4 Fun Ways to Use Stones for Chinese Reading & Writing Practice!

This past summer, we reviewed 石 (shí / stone) radical words with different kinds of stones!

In Chinese, radical is called 部首 (bù shǒu) or 偏旁 (piān páng). 

I’m excited to share the various ways that we reinforced Chinese characters with 石 through fun, hands-on activities!

Feel free to adapt these ideas to the language of your choice! 🙂

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Fun ways to use stones for reading and writing practice

Hands-on Chinese language learning for the family

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, they are wonderful, convenient tools for enhancing literacy.

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.

However, you can apply these ideas to any language and learning setting, including a classroom or homeschool.

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.

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:

Chinese 石 stone radical words: Important vocabulary

Here are commonly used Chinese 石 stone radical words with Pinyin and English translation.

  • 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)
  • 硬 (yìng / hard)
  • 砖 (zhuān / brick)

Activity 1: Trace Word with Stones

Kids can trace the strokes of  and 石头 characters with rocks.

The simple act of picking up a small stone and placing is in a precise location is important for improving concentration, hand-eye coordination, and fine motor skills!

Activity 2: Treasure hunt for words on stones

I filled up our sensory play tray with kinetic sand, rocks with Chinese characters ( radical words), glass stones, and seashells.

My daughter had fun looking through all of the different elements.

For the rocks with Chinese stone radical characters, I painted the words with white acrylic paint and a fine paintbrush.

When you touch the stone, the Chinese characters are slightly raised.

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!

For my children, washing the stones was interesting water play as the stones darken when they are wet.

As you can see, stone washing is another way for them to be exposed and passively learning the Chinese characters while learning about nature!

Words with the 石 stone radical! Please note that 岩 (yán / rock) actually has a 山 radical.

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:


Each stone has an accompanying cardboard “rock” where my daughter can practice matching the character.


The back of each “rock” card has a sentence with a 石 word for reading practice.


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! 🙂

Montessori-inspired Chinese stone activity

One more look at the Chinese 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!

Words with the 石 stone radical! Please note that 岩 (yán / rock) actually has a 山 radical.

Activity 4: Mad libs with Chinese story stones

We haven’t tried this yet, but I’m planning on using the stones for a Mad Libs fill-in-the-blank word game!

I’ll update this post with photos and details of the experience in the future!

Have you tried this Chinese story stones activity?

If you practice reading with any of these stone activities please let us know in the comment section!

More educational rock activities for kids

Geode Kit: Crack Open and Learn About Rocks!
Read Geode Kit: Crack Open and Learn About Rocks! for another fun activity with rocks

Happy playful learning, friends!


  1. Carol @ owlissimo.com says:

    Hi Betty, I came across your post when making a similar activity for my kids. Thanks for your ideas! Btw, the radical for 岩 seems to be 山 instead of 石。One of the sources I checked is https://www.zdic.net/hans/岩

    Take care & all the best to you and your family!

    1. Hi Carol! Thank you so much for taking the time to write! I have fixed the mistake with 岩 in this post, and I appreciate your help! 🙂

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