Imperfect Activities

In a previous post, we discussed how some children are incredibly afraid to fail and how it can make otherwise obedient children into the boldest of rebels. This week, we will be doing a few activities to remind our kids that failure and making mistakes is part of the normal learning process.

We would like to remind our parents that often, our best intentions of teaching our children Chinese can inadvertently make our children feel as if they never do anything correctly. Though eventually, we would like our children to form perfect characters or speak all the tones accurately, our insistence that it has to be 100% immediately is often the source of their anxiety.


With these activities, we hope to reinforce the idea of the impermanence of our “mistakes” as we “fail forward” towards success.

In fact, we will refer back to some of the activities we have done in the past because they’re very useful just for these purposes. The majority of our craft and play-based activities from our archives help your children learn how to fail and lose through low stakes games and activities.

Imperfect Activities (Writing Focused)


Pens and paper. Preferably LARGE sheet of paper


1. Show children the character you want them to learn to write.
2. As an example, write the character as terribly as you can. Make it ugly. Have the sides be unbalanced. Do the wrong stroke order. Be as silly as possible.
3. Ask the child to do the same.
4. Repeat.
5. Have your child choose which “ugly” character they like the most.


Yes, this will produce super ugly Chinese characters. It will not help your children with stroke order. But it will relieve any burden on them to produce Chinese characters with the right dimensions or look. After all, the purpose is to make the characters as ugly as possible in order to get your children comfortable with writing and trying to write.


The hardest part? Resisting the urge to cry at the massacring of the beautiful Chinese written language.

BONUS: If you can work in why it’s okay to have characters look mis-shapen and how you are happy that your child is trying to recreate the character at all. It takes years of practice before children are physically developed with the appropriate fine motor skills to write beautifully.

Additional Writing Focused Imperfect Activities

We particularly recommend you revisit these writing focused activities in our archives because of the temporary nature of their materials. After all, what’s the worst that can happen if your child messes up? Just shake the salt in the tray or smash the playdough and they have a new blank slate to try again.

Using Salt to Teach Your Child How to Write Help Your Child Form Characters with Playdough

Speaking Focused Imperfect Activity 1: Tongue Twisters (age 3+)


1. Read out a tongue twister out loud slowly. Break it into shorter segments so it’s easier for your child to follow.
2. Ask your child to try the tongue twister slowly.
3. Gradually read the tongue twister faster and faster. Be open to messing up and laughing when you do as a good example.
4. Ask the child to do the same.
5. Go as fast as you can and fail spectacularly.
6. Repeat with a new tongue twister.

The reason we chose tongue twisters is because even native speakers have great difficulty saying them! You can choose easy ones for your children and extra hard ones for yourself.

Here are a few examples of Chinese tongue twisters.





For more examples of Chinese tongue twisters within the Basic Chinese 500 curriculum, please check out our previous post:

趣味繞口令 Chinese Tongue Twisters


Speaking Focused Imperfect Activity 2: Tell a Short Story (age 3+)


1. Sample prompts
2. Follow up questions

Describe an imaginary creature

What does it look like? Does it have lots of arms/legs/eyes/scales? What does it eat? Is it large/small/medium? Can it fly? What color is it?

What did you eat today?

What did it taste like? What color was it? What was in it? Did you like it? Why or why not? Would you like to eat it again?

Describe a superhero

What is their super power? What is their weakness? What does their costume look like? What is their secret identity? Who are their friends? Do they know their secret identity? Who do they fight? Why?


1. Give your child a prompt (this is important).
2. Ask your child to tell you a story or about their day around this prompt.
3. If it helps, you go first. (Important: do it in the language you are weaker in.)

The prompts are important because if you have ever been put on the spot to tell a story, you know that as soon as someone asks you, you forget everything that has ever happened to you. The prompt allows your child to grab onto something and use it as an anchor for the story.

If your child is particularly anxious, you can give them ideas or hints. For example, if the prompt is, “Describe a monster to me.” You can ask, “Is it large or small? What color is it? What does it eat? What does it like to do?”

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!


Practice, practice, practice.

This is likely not a new tip. Nor is it mind blowing.

However, both us parents and our children often forget that the entire point of practicing is not perfection. The point of practicing is to gain competence. Competence then brings confidence. And when our children are confident, they are more likely to try out their Chinese.

Have these tips been helpful? We’d love to hear from you in our Facebook Group and we hope to see you there.