Valentine’s Day is a great reminder for us to show our appreciation and love to those around us. It’s also a great time to teach one to love oneself as well. I wanted to teach my girls self-love, appreciation and positivity. I was inspired to create these after seeing Spot of Sunshine and CHALK academy Valentine’s Day hearts. I could not find any in Cantonese so I decided to create my own. These heart messages are bilingual with Cantonese (jyutping option available) and English phrases, our family language. By having them written down I hope that it will normalize and make saying these phrases more natural in Cantonese. These positive affirmations and loving messages can be used and displayed all year round.
How to use these heart messages:
download and print on regular or colour paper or card stock
cut out each heart, 24 in total
give to child directly
use as wall decorations
create a garland to display messages
Vocabulary for Valentine’s Day (Cantonese | Jyutping | English)
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.
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.
Little Explorers Cantonese is an online Cantonese class for children that gives family the controlto schedule lessons on their own time with our on demand Cantonese videos. It is run by dedicated Cantonese educators. We create our own lessons and music while featuring many independent authors and publishers.
This is a post I should have written months ago, but here it is now. Better late than never. I would like to take the time to introduce the Cantonese online program that I am running alongside Eveline, Cherry and Dorothy.
If you follow any of us on our social medias, you might have noticed that we have been working together to create an on demand virtual Cantonese program for kids after our success of our Summer Cantonese Program last year. We went all out to make a cohesive brand by creating a new brand name, logo, social media accounts and a website for our program. Shout out to the families who participated in our logo contest. It really helped us bring our brand together.
Why an on demand Cantonese class for children? We understand the busy life style as families. An on demand online program gives you control of your learning. Families can schedule these lessons at the time that suits their child. You could do these lessons during meal times or perhaps you have an early riser and you would like to provide educational content to give yourself some extra time to wake up. You are in control and you don’t need to worry about scheduling, different time zones, being late or other commitments. You can learn Cantonese on your own time.
I’m not fluent. Why a Cantonese immersion program? With on demand, you can stop, pause, and rewind at any time. Missed something and want to hear it again? Just do it! Because you have life time access to these programs, you can repeat the lessons or parts of the lesson as many times as you like. Repetition is good for fluency and understanding.
If you have little ones whose first language is not Chinese, you will be surprised at how fast they can pick up a language. The prime time to learn a language is between 0 to 6. Their brains can absorb the language with lots of exposure. Babies are not born with language. They are born with the ability to learn any language. They can learn with full immersion. Trust them. My own children did not start learning Cantonese at birth. When we finally started, they were put in an environment that was only Cantonese and they were able to pick up the language without the need for any English translations. It can be intimidating and you can go at the pace that suits your family. You might want to break up our lessons into sections to complete at separate times. How you decided to complete the lessons is up to you. There is no right or wrong way!
What is our program like? Every lessons follows a set structure. No surprises. Children strive on routine and consistency so we have set up the lessons to follow a format to bring your child comfort.
For our younger audience, we have conveniently set up vocabulary, song and lesson at the beginning. They can stop the lesson after the story. For our other children, we follow up with an activity and writing. Younger children may need help with the activity and writing if their fine motor skills are still developing. Feel free to help them out.
Our writing sheets come in two different levels and are inviting for all. We start off with tracing and finding the missing strokes before attempting to write the character. We hope that your child can also become confident reader and writers in the future.
Cherry’s Cantonese art class are calming for both child and parents. We highly recommend doing these classes with your child. Cherry goes through the art process while also engaging in light conversation that parents and children can enjoy together.
How to get the most of our program?
Consistency is key! Choose a set day and time to complete these lessons and commit to them every week.
Be prepared. Have printouts and materials ready at the start of the lesson. If you are staying just for the songs and stories, all you need is an open and focused mind. If you are doing the activities and writing, come with pencils, colouring supplies, scissors and glue.
Participate in your child’s learning. You can do the activities with your child or talk about what they saw, learned or noticed in the lessons. Find connections from the lessons to their daily lives. Let them know you are interested in their learning.
Language learning will not occur overnight and on its own. It does take effort and commitment. We are here to help you though to provide you lessons and tips to make the experience easier. For more information and to register check us out: http://littleexplorerscanto.teachable.com.
We did it! 🥳 Last month big sister and I finished Sagebooks Basic Chinese 500! It has been an amazing journey (2.5 years) learning to read Chinese together. I am not literate in Chinese and I am not a native speaker. There were definitely many challenges along the way. I wanted to just share a few things that has worked for us.
#1 Use the FREE audio! Download it! This saved us when the characters were getting harder. I recommend dividing the audio into chapters or pages and having it easily accessible on a device or c pen. I had each chapter sticker and my children are able to read them independently. This is empowering for my children! They can be in charged of their own learning, especially when I’m not around. Here’s a secret, I can add audio to my books much faster by splitting the audio file than reading it out loud and recording it. It’s also important for me for the kids to get native speaking audio (I am very tone deaf). It takes me less than 5 minutes to sticker one book. I have all the chapter audio for orange, pink and red. Send me a dm if you need this.
UPDATE: I have all the audio for each chapter for all the sets (blue, green, orange, pink and red) in Cantonese. Thank you Cindy for finishing them off for me. I have also started on the Mandarin audio and have the audio divided by chapters for the blue and green set.
#2 Read lots and lots of fun books!Level books should not be your child’s first books. These are NOT story books. Read fun picture books first. Let them love reading. Once they start or finish level books, continue to read those fun picture books. It will supplement what they have learned. I made the mistake of treating these like picture books at the beginning and after a year of reading them, they did not learn much and we had to start over again. We now have a Chinese home library and have access to books at our local library. It’s definitely a blessing and privilege to have all of these. These books really helped us connect the meaning of the words and helped us to remember them.
If you do not have access to books, there are many YouTube stories available that you can use for reading. Although since Cantonese is a complex language, there may be some disconnect. I recommend Cantonese Mommy and Rhythm ‘N’ Rhyme read alouds as they do read in written and spoken form.
#3 Go at a pace that suits your child. For our family, that was one chapter/character per day. No revision. My daughter had various strategies for reading each chapter. Read all on her own if she knew all the characters. Repeat after me (using the audio). Listen to the whole chapter (audio) and attempt to read it all on her own. I let her decide how she will attempt each chapter and how many she would do. Occasionally she will be up for 3 chapters. It was important for her to be in charged of her own learning and her own intrinsic motivation kept her going.
#4 Start at a time when your child is ready. Most importantly, none of these will matter if your child is not developmentally ready. Every child is different. I started noticing my child could recognized characters at 2. We started at 3, but we were unsuccessful the first year. She may not have been fully ready and I didn’t approach these books correctly. We tried again at 4 and experienced much more success. We also took a 2.5 month break after half a year. We weren’t using the audio at the time and it became increasingly difficult by the orange (3rd set). When we started again, I introduced the audio and it was more manageable for us to follow along and get through. We read a lot of other books and my daughter is able to point out words she had learned through Sage.
These were special moments between my child and I. After each set of books, we found ourselves becoming more confident in reading. We were able to point out characters that we learned together with Sage. My youngest who is now 4, started Sage at 2. She zoomed through the first two books so fast. She wanted to mimic her older sister. However, she was not ready to read. She has taken 1.5 year break from Sage. She is just starting to show signs she is ready to read again. It’s hard but you really got to follow the pace of your child. Let them show you when they are ready. And lots of encouragement and praises go along way.
Throughout our journey, we read a lot of books and we did a lot of activities. There really is no one way to learn a language. A good combination of things will really help a child to understand the language.
Here are more FREE resources.
Cantonese for Families has a word list printable with all the characters and its jyutping. I used these before I switched to audio. Audio is very important for the children to hear. I found the jyutping helpful as an adult.
Guavarama has a hundred chart, games and other resources on her page as well. We used her hundred chart to track the characters my girls had learned.
Mama Baby Mandarin has tracing sheets, character search and many more resources on her page. I did not do any Sagebook worksheets with my kids. My kids traced the main character each lesson with their finger or c pen.
I have CHALK Academy to thank for introducing these books to me. She’s also another mom who was illiterate and non native in Chinese, and she inspired me to do this. I also have to thank Eveline from Rhythm ‘N’ Rhyme for bringing these books to Canada, sharing tips with me and encouraging my family along the way. I love her.
You can purchase My First Bilingual Busy Book 快樂學習廣東話 or 快樂學習普通話 in Cantonese or Mandarin here. It is available in traditional or simplified characters with the corresponding pronunciation guide (jyutping or pinyin).
Update: The video below is the original version created in 2021. The newest edition (2023) is bilingual with English and Chinese and contains more language options for Chinese, image below.
I’m so happy to share with you another activity book. This book was made in request by another parent. This one is geared towards young children (toddlers, preschoolers, kindergarten, early primary). It includes a lot of first words that your child will find helpful. This activity book was designed to be interactive and to be used more than once so that they can really learn the vocabulary. Kids learn best through repetition, consistency and through play. You may have seen this kind of book available in English. It goes by other names such as busy book or learning binder. If you are unfamiliar with these types of books, please read on.
Essentially, the pages in these books work like a puzzle. There is one correct position for the pieces and the child has to match it to the correct spot. I have included many hints to help your child do this independently such as, colour coding pieces to its correct spot and including silhouettes or outlines for your child to match. Every pieces has its corresponding Chinese character to help your child learn to identify characters. For this book, the Chinese characters that were chosen were spoken Cantonese words so the child can use them in speech. Jyutping is included for parents who are unable to read Chinese characters. Also, a QR code is available on each page that provides the audio from a native speaker for each word as well. You might recognize the voice. It’s from one of the co-founders of Little Kozzi, Charing. With these, I hope that you and your child are able to expand your vocabulary and become more comfortable including Cantonese apart of your everyday speech.
In addition to the matching pages, I have given your child an opportunity to start on writing. You will find two pages with the eight most common Chinese strokes. Your child can practice writing them in a fun way by finishing the picture. The page that introduces numbers also includes a colour-coded stroke order to help your child learn about sequence and learn that Chinese writing follows an order. For the car page, the page with the large 車, your child can use the cars provided, and drive the car following the stroke order.
The book covers a range of topics, sample pages below:
12 Zodiac Animals
Calendar, weather, seasons
Emergency and construction vehicles
Chinese strokes and character symmetry
How to Construct the Book
There are many ways that you can construct this book. I will write some recommendations here. Please note, the hard part of constructing this book is cutting out each individual piece. You do not have to complete it in one sitting. If time is an issue, I would start off by cutting the pieces for the main pages that you want to learn first, and as your child starts to master the vocabulary, add on more pages and pieces so that you and your child is not overwhelmed.
paper fastener (brad fastener/split pin)(like this)
Prepare your materials.
Print all the pages with a colour printer (*at home or printing services).
Laminate the pages (*at home or laminating services). Cut out pieces you may choose to laminate whole page and then cut. Alternatively, you may choose to cut, laminate and cut again.
Cut out pieces. For some of the pieces, you can choose to cut close to the image or leave some extra space around the image (i.e. continents cut out pieces).
Affix velcro dots to the worksheet and pages. Use clear hoop and loop dots to have words or images still visible.
Punch a small hole into clock hands and centre of clock. Fasten the hands with a paper fastener.
Insert pages to a ring binder.
Use a dry erase or washable marker for written tasks.
There is no one correct method of utilizing a learning binder. Find what works best for your family. Here are some suggestions to guide you through the process.
Find a quiet space that is free from clutter.
Choose a time that your child is ready to learn (nourished and rested)
Work through one page at a time.
Place activity in a tray or work from the binder.
Your child can remove the pieces themselves (fine motor skill strengthening). You may also choose to have the pieces removed and placed on the table or in a small tray.
Invite your child to join you in a new activity.
Point to a piece and call it by the correct name. Example, red colour, say “紅色” (red colour in Cantonese is hung4 sik1). Invite your child to say the new word. Look at the worksheet together. Point out the red colour. Say “red” again. Show them how to place it on the worksheet connecting the velcro dots so it sticks. Let your child choose a piece. Call it by name if child doesn’t say it. Encourage the child to do the tasks independently while introducing new words if child does not voice it.
Repetition is apart of learning. Allow your child to do the activity again if they want to before moving to a new page.
*If you do not own a printer or laminator, you can bring the file to a specialty store that can help you print and laminate it. You might find printing services at your local library, pharmacy, courier store or technology store. Please call to find out about pricing. There are also self laminating sheets (like this, like this, or like this) where you do not need to use a laminating machine. I have not use these before, but they look like they should be fairly easy to use. You may also use sheet protectors (like this). Please note, with sheet protectors it is harder for the child to pull the pieces off with the velcro since it’s more flexible and movable. This only works for the full pages and not the individual pieces.
*You may also choose to use this one time by just making this a gluing activity. Once they are complete, you can make it into a book to read.
You can purchase My First Bilingual Busy Book 快樂學習廣東話 or 快樂學習普通話 in Cantonese or Mandarin here. It is available in traditional or simplified characters with the corresponding pronunciation guide (jyutping or pinyin).
First Words Poster
Also check out the poster version of the book. You can simply print and display the posters in your home space to create a print-rich home to increase exposure to Chinese. Available in Cantonese, Mandarin and with simplifed or traditional characters: First Words Poster.