Chinese Pinyin (拼音) is the foundation of speaking Mandarin. Knowing the sound of each Pinyin alphabet is the first step to master Pinyin. For non-native Chinese kids, Pinyin can be daunting because there are 47 Pinyin alphabets versus 26 English alphabets.
The only way to get kids wanting to learn and remember all the sounds of Pinyin alphabets is to teach them via PLAYING.
In this post, I’m going to share with you a few ways I use at home to teach my daughter to identify the sound of each Pinyin alphabet.
I hope it could provide some ideas for you to do it at home.
Game 1 – Pinyin Song
Chinese Pinyin has 47 alphabets (i.e. 23 Initials + 24 Finals) and 16 sight Pinyin. It’s a lot more comparing to 26 English alphabets.
How do you get your young child to remember the sounds for all Pinyin alphabets in a short period and not to bore them to death?
By singing! It works.
When I started to teach my daughter Pinyin in May 2019 when she just reached five years old, I asked the same question, so I made out the Pinyin song using the melody of ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star‘.
I intentionally sang it in front of her as a lullaby or whenever she’s around.
My daughter didn’t mind if I was a musician. I also deliberately added some funny sounds into the song so to make her giggle. Try it. Your child would most likely sing it with you.
Your child wouldn’t know you were trying to teach him/her Pinyin alphabets. What your child love is your voice. To make it more fun, you can also use pots or pans as your percussion instruments.
Make some noise if you want to.
I haven’t seen any children who don’t like to bang on those things!
Before you know it, your child has already memorised all the sounds of Pinyin alphabets. That’s before you even start to show them what Pinyin is.
If you don’t speak Mandarin, I’ve made video above just for you so that you and your child can copy and learn with us.
I do apologise for the ‘ai, ei, ui’ alphabets we’ve missed while singing in the video. We’re all learning after all.
For those of you parents who are just starting out homeschooling your child Mandarin Chinese, and those who are still thinking whether it’s necessary to teach your child Pinyin, please read my posts below.
I hope they would assist you in understanding more about Pinyin.
- What’s Chinese Phonetics or Pinyin?
- Why do children need to learn Pinyin?
- What forms Pinyin?
- When’s the best time to learn Pinyin?
If you don’t have the Pinyin List we used in the video yet, you can download it for FREE below.
Game 2 – Playdough Pinyin
Playdough is something we use a lot at home for learning Pinyin and Chinese characters.
In this post, I’ll only talk about playdough for Pinyin.
When I started to teach my daughter the individual sound of each Pinyin alphabet, instead of writing out the alphabets on the paper, we used play- dough to shape each alphabet.
Playdough is an excellent way for fine motor skills because your child is using his/her brain and hands at the same time. It’s colourful, squashy, and FUN, particularly for younger kids.
Our morning Pinyin playing time usually goes like this:
Step 1. We sing Pinyin song together with either my or my daughter’s index finger pointing at each alphabet.
Step 2. We’d sound out slowly the two Pinyin alphabets I aim to teach on that day. I’d then ask her to associate the pronunciation and tell me what sound or words in English and Chinese she could think of in our daily life so to reinforce her memorisation. She’d usually tell me a bunch of sounds I didn’t even think of including those funny ones, which are great exercises for her imagination.
Step 3. As a reward, we’d then use playdough to make the shape of those two alphabets we’ve just learnt. Or, as an alternative, we’d go to the backyard and write on the floor using chalk, or play the Pinyin Balloon ( see the video below).
There are many ways I use, and you can, too, to help your child to identify and remember the sound of all 47 Pinyin alphabets.
You can use the games I mentioned in this post, or create something you know your child will enjoy. Just have fun!
Here is the Pinyin Balloon game we play at home:
Game 3 – Pinyin Tone Workout
Every Chinese character has one complete Pinyin sound or syllable.
A Pinyin syllable is not complete unless it attaches a tone.
There are 5 tones (1st tone一声，2nd tone二声，3rd tone三声，4th tone四声 and neutral 轻声) in which 1st – 4th tones are what you see mostly.
The image on your right is a demonstration of these tone marks.
Instead of writing the tone marks on the paper, I ask my daughter to use her arms to make shapes. She can jump or hop while she does that. Hence, the Pinyin tone Workout.
We always have a blast when we do the Pinyin Tone Workout together because she can’t always get it right and that’s perfectly ok. You watch how she does it at the end of 1st video in this post.
You can try this workout at home. Trust me, if you do that together with your child and be goofy about it, your child would beg you to play and learn more Pinyin tones.
The whole idea of my mission ‘helping kids discover fun ways to learn Chinese’ is to create an environment for them to learn and have fun at the same time.
By doing that, children would naturally ask for more playtime like that, which provides us parents to teach them not only just Pinyin or Chinese language but other knowledge as well.
If you’ve mastered this ‘secret’, your children would learn everything you want them to learn, providing you’re dedicated to guiding them, teaching them and be there for them.
Are you teaching your child Pinyin sounds yourself or from an online source? Has my post inspired you in any way? You can either leave your comments below or go to the Panda Mama Chinese Facebook community to leave your thoughts there.