white, we should have used the same colored background for consistency.

In hindsight, the background colors could have been visually distracting from the Korean letters.

If I were to make this again (which I probably will for my younger child), I would use pink or red for the consonants and blue for the vowels to match standard Montessori alphabet colors.

This will help kids develop a consistent association between concepts and phonics across languages.

As for how to teach the alphabet, phonetic sounds should be emphasized during speech.

Just like English, you can introduce the concept of the Hangul alphabet verbally through playful sound games.

This will encourage the child to focus on listening and isolating the sounds rather than diverting attention to memorizing the letter shapes.

When the auditory skills are developed, learning text will be much more natural.

Then you can introduce a few Hangul letters at a time with the Montessori 3-period lesson while showing your child how to trace each letter with your fingers following stroke order.

How to Make Sensory Korean Letters

Writing fun with puffy paint!

After watching me write so many Chinese characters and Korean letters / words with puffy paint, my daughter wanted to try writing herself!

This was a fun way for her to improve her fine motor skills while having fun learning Korean and Chinese!

In the next image, you can see some Korean puffy paint letters that my daughter wrote.

She was 3 years old at the time and embellished the flashcards with random squirts of paint!

In making her own puffy paint letters, she learned to wait patiently for them to dry before touching and poking the puffy paint!

Here is my daughter writing Korean letters with puffy paint!

Have you made puffy paint flashcards with your children?

If you use these Puffy Paint Flashcards or other activities to teach Chinese, please let us know in the comments!

We love to see how other families do Chinese activities!

More fun ways to learn with puffy paint!

If you want to try other activities with puffy dimensional paint, here are more easy and educational activities:

Happy learning, friends!


  1. Yun Zhang says:

    Thanks so much for sharing this awesome idea.
    One thought on using the color of index cards to help learning Chinese: maybe different colors of the cards can be used to indicate nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc? What do you think? Would it help?

    1. Hi! Thank you for taking the time to share the great color-coding idea! Eventually when we review parts of a sentence in Chinese, I was thinking about following the colors of the Montessori grammar symbols! We are following it for English, and it’s been very helpful! I’d love to hear how it goes for your family!

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