I first heard of Maomi Stars when they hosted a voice competition for a new game that they were building back in 2020. Kids all over the world, mine included, recorded several Chinese phrases in a chance to have their voice embedded inside this new mobile game. I am so excited to share how the game has developed and how fun it is to learn Chinese with Maomi Stars.
Background info: Maomi Stars is a Chinese game geared towards international Chinese learners from ages 4 to 7. It tackles various components of language: character recognition, writing, listening and even speaking in a gamified format to engage children in learning their first 400 Chinese characters in a fun way.
- English interface – great for non-natives or families who are unable to read Chinese characters
- Learn Cantonese and/or Mandarin with traditional or simplified Chinese characters – also includes jyutping and pinyin
- A fun game to review and retain Chinese characters
- Multiple accounts for multiple children
- Built in 20 minute time limit
My Family’s Experience with Maomi Stars
Many thanks to Maomi Stars for sponsoring this post. This review reflects my family’s honest opinions and experiences with Maomi Stars.
Background Info: My girls are 4 and 6 years old at the time of the review. Their first language is English. They are learning Cantonese with traditional Chinese characters. I am leading and supporting their Chinese learning journey as a Cantonese learner who has been primarily a monolingual English speaker. Their father and my in laws are fluent native speakers who support their Cantonese language learning.
Overseas Family User Friendly
First of all, I absolutely LOVE that this app has an English interface! This is a big game changer for families who are not fluent readers. I have tried many Chinese apps, all of which have a Chinese interface, and have struggled just to sign up for an account because I can’t read Chinese. I have struggled for years, guessing and clicking randomly through other apps to figure out if an app is appropriate or not for my children. With Maomi Stars, there is no guess work. You can sign up and browse the app with ease. This game was designed for multi-lingual families who are overseas!
Inclusive to Many Different Chinese Learning Families
There is so much versatility in Maomi Stars. It offers audio in Cantonese and Mandarin and characters in traditional Chinese and simplified Chinese. You can also have the game instructions in English. This gives families many options! Cantonese speakers could even use this app to learn how to read in Mandarin by selecting Cantonese as the audio for instructions and Mandarin as the audio for the characters. For my children, I have selected Cantonese as the language for characters and instructions. I also have made my own account with Cantonese as the language for the characters and English for the instructions. It gives me the opportunity to better support my kids who understand more Chinese than I do and allows them to continue in an immersion environment. If your child is just starting out with Chinese, the option to have English audio for instructions is definitely beneficial!
If you select Cantonese as the language for instruction, the instructions are written down in spoken Cantonese instead of standard Chinese. This means that what the Wizard character is saying matches the written text. I especially like this feature as we can read and follow along. Please note, as of right now all the characters that are taught are standard written Chinese characters, no colloquial Cantonese characters are taught. If learning Cantonese characters is something that interests you, it is in the works! I look forward to learning Cantonese characters with my children when it releases.
How the Game Works
There are three parts to the Maomi Stars game to explore. The actual game is quite simple and the app is easy to navigate.
- Rocks – learn characters and complete three mini activities to earn rewards for the Maomi kitties and stars to unlock new worlds
- Worlds – review and test characters learned
- Playroom – use your rewards to play with the Maomi kitties
The bulk of the learning happens in the Rocks section. Characters are introduced one at a time. Each character is introduced with its pronunciation and an example of how to pair it with another character to make a word. Click on the ? icon to learn its definition. It comes with a cute image and the English definition. Click the 拼 icon to see the jyutping.
Each character comes with three mini games to reinforce learning. It is listed in order of listen, write and speak. These games are designed to reinforce the characters that they are learning so that they can retain it.
- Listen – Listen and select the correct character.
- Write – Follow the footsteps of the mouse to learn the correct stroke order. Then do it independently.
- Speak – Say the individual character correctly to pop germs. An example of a short phrase or word combination is given to help practice the word tones.
I love that you do not have to complete the characters or the games in order. My girls are in control of what character they want to review and also how they want to do it. My 4 year old likes to change up the order that she completes the mini games. For the past couple of days, she has been skipping the Speak game due to illness. It is great that the game does not force her to complete all the games before moving on to the next character. She can come back to complete the character at any time. There are also parental controls to skip mastered characters or enable completed characters again that still need more review.
Another feature that I truly enjoy is the Speak mini game. Rarely have I’ve seen a game that involves speech and it’s such an important part of language learning. The creators of Maomi Stars have been wonderful accepting feedback on this feature to perfect it so that all kids can succeed. In settings, you can select the sensitivity of the Speak and Write game. This feature is very encouraging as it can be challenging to get the correct tones and pronunciation for younger voices or new learners. I lowered the sensitivity for my 4 year old so that she is not discouraged while completing the Speak mini game.
My Kids’ Favourite Part of the Game
My 4 year old’s favourite part of the game is collecting the fun rewards for her kitty. She loves her collection of cakes that she has earned and adores seeing the Maomi kitties eat them. This gives her motivation to do more Chinese characters. Because of the voice competition, she is really fond of the Maomi kitties and enjoys hearing the voices of the other children when playing with them in the playroom.
My 6 year old enjoys visiting the different worlds in Maomi Land. Even though she has learned most of the characters, she still enjoys completing the games. It is a good review time for her and also gives her a chance to focus on writing as we have primarily only focused on reading with her.
When you sign up for Maomi Stars, you will be automatically enrolled into the Maomi 2021 Curriculum which has the 335 most common words for preschool to primary 1 children. The characters include many of the characters that are taught in Sage Books, Odonata and 四五快讀 (4, 5, Quick Read). The characters are divided into 17 themes such as numbers, people, calendar, nature, school, and transport. Some examples are listed below.
They have more curriculums available such as Simple Strokes Collection, Zhuyin Collection, Maomi Books Vocabulary, and 歡樂伙伴 Companion Word List that can be changed in the settings.
For a complete list of characters, visit the links below. There are word cards for the characters that include a little picture, audio and jyutping (Cantonese) or pinyin (Mandarin). These would be good for quick review.
- Maomi 2021 Collection
- Simple Strokes Collection
- Zhuyin Collection
- Maomi Books Vocabulary
- 歡樂夥伴 Companion Word List
20 Minute Time Limit
I like that there is a time limit built into the game so that I don’t need to have a separate timer for the children. 20 minutes is good amount of time to review characters while playing Maomi Stars. In 20 minutes, my children usually can complete all the mini games for 5 characters as well as play in the playroom or complete one World game. I wouldn’t want them to practice more than 5 characters at a time, as I feel they wouldn’t retain the characters if reviewing so many at one time. 20 minutes is the perfect amount of time for my 4 and 6 year old. If your child needs more time, you can always override it by answering a math question.
Multiple accounts are available at the Gold Plus tier membership. This is great for families with more than one child. Each child can progress at their own level and rate. There are no fights on who gets to do which character and they have their own rewards saved up for kitty play in the playroom. I haven’t had to use this feature, but kids can even have passwords on their own accounts if they fear that their sibling would use up their rewards. I think this is hilarious and so well thought out. There are definitely siblings who would do that to each other.
Like many apps and tech devices, there are always chance for improvement. I have been using Maomi Stars as a form of review for characters that my children are learning through Sage Books, Little Bean Cantonese and regular reading routines. On it’s own, it does not teach reading comprehension. It is best paired with a curriculum or regular reading routines. I would love to see examples of characters used in a sentence to build reading comprehension.
Conclusion – Final Thoughts and Who is Maomi Stars For
My kids and I have really enjoyed Maomi Stars. It’s a fun way to review characters and learn how to write characters. This game is for international families, especially for Canadian-born parents like myself who have never learned how to read Chinese characters. I love that I can navigate the app with ease in English and that there are so many options available for learning. My family is very flexible in terms of Chinese learning, and I like that I have the option to change to simplified characters and Mandarin if the time comes around.
Maomi Stars would work great for families as a supplement to other curriculums such as Sage, Odonata or 四五快讀. It’s also a great introduction to characters if your child is just starting to learn how to recognize characters or write characters. Maomi Stars would also work well for a family that has access to Chinese books and can read regularly to boost character recognition. The games help with character recognition and writing but does not necessarily teach reading comprehension as the focus is on characters. Reading regularly along with the game will help improve comprehension and character recognition. If your family goal is to read or write in Chinese, this game can definitely be helpful in achieving it in a fun way.
Download Maomi Stars to try your first 40 characters for free. If you want full access to the app, they have three subscription plans available: Silver tier at $7.99USD/month, Gold tier at $8.99/month and Gold Plus tier at $14.99/month. Higher level tiers offer more benefits and access to the game.