Chinese zodiac includes 12 animals: Rat/鼠, Ox/牛, Tiger虎, Rabbit/兔, Dragon/龙, Snake/蛇, Horse/马, Goat/羊, Monkey/猴, Rooster/鸡, Dog/狗,  Pig/猪. According to the Chinese Zodiac, it’s now the year of Ox (牛年) after the 12th February 2021.

So, I’m going to share how I teach my daughter to speak, read and write the 12 Chinese zodiac animal names at home.

By the way, if you prefer to watch a video over reading this post, here is a talking version of this blog post.

In the video, as you can see, my daughter is quite proficient in speaking and reading the 12 zodiac animals in Mandarin Chinese.

As for the writing, you can’t see in the video, she could quickly write the Chinese characters with fewer strokes such as “Ox/牛,Goat/羊,Dog/狗,Horse/马,Rabbit/兔,Dragon/龙”. We’re still working on other words with more strokes, such as “Rat/鼠,Rooster/鸡,Snake/蛇,etc.

So, how did I teach my daughter to achieve the fluency showed in our video? Read on.

1. The Chinese zodiac learning resources I created.

I created this set of resources to teach kids’ listening comprehension, speaking, reading, writing and Pinyin of the 12 Chinese zodiac animal names.

chinese zodiac animal printables for kids
chinese zodiac animal printables for kids
chinese zodiac animal printables for kids

It’s the same materials I used to teach my daughter the Chinese zodiac animals at home. This set includes the following:

1 x control/reference page with 12 cartoon animals, Simplified Chinese characters, and Pinyin

1 x Clipart cutout page ( 12 animals)

1 x Chinese words cutout page ( 12 animal names in Simplified Chinese)

1 x Pinyin cutout page ( 12 Pinyin that match the Chinese words)

1 x Chinese zodiac wheel

1 x Chinese words cutout wheel

12 x Flashcards with clipart and Simplified Chinese characters (no Pinyin)

12 x Colouring and tracing sheets

2. Use 5 activities to teach Chinese zodiac animal names.

How to use my resources? Here is what I would do if your child hasn’t learned any of the 12 Chinese animal names before.

You can always skip or jump steps, depending on your child’s Chinese level. You know your child.  It doesn’t matter how you do it, really. Your goal is to help your child to understand, speak, read and write these 12 Chinese words.


Activity 1. Help your child understand the 12 Chinese words ( Listening comprehension & recognition).

When I say understand, it means listening comprehension.  I know if you speak Mandarin, this step is easy-peasy. But if you don’t or not sure about the pronunciation, you can use Google translator to help you out. Watch my video to see my demo on how to use this function with Google translator.

When you speak or play the pronunciation of each Chinese word, you must have the flashcards in front of your child.

Say, for example, if you want to teach your child the word “蛇/snake”, you’ll present this card to your child, use your index finger to point at it and say “ 这个字是“蛇”/This is character is “蛇”. Repeat a couple of times for each card. And so on.

After that, place these flashcards on the table, and ask your child to match the clipart to the flashcards. Or if you have figurines, use them because they’re more realistic.


chinese zodiac animal flashcards in chinese for kids

This process alone is enough for one 30-minute session, which is what our homeschooling time is for each weekday.

Then, after this session, leave it for a few days and move on to the next step, where you’ll again use more activities to reinforce your child’s learning.

Activity 2. Chinese words match the clipart or vice versa and sound out the words (speaking & Reading)

Before the activity, make a DIY giant book using cardboard as I did as shown in my video

Then, you can use Activity 3 – 4 I suggested in this post to teach your child’s Mandarin-speaking and reading the Chinese words.

For young kids, I recommend sticking with 30 – 40 minutes for each session. You don’t want to overload your child with too much.

Throughout the session, always ask your child to SOUND OUT each Chinese word, or Pinyin. The rule of thumb is that the more your child sounds out the words, the better he’ll feel comfortable speaking Mandarin.

Start the activity:

Ask your child to give it a go and TRY to match the Chinese characters to the clipart. Tell your child to refer to the control page on the left side of the DIY book you’ve made using my resources.

This is to see how much your child still remembers what you’ve taught her/him in the last session.

Make a mental note of what your child can and cannot do, and work on those that your child doesn’t remember by repeating each word’s pronunciation.

What I also did at the end of the session, if we have time, and sometimes at nights, I read the stories about the Chinese Zodiac animals. Here are the storybooks we have, which I bought from Taobao here.


books in chinese abuot chinese zodiac animals with pinyin

I love this set of books because it has Pinyin. It’s short, and the illustration is Chinese-themed. When your child listens to these stories in Mandarin, it relates to what you’re teaching.

Again, if you don’t speak Chinese, you can use a reading pen or robot to help you out. What it does is that when you point the reading pen to the Chinese texts, it reads out the words in Mandarin. They are designed to help non-mandarin speaking parents and families.

Personally, I haven’t used them before because I have no need. But I know some non-native parents swear by it. I’m sure you’ll be able to Google it.

In terms of how long your child can achieve fluency, meaning reading the Chinese words independently without the aid of the clipart or Pinyin. It depends on how frequent you teach your child and your child’s Chinese level.

I’d say it takes as long as your child needs. That’s the beauty of homeschooling, right. You’ll know without questions when your child CAN read and speak the 12 Chinese zodiac animal names by himself.


Activity 3 – Match the Pinyin to the Chinese words, or vice versa.

This activity is optional. It’s only suitable for children who have learned Pinyin. If your child hasn’t learned Pinyin, then you can skip this activity.

If your child has learned Pinyin like my daughter, this is where you check your child’s Pinyin skills. See if she can match correctly. If not, you know you still some work to do.

Activity 4 – Match the Chinese words to the Chinese zodiac wheel.

Again, this is just another way to practice and reinforce your child’s learning in a playful manner.

chinese zodiac animal activity for kids

Activity 5.  It’s time to practice the writing of the 12 animal words.

Activity 1 – 4 focused on listening comprehension, speaking, and recognition/reading the 12 Chinese zodiac animals.

In this activity, we’re going to focus on WRITING the 12 Chinese words.

Note these words are Simplified Chinese, not Traditional Chinese. Suppose you don’t know the differences between these two writing systems. In that case, you can read my post should your Children learn Simplified or Traditional Chinese Writing.

Now, when it comes to using these writing sheets. You can either mix this step with Step 2 or use 1 – 2 pages for teaching writing only in a single teaching session.

If you want to teach speaking and writing in one session, I’d recommend teaching one word at a time for young kids because it does take time.

In terms of how to use each sheet, here is what I’d do:

1) Write each stroke first at the bottom of the sheet. Note this step is crucial because kids need to learn the correct sequence of writing every Chinese word. This is how Chinese kids learn, as well. By practising and memorising the stroke orders, your child will learn how to write Chinese overtime.

2) Write the Chinese character on the animal’s belly. Pay attention to your child’s writing, and see if she/he follows the correct stroke orders. If not, step in and insist on the correct writing sequence. For beginners, this process is slow to start out with. As your child progresses, it’ll get easier. As a general guide, Chinese writing always starts from left to right and from top to bottom.

3) Then, time to have some fun – the colouring! You can also say it’s reward time. My daughter loves clouring, so are many young kids. Here is my daughter’s finished work:

chinese zodiac animals for kids

Once your child finished colouring, cut the animals out, either stick them on the wall or make them to a mobile hanging over your child’s bed.

It gives your child a sense of achievement by displaying your child’s work in a prominent place at your home. When your child feels proud, he’ll want to do it again. In other words, learn more Chinese.


All right, this comes to the end of my post. I hope this post and the resources are helpful. If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to leave them below this post in the comment section, or head to Panda Mama Facebook pagesmile

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