When my kids play outside at the park or beach, they always love to collect rocks and other little pieces of nature. Since rocks are ubiquitous, as a home educator, I think they are wonderful tools for enhancing literacy. You can use rocks to teach any language! My kids and I are learning Chinese together, so I try to think of fun Chinese activities to get us all motivated to learn the minority language. I think these ideas would be great in any type of learning setting, including a Montessori classroom or nature school.
If you have been following us for a while, you know that I like to use context to support the learning objective! After my daughter learned several hundred Chinese characters, I have intermittently prepared focused reviews of Chinese characters by radical. This past summer, we reviewed 石 (shí / stone) radical words with different kinds of stones! In Chinese, radical is called
Where to find stones
You can use any type of stones for this activity! Since many parents have asked, here are some places that you can find crystals and rocks:
- 石头 (Shítou / stone)
- 碰 (pèng / bump, hit)
- 砸 (zá / smash)
- 破 (pò / break)
- 砍 (kǎn / chop)
- 磁 (Cí / magnetic)
- 碗 (Wǎn / bowl)
- 码 (Mǎ / code)
- 岩 (Yán / rock)
- 硬 (Yìng / hard)
- 砖 (Zhuān / brick)
Activity 1: Trace Word with Stones
Kids can trace the strokes of 石 and 石头 characters with rocks.
Activity 2: Treasure hunt for words on stones
I filled up our sensory play tray with kinetic sand, rocks with Chinese characters (石 radical words), glass stones, and seashells. With white acrylic paint and a fine paintbrush, I painted each character on the stone. When you touch the stone, the characters are slightly raised. My daughter had fun looking through all of the different elements.
Since my son likes to copy my daughter, he also got a tray with stones plus his beloved Schleich animals! Kinetic sand can get pretty messy, so the activity is great for the outdoors! We can vacuum quickly with our cordless Dyson!
Afterward, my kids had fun washing and drying the stones! To them, washing the stones was interesting water play as the stones darken when they are wet. As you can see, this is another way for them to be exposed and passively learning the Chinese characters while learning about nature!
Activity 3: Sight word story stones with stone radical characters
My daughter often asks me to make up stories NOT based on books. She loves to create and pushes me to use my imagination, too! After all, this is how new stories & books are created! So, these story stones were inspired by old-fashioned storytelling. Focusing on the Chinese radical 石 (shí / stone), here are different ways that we played & learned:
- Matching: Each stone has an accompanying cardboard “rock” where my daughter can practice matching the character.
- Reading: The back of each “rock” card has a sentence with a 石 word for reading practice.
- Creativity: Make up a story containing that sentence! For example, if you pick a sentence with 破 (pò / break), then you that as a prompt to make up a story about something breaking. We have a lot of fun making up silly stories!
I used the Chinese Pleco Dictionary App to look up different words with the 石 radical. The app shows examples of different sentences and phrases that the character can be used. The next few photos show how I set up the activity.
Here are the cardboard stones cut out in a tray for my daughter.
Here is the tray with the stones included! Since I wrote everything by hand, there is a risk of error as indicated by the red arrow below. But my daughter and I have since learned from this mistake! Generally, I think that handwriting helps me remember the characters better and motivates my daughter to want to write! However, if you spot any errors, kindly let me know so that we can learn from you! 🙂
One more look at the story stones activity! If you have children who are learning to write Chinese, this could be a fun way to entice them to practice writing Chinese! Let them choose whether they would like to paint the character or use a paint pen!
We haven’t tried this yet, but in the future, I’m thinking about using the stones for a Mad Libs fill-in-the-blank word game!
If you practice reading with any of these stone activities please let us know! Leave a comment and don’t forget to tag @CHALKAcademy on Instagram and Facebook! Or feel free to share it with my Facebook group! We love to see how other families do educational activities!
Related educational activities for kids
Click here for more activities with rocks!
- Geode Kit: Crack Open and Learn About Rocks!
- The Very Hungry Caterpillar Story Stones: Book-Based Learning Activities!
- Fun and Easy Ways to Practice Writing at the Beach
More Chinese radical learning ideas can be found in this link!
To see all hands-on literacy activities, please browse our activities by topic with your child(ren)!
Bilingual English and Chinese Facebook Parent Support Groups
As always, please leave a comment with any questions, and I’ll try my best to answer them! Or better yet, ask other supportive parents in these bilingual Facebook groups:
- Montessori-inspired Kids Learning Chinese and English
- Christian Parents Raising Bilingual Children in English & Chinese
- Raising Bilingual Parents in Chinese & English
Happy playful learning, friends!