Rock-paper-scissors is a universal game that’s played in many countries including Australia and China. Kids love it! We play all the time at home.

In this post, I’m going to share with you how I teach and get my daughter to practice the Pinyin, Listening, Speaking, Writing and Playing of the ‘‘Rock-paper-scissors’’ game in Mandarin Chinese.

Let’s start with the Chinese translation for rock, paper and scissors.

If you don’t speak Mandarin or would like to see how we play and learn in real action, please watch this video below.

After watching this video, you would have noticed that we made three big Rock, Paper, Scissors cardboard props while playing.

Well, those are also tracing sheets I prepared for my daughter to practise writing Rock, Paper, Scissors in Chinese.

Keep scrolling down this post, you can download the three tracing sheets for FREE and play at home with your child.

This game seems simple, but it can help your child’s Chinese learning on many levels. Here they are:

1. Learn Pinyin – including sound identification, memorisation, correct use of tones and blending of Pinyin alphabets.

A. Pinyin alphabet sound identification and memorisation

This is the first step of learning Pinyin alphabet. Similar to English phonics, kids need to learn the individual sound of each alphabet before they can start to blend them into a complete Pinyin.

If you’ve read my post, What Forms Pinyin, you would know that each complete Pinyin is made of one Initial, one to two Finals, plus one Tone. See the image below.



Every Chinese character has one complete Pinyin.

So how do you get it started?

You can do similar like what we did in the video, or make out games you own.

If your child is like my daughter who is already familiar with the sound of each Pinyin alphabet, you can go ahead to ask your child to pick out the alphabets and see if he/she gets it right. If not, you can always help your child by referring to the Pinyin List (click to download for FREE), or replay the video to copy the sound from us if you’re not sure.

If your child hasn’t started Pinyin yet, I’d suggest that go to my post, How kids can learn and remember each Pinyin sound, the FUN way, and familiarise your child with the pronunciation of each Pinyin alphabet.

To reinforce the sound of each Pinyin alphabet, you can watch our videos Learn Pinyin Sounds or Pinyin Balloons.

Then, come back to this post to play the ‘Rock-paper-scissors’ game.

That being said. You will need:

1. A set of movable English letters – I used Montessori alphabets. Of course, you can use any movable alphabets you have at home.

2. A Pinyin list – as I mentioned earlier in this post, you can download it for FREE in my post ‘How kids can learn and remember each Pinyin sound, the FUN way’.

3. The three tracing sheets – as shown in my video. You can download them for FREE too below.



Once you have the three resources I listed above ready, find a quiet time, and start to play the way similar to we did in the video or other methods that suit you and your child.

B. Correct use of tones

So, once your child has picked the Initial + Final(s) alphabets, they will need to identify which Tone to use for that particular Pinyin.

Each complete Pinyin has one Tone. There are Five Tones in the Chinese language and they are important to learn because Mandarin is a tonal language.

When a tone attached to a particular Pinyin, it means something. When a tone changes, with the same Pinyin, the meaning can change too.

If you are not sure what these five tones are, please refer to my post What Forms Pinyin for more details.

Also, watch my video see how we played and the tones on the tracing sheets for reference when teaching.

C. Blending Pinyin

Once the Initial + Final(s) + Tone are in place, ask your child to sound out the complete Pinyin if you know they can, or help your child to blend the sounds with your help or our video.

Then, one Pinyin at a time, repeat the steps above like we did until your child can identify and sound out all the Pinyin for Rock, Paper and Scissors.

2. Listening and Speaking – Practising listening and speaking Rock, Paper and Scissors in Mandarin.

This step is easy, and in fact, it’s the direct result of completing the 1st step – Learn Pinyin above.

In short, if your child can sound out all the Pinyin in the last step, they are speaking Mandarin!

That’s right. The primary purpose of learning Pinyin is to help your child speaking Mandarin like Chinese native speakers with no or little accent. 

As I’ve quickly explained in 1st step and extensively in my post Why do children need to learn Pinyin, mastering Pinyin equals speaking better Mandarin.

Folks, I can’t stress enough the importance of a child learning Pinyin from an early age.

The difference between a good Mandarin speaker and not-so-good one, those with a strong accent, depending on two factors:

1. If a child is born with native Mandarin-speaking parents or carers –  then this child is likely to speak authentic Mandarin without learning Pinyin because it’s his/her first language. The child just copy what his/her parents say.

2. On the contrary, if a child is not born with native Mandarin-speaking parents or carers or perhaps born overseas where English or another language is the dominant one – the only way for this child to speak authentic Mandarin is through learning Pinyin!

In fact, to emphasise the importance for kids to learn Pinyin at a young age, I’ve written four posts below. Please do check them all out to see my view.

  1. What is Pinyin?
  2. What forms Pinyin?
  3. Why do children need to learn Pinyin?
  4. What’s the best time to learn Pinyin?

3. Writing – learn to write Rock, Paper and Scissors in Simplified Chinese by tracing the stroke orders of each character.

You probably have heard many people saying Chinese writing is difficult.

Well, it is to a degree depends on who you are aking.

For children, it is not because they have a phenomenal memory, and their brains are designed to soak in everything they see and do before age 8 when children tend to weed out the info they don’t want to know or learn.

If you start them young, consistently and systematically teach them, they can write just as good as any native Chinese kids.

Think of this way. For children, writing is like drawing. If they can draw, or scribble, they can write Chinese.

The way Chinese kids learn in school is that they start by writing simple radicals and characters with fewer strokes.

Later on, when children learn more, they will start to combine those radicals and simple characters they’ve learnt earlier to form more complex characters.

Take the Chinese word ‘剪 cut‘ for example. If you pull apart this character as shown below, you can see that it’s formed with simple characters and radicals.

Regardless of writing simple or complex characters, kids must learn the stroke orders or the writing sequence of a Chinese word.

That’s why I’ve created these tracing sheets for my daughter and hopefully, your child to practice writing Rock, Paper and Scissor in Simplified Chinese.

Not sure what Simplified Chinese is? You can find out by reading my post Should Your Children Learn Simplified or Traditional Chinese Writing.

Same as my daughter did in the video, your child can follow each stroke, step by step, then to complete the writing of each character.

Believe it or not, children can and will remember how to write these characters if you find a way to encourage them practising a few more times.

4. Reward time

Finally, it’s time to have FUN by playing the Rock-paper-scissors game with your child in Mandarin Chinese.

You can play in the following two ways:

1. Use hands to do the Rock, Paper and Scissors. I’m sure you know how to do this one.

2. Make three cardboard props by using the downloadable tracing sheets I mentioned earlier in this post, cut out the Rock, Paper and Scissors, glue them to cardboard papers and popsicle sticks.

Either way, please say the Rock, Paper and Scissors in Mandarin with your child when playing.

It’s ok if you sound funny when speaking Mandarin. Just watch my husband Mark in the video. He was trying, and my daughter loved it. It’ll add an extra layer of fun.

As a reward for winning and losing, I use unsalted peanuts because it’s one of my daughter’s favourite snacks.

You can use whatever your child loves and keep him/her motivated.

One last thing before I end this post. If you don’t speak Mandarin, don’t despair. Ask for help in Panda Mama Chinese community or refer to my video for the sounds.

Depending on your time and your child’s mood, you can break the teaching time to a few 20-30 minute sessions, which was what I did as we only had 30 minutes dedicated to Chinese teaching and learning in the morning before my daughter goes to school during the weekdays (we do take a break on weekends).

However, you do need to plan your teaching time and get the resources (movable alphabets, Pinyin List, tracing papers, reward snacks) ready beforehand so that your child won’t get bored from waiting.

Keep one thing in mind. Don’t push it. If your child doesn’t feel like playing what you planned, then step back and do it another day.  Consistency goes a long way.


Have your children started learning Pinyin or to write Chinese yet? How do you keep them motivated in learning Mandarin Chinese in general? Is there other info you’d like to know that I haven’t covered in my post? Please let me know, or perhaps share your tips with us in the Panda Mama Chinese Community? We’d love to hear from you.

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