13 June 2011

Learning 笔画笔顺

If a child can hold a writing instrument in a steady, comfortable three-finger grasp, then he is probably ready for writing. Writing Chinese characters is more challenging than writing English letters because there are so many strokes and there’s also stroke sequence to remember.  You can find more info in my article on 笔画笔顺.

Each child is different; not all children will reach the stage of readiness at the same time. Generally, children can start writing around ages 4 – 5. But don’t expect to see very nice handwriting from them. Practice makes perfect.

Pre-writing stage:
Before they learn to write words, they can learn to “write” the strokes (笔画) first. , , , , , … … The aim is for them to recognise the different types of strokes and get used to the movement of the strokes. The writing doesn’t have to be done with paper and pencil since they do not have a good control of the pencil yet.

You can let your child practise in the form of drawing/ painting.  For example, 撇 or can be drawn as part of a slide in the playground, 横折 can be part of a staircase etc.  It can even be simply just a stroke by itself. My 3 yo doesn’t mind just drawing , , … … lol  

My kids sometimes practise “writing” in the shower too ^.^  We have a glass panel instead of a shower curtain, and they like to “write” on it using their soapy fingers.

Ready-to-write stage:
Some suggestions for your consideration:
1. Use colourful writing instruments
All young children like pretty colours. Writing doesn’t need to be confined to using a pencil and white paper only. It can be done using colour pencils, crayons, markers etc on all kinds of materials. The area you allowed them to write on depends on the size of the writing instrument. Colourful writing instruments make writing interesting.

2. 缤纷笔顺教
I came across this interesting way of teaching stroke sequence (笔顺) using colours of a rainbow on the internet. This teaching method is being used by some kindergartens in Malaysia. A gentleman in China has also created a 240-word 七色彩虹识字表 to help children remember the stroke sequence. The concept is basically to use the sequence of the rainbow colours to help children remember the sequence of the strokes.

a. Ask the child to draw a rainbow on top of the writing paper (for reference purpose), using the correct colours and sequence: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and purple. He can use dark blue as indigo.

b. You can either:
  iPrint some Chinese words with inside of the character uncoloured. You can use MS WordArt to do that.
ii. Use a 描红 book, ie. a word tracing exercise book. There are dotted lines for him to follow.
iii. Simply use the colour pencils to write the words freehand.

c. Colour or write the word following the sequence of the rainbow. That means, the first stroke is red, second is yellow and so on. If the word has more than 7 colours, start with red again and continue.

d. Praise him for the beautiful writing J

3. Use boxes to perfect the writing
Chinese words are sometimes called 方块字; they fit nicely in a box. You can buy those exercise book with boxes for writing Chinese words from any bookstore, or you can simply print them yourself (can use different coloured papers ^.^). To compliment the writing, they can draw something about the word they are practising so that it’s not just a writing (习字) exercise. If your child is not fond of drawing, they can find photo or pictures related to the word and paste in the exercise book.

I've created a writing grid here. Feel free to download it for your own use.


  1. I am a mom but i am also a Chinese as a second language learner from the US. I am throughly enjoying your tips because as an student i am always looking for ways to better remember things like stroke order. I actually will used the rainbow approach for myself. it is worth the stares in class because finally stroke order is beginning to make sense. thank you!!

  2. Hihi, I'm so glad to find your blog. I have been looking for the grid paper and so glad to see you have provided it as a free download. Thank you for your sharing in teaching chinese. I don't quite understand how the rainbow colours work in the writing in part c. Can you show me an example using a chinese word? Thanks!

    1. Hi there, for example, 大, has 3 strokes. So you can start with red for the 1st stroke 横, orange for the 2nd stroke 撇 and yellow for the 3rd stroke 捺.


Welcome to Happy Cottage!

I started 开心屋 - Happy Cottage because I have 凯 and 欣 in the house. Together they are the 开心 (sounds like) team.

Mommy loves Chinese language and is a big fan of Chinese story books. Thus the kids often receive interesting children Chinese story books from mommy. Many of the children Chinese story books are so beautifully drawn and well written that I like to read them myself.

Learning and loving the language is not an easy task in Singapore as our environment is not condusive enough for such learning. Thus I believe I have to create such an environment at home. Through daily communication in Mandarin and regular reading of the Chinese materials, I hope to cultivate their likings for the language. You can find many of the books in the Book Store.

Besides introducing children Chinese story books to you, I would also like to share some learning resources and tips on the usage of the language here. I've met some parents, in their best attempt to communicate with their kids in Mandarin, misread some words or used an incorrect sentence structure. You can find the information in the tabs above.

So, why is this blog written in English? I know of many parents who have kinda lost touch with the language. If I were to share in Chinese, then it may not be as effective.

Do come back often for more updates.