Character Domino Game

This game that we’ve adapted to help with character recognition may seem very familiar to you! Hopefully, it will bring back fun memories of childhood for you as well as make fun memories for your kids. (Side note: Did you know that the Chinese invented dominoes?)


Using popsicle sticks or sturdier cards, we can make our own character dominoes for use. Fair warning: this activity is a little bit more labor intensive than normal - but that is only because it requires a tiny bit of math. Also, today’s game is geared more for older children. If your child is having a hard time following the rules, you may want to adapt the game to be more of a matching game instead of actual dominoes.

Quick Tip: The more characters you want to use in your “deck,” the more tiles you’ll need to make. So, it may be easier just to make multiple decks, each containing a different set of 6 characters.


  • 28 Wooden popsicle sticks, heavier cardstock, or laminated cards
  • Pens

Optional materials: laminator and laminating sheets if you want your materials to last longer


- Draw a line halving the popsicle stick or card.
- Decide 6 characters to use in the game.
- Including a blank option (the 0), create a stick with every possible combination of characters for a total of 28 sticks.

Look at the table below for an easy cheat sheet. 0 = blank, and 1-6 = the characters you designate. The X’s mark each popsicle stick with that character combination.

0 1 2 3 4 5 6
0 x x x x x x x
1 x x x x x x
2 x x x x x
3 x x x x
4 x x x
5 x x
6 x

Alternative options: You can use fewer sticks for younger children and add more sticks for older children. (However, as noted above, if you want to add more sticks, it might be easier to create multiple sets of 6 instead of adding more combinations.)


Note: We will refer to the sticks/cards as tiles.


Dominoes (age 5+, multi player)

  1. Shuffle the tiles and place them face down. Have each player choose 7 tiles which they hold without showing the other players. The remaining tiles is called the boneyard.
  2. The youngest player places a tile face up and starts the game.
  3. The next player chooses a tile from their hand that matches one of the characters from the starter tile. If the player does not have any tiles that contain a match, they must draw from the boneyard until they get a tile that matches. Then they play that tile.
  4. Continue until someone plays all their tiles. The first one to use up all their tiles wins. The game either ends or continues until there is a loser.

Alternative ideas: Instead of drawing from the boneyard until a player gets a tile that matches, you can have the player just draw two tiles and then “pass” and lose their turn.

If the children are older, you can look up the different ways you can play dominoes and play with those alternate rules. Also, you can play the game where if you have a double tile (ie: the same character on both sides), you can create a branch and play both sides of the branch.


Character Domino Game

Solitaire Matching (3+, single player)

Note: We will refer to the sticks/cards as tiles.

  1. Shuffle tiles and place 3 tiles face up.
  2. Have child draw 5 tiles.
  3. Child places a tile from his hand to match any of the 3 tiles. If there are no matches in their hand, they can draw 2 more tiles. If there is still no match, they can discard all 7 tiles and choose another 5 tiles.
  4. Child will keep playing until all tiles are placed or no more tiles can be placed. The goal is to place all tiles. If they cannot, then they “lose.”

We would love to hear your comments and see pictures of your kids doing the activities. Make sure you join our Sagebooks HK Parent Support Facebook Group and share with us!


Comprehension matters. Focus on comprehension instead of character recognition. The point of character recognition is to be able to read and understand what you’re reading. If your child recognizes a character but doesn’t understand what it means or how to use it, it’s not really useful or practical.

Additionally, the more Chinese your child comprehends, the easier it will be for them to remember characters. That’s why it’s generally more difficult for younger children to recognize the more abstract terms such as 很 /hěn/ (very) or 在 /zài/ (to be, to exist) compared to concrete terms such as 山 /shān/ (mountain) or 大 /dà/ (big).

Comprehension will also allow your child to guess a character based on contextual cues from the illustrations as well as the story itself.

Join us in our Facebook Group and meet other parents who are teaching their kids Sagebooks Basic Chinese 500 at all different ages and levels.