Summertime means playing outside all day long; when we’re in our yard, my kids are all about sidewalk chalk! While having fun in the sun, we can sneak in learning through play. Sidewalk chalk activities are an efficient way to practice speaking and reading Chinese in an kinesthetic way!
Benefits of learning Chinese with sidewalk chalk activities
Chinese is a minority language for my family, and our kids need their daily dose of fun Chinese experiences!
In addition, Chinese is often touted as a difficult language to learn. However, simple activities can help with memorizing Chinese characters. With sidewalk chalk, short lessons can be squeezed in naturally during play!
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Sidewalk chalk activities: Fun learning for all ages
Since my children are 3 years apart, I sometimes struggle to balance their contrasting needs and interests. However, once we go outside with chunky chalk pieces, everybody is happy! Sidewalk chalk activities are always a winner because they are versatile and adaptable for all ages!
Educational chalk activities: What you need
- Sidewalk chalk – we have been using this brand for years!
- Concrete or tar driveway, patio, balcony, etc
Sidewalk chalk activities: Developmental Skills
- Fine Motor – Holding chalk, pencil grip
- Gross Motor – Running, jumping, squatting, standing
- Verbal language – Talking and listening in target language
- Written language – tracing, handwriting
- Creativity – Drawing, imaginative play
Sidewalk Chalk Activities: 10 Fun Ways to Play and Learn Chinese!
If you’ve been following us for a while, you know that we have been doing various Chinese activities with sidewalk chalk! Here is a summary of different ideas that my kids have loved, and I hope you can enjoy them, too!
1. Learn Chinese with Hanzi Hopscotch
跳房子 (Tiàofángzi / Hopscotch) is one of the easiest ways to teach a variety of words while letting kids get active!
To build confidence, I always write Chinese characters that they are familiar with while mixing in only 1-2 new characters. This approach allows them to feel less intimidated about learning new words.
Per my daughter’s idea, we have also done theme-based hopscotch grids as well! Here are more photos and details of our Chinese hopscotch games!
2. Jump on footprints while learning left & right
Like all toddlers, my daughter used to mix up 左 (zuǒ / left) and 右 (yòu / right). Since she could read the characters, I traced her feet with sidewalk chalk in our backyard. While following and jumping on the footprints, the Chinese characters were a great reminder for my daughter to learn left versus right!
3. Jump, turn, kick, and dance on Chinese action words!
Here’s another fun “action” course that I created with sidewalk chalk! I incorporated the following verbs:
- 跳 (Tiào / jump)
- 站 (Zhàn / stand)
- 跳舞 (Tiàowǔ / dance)
- 转 / 轉 (Zhuǎn / turn)
- 踢 (Tī / kick)
- 蹲 (Dūn / squat)
4. Sidewalk chalk activity: Spray Chinese 火 words with water
Water, especially, on a hot summer day, automatically makes Chinese learning more fun! With sidewalk chalk, I drew 火 (huǒ / fire) on our concrete deck. My children couldn’t wait to spray water and 扑灭火灾 (pūmiè huǒzāi / extinguish the fire) with their spray bottles!
5. Sidewalk chalk activity: Bilingual Shapes Jumping
For toddlers, jumping on shapes is a low-prep activity that I did with my daughter a few years ago! I can’t wait to try this with my son when he’s older!
Generally, we learn each language separately, but this was a good opportunity to mix and review shapes in English and Chinese.
6. Hide and Find Chinese words written in sidewalk chalk
Another favorite activity that I’ve done with both children is writing Chinese words throughout the deck, and my children have fun running around trying to find them!
Here is my son who is excited to have discovered a Chinese character under a plant!
7. Pouring water on food pictures and Chinese words
Back to water fun, this video shows a Chinese speaking and reading activity that my daughter LOVED!
8. Sidewalk chalk activity: Paint Chinese characters with water
Children who are ready to write can practice tracing Chinese characters with water and a brush. Make sure to first write each Chinese word in black chalk so that each stroke is clearly visible!
9. Trace Chinese characters with sticks and stones
While we’re outside with sidewalk chalk, my kids are always collecting sticks and stones readily available in our yard! These nature treasures are perfect for tracing Chinese characters! While I’m typing this, my son just peeked over my shoulder, pointed to the below image, and said “石头的’石’!” (Shítou de shí!)
10. Draw pictures that represent Chinese characters
Drawing with sidewalk chalk is another child-led activity that my daughter loves. There’s something exciting about going beyond the confines of 8×11″ paper and drawing without limits outside! After seeing pictures of Chinese etymology, my daughter has been interested in drawing these pictographs!
In the picture below of the 木 (mù / wood) Chinese characters, my daughter tried to draw the progression from tree to 木!
On light concrete, black sidewalk chalk is preferred for Chinese characters to stand out! On the other hand, if you have dark pavement, white chalk will provide great contrast!
11. Race and run to the Chinese character
Normally, my husband likes to rinse the driveway clean, but we have left one part of the concrete covered with Chinese characters. My kids ask me to shout out a Chinese character while they race to the correct one!
12. Trace Chinese characters with chalk
Last but not least is good old tracing and writing with sidewalk chalk! While it might not seem like an original “activity”, taking a typical academic indoor task outside can be a refreshing change. I credit chalk for motivating my daughter to learn to write. Thick chalk is easy for preschool hands to hold and control. In addition, the friction against the pavement gives feedback and reinforces muscle memory.
Now that my daughter can write on her own, we make a game of setting the timer and seeing who can write the most number of words!
Bonus idea: Label play areas with Chinese words
Like most kids, my children get territorial about their space, and they like to mark off their “parking spots” for their tricycles and imaginary cars.
Below, I wrote 弟弟车子 (dìdì chēzi) under my son’s tricycle. As you can see, colored chalk can be hard to see.
When the sun is shining on our backs, everybody is in a good mood to learn!
Have you tried teaching Chinese outdoors with sidewalk chalk activities?
If your family tries Chinese sidewalk chalk activities, please let us know in the comments below! We love seeing how other families have fun learning at home!
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