7 years old, Audiobooks, Bilingual Journey, Chinese Resources

Ximalaya KIDS audiobook app!

We’ve been using Ximalaya to listen to audiobooks for a couple years now and I can’t believe I just realized today that there’s a kids version! 🤦‍♀️

It is much preferable to the adults version I previously used. It’s simple, user-friendly, and when you enter your child’s age, it populates recommendations. Most importantly, you can let your child scroll through without worrying they’ll click on some inappropriate junk!

It’s also easy to narrow down to your interests by clicking on the icons: Science, Classics, Chinese Literature, Popular, etc.

There’s a lot of audiobooks for free but some are VIP only. VIP subscription is $2.49 per month which I find completely worth it. We have enjoyed many of the VIP audiobooks and find them excellent! My son has listened to all the 米小圈 numerous times – hugely popular series from China.

The other thing I’m excited about is the Learning section of this app, where there’s audio recordings for elementary Chinese textbooks they use in China! There’s even quizzes at the end to see if you retained the info.

(Not sure if we will be using this but still kinda cool)

There’s a lot more resources in the Learning section that I haven’t explored. It included learning plans and lessons for Art and many other topics. 🤯 This might be useful for homeschoolers.

Link to Ximalaya Kids app on App store: 喜马拉雅儿童-by Xi Da (Shanghai) Network Technology Co., Ltd.

While we’re on the topic, 「親子天下」is another app we sometimes listen to. It is by one of our favorite publishers of children’s books in Taiwan.

The selection of books is smaller than Ximalaya but the quality is excellent as well. It has some audiobooks of the Reading 123 series which is nice to listen first if you’re trying to get your kid to read the books. My son enjoys listening to 「字的童話」which is a series of funny short stories that have word plays and puns.

It is also subscription based but more expensive at $5.99 per month.

The benefit to having both of these is you’re pretty covered for Chinese stories from both China and Taiwan! There are many regional differences in the Mandarin spoken, from pronunciation to vocabulary to culture so I enjoy listening to both.

Link to 親子天下 app on App Store: 親子天下有聲故事書 by CommonWealth Magazine Group

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7 years old, Audiobooks, Bilingual Journey, Chinese Resources, Home Library, Magazines

Comparison of Chinese Magazines

Chinese magazines. They are soooooooo good and have been a lifesaver for me these days since I’ve been quite busy. If you’re a busy/lazy parent, magazines are your friend!

The best thing about Chinese magazines, in my opinion, is that they come with audio read-aloud CDs by native speakers. They are fantastic quality and provide a lot of advanced, non-fiction vocabulary input.

We spend about 2 hours in the car every Saturday commuting to various activities so I just pop a new CD in every week. By my son’s request, we usually listen to each CD at least twice. This is my quick and easy way to learn new words together with my son.

The magazines are themed and the topics change with the season/holidays. For example, since it is now Fall and we have two fruiting apple trees in our yard, it was perfect timing to listen to the Apples issue.

If you’re wondering which magazine would be a good fit for your kids, I compiled a table below to compare them:


Factors to Consider:

  1. Publisher After buying thousands of Chinese books, I’ve found that I have very strong preference for two publishers which are 康軒 and 親子天下 and I tend to stick with them. Conversely, there are some publishers I stay away from. I won’t mention which ones since I’ll probably really offend some people LOL.
  2. Content – This is probably the most important thing! What are you looking for in a magazine? I prefer a mix of current affairs (e.g. culture, geography, history, news) and science so I can expose my son to a wide range of vocabulary.
  3. Illustrations – My son tends to gravitate towards books with “cute” illustrations. And yes, he really loves comics.
  4. CD – All the magazines come with read aloud CDs that are fun and engaging. Far better than my own accented (and possibly erroneous) read aloud.
  5. Activity books – Honestly we don’t usually do these because ain’t got no time for crafts. But I know some kids really love their stickers and crafts.

Sample Pages

小行星幼兒誌 Little Planet Magazine

little star1
Image from c-stems.com
little star 2
Image from c-stems.com

I was really surprised by how much my son liked this magazine, I think possibly because he is familiar with 親子天下 books and this magazine by the same publisher has similar illustrations, style and voices. He also really enjoyed the activity book that had a detective theme and you solve the clues to find the culprit.

Link to subscribe here

新小小牛頓 Little Newton Magazine

My first impression of this magazine is that it’s very “old” but again I was very surprised by how much my son likes it and has retained information from it. This is the most “sciency” of the three mags. We also enjoy the CDs very much! I heard the DVDs that come with it are also very good but we have not watched them.

This magazine is no longer in circulation so you can only buy old issues.

Links to buy:

康軒學習雜誌 Kang Xuan Top945 Magazine

Image from c-stems.com
Image from c-stem.com

This magazine is my personal favorite. My son loves the illustrations and comics but content is sometimes too advanced for him. This is not surprising since it is a 1st to 3rd grade magazine so I feel that it will continue to grow with him. I love the wide range of topics it covers and exposure to culture of different countries, especially Taiwan. When we went to Taiwan this past summer, my son was already very familiar with many Taiwanese foods, landmarks, places of interest, etc. due to reading this magazine.

Link to subscribe here

Other Reviews

Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of 康軒學習雜誌 初階版 and 小行星幼兒誌 by C-stems.com (official distributor of these magazines in the USA) for review. Opinions are my own. 


5.5 years old, 6 years old, Chinese Resources, Reviews

西游記 Journey to the West for Kids (Part I)

Happy summer 2019!

We are having so much fun in the sun and I have been so lazy to blog. But here I am, finally got off my lazy *** to share some of our favorite 西游記 materials for beginners. These materials are abridged for preschool/early elementary age and are introductory level, so don’t expect it to include all the details. The main purpose is to hook kids’ interest.

I’ll start out by saying that I had no interest in Journey to the West when I was a kid growing up in Singapore. I remember it being on TV and my thoughts were that Monkey King and the Pig looked sooooo fake and dumb. I especially hated how Pig’s ears looked glued on and his big belly and man boobs are so ewwwww.


Anyway, things change when you get older right. Especially after you have kids. It’s like you have to force yourself to do things you hate, and then realize that it’s actually not so bad after all. (Am I the only who feels this way?)

Why Read Journey to The West?

  • Reason 1: It is one of the four classics of Chinese literature. There are constant references to it in books, songs, tv shows… Last week, I watched a talk show and someone said her husband has “火眼金睛”, a reference to Monkey King. Yesterday, my son was reading a completely unrelated book and he recognized several characters in there like 牛魔王 (Bull Demon King) and  蜘蛛精 (Spider Spirit) from Monkey King. Like I said, it’s everywhere.
  • Reason 2: It is also a nice stepping stone to other Chinese mythology and legends as it introduces many Chinese “gods” and “goddesses” like Jade Emperor, Guanyin, Erlang Shen, etc. This is also a huge part of Chinese culture.
  • Reason 3: It’s FUN. Both boys and girls will find this story irresistible. Kids really love knowing about each “god” and their “powers” and “weapons” and who is more powerful and who will defeat who (comparison of “powers” is also why my son loves the 小妖怪 series).

Materials We Used

I’ll share what we used in the chronological order that we acquired them.

#1. 西游立體書 3D Pop-Up Book

This was my son’s very first introduction to at 5 y.o. and I think it was a great choice because he was jaw-droppingly WOWED by the stunning illustrations and pop-ups.

Click here for Taobao link to buy

Unfortunately, I found it difficult to read this book since it didn’t have pinyin and I wasn’t familiar with the character names (although I could probably read it now). My son was also afraid of the “spider” page. As a result he only requested me to read only the first two pages of this book over and over. As I later found out, the first two pages tell the story of 大鬧天宮 (Havoc in Heaven) which is sometimes told as a stand-alone story, so I guess it turned out just fine.

Regardless, this book was the beginning of his interest in Journey to the West so it served its purpose. It really is a lovely book.

#2. Little Fox Chinese

I really recommend these YouTube videos produced by Little Fox Chinese because it’s free, well produced (not crappy homemade videos), and short! Each video is only about 5-6 minutes long and easy to understand, perfect for short attention spans. Little Fox Chinese even has the companion printable books and MP3 for download on their website if you sign up for an account. We didn’t do this because, you know, lazy.


These videos really helped my son understand the story. Little Fox is made for Chinese language learners so the language is by far the easiest to understand of the whole lot. This is a great introduction for kids.

#3. 西游記 注音版 Chapter Book (pinyin version)

This book comes in Traditional Chinese (buy from 博客來) or Simplified Chinese (buy from Taobao). What I like about it is each chapter is really short, only about 5-6 pages, so it was manageable both as a read-aloud and for kids to read themselves. The pictures are cute and I like them far better than the numerous other versions out there with ugly pictures.

The story is summarized (a bit too summarized in my opinion) into about 120 pages and a lot of details were left out. But, I definitely feel like it was a worthwhile buy since it was only $2 on Taobao. 👌 This was easier for me to read aloud to him since it has pinyin!

#4. 幼福 金鼎獎西游記 You Fu Audio CDs (24 CDs)


Link to buy here and here

This is an award-winning audio narration from Taiwan and highly recommended by many parents. I bought it when my son was ~5.5 and we only listened to a bit before he lost interest. It was probably too long and complicated for him at that time.

However, he suddenly picked it when he was 6.5 years old and this time he loved it and listened to the whole thing (12+ hours) in the car over several weeks. Goes to show that sometimes we just have to be patient and wait for kids to be developmentally ready.

Note that this is not an audio book (where someone is reading out a book), but more like an 廣播劇 audio drama (with a narrator and actors acting out parts). There is a lot of sound effects and clinging and clanging and overall very LOUD. I did not like it at first but got used to it after a while. It has a lot of advanced vocabulary and idioms and we both benefited from listening to it.

#5. Back to #3

Shortly after listening to #4, my son picked up the book (listed in #3) and read it. I was beyond thrilled! I just wanted to point this out because it is evidence that listening leads to reading. Having your kids listen to the audiobook first will build their vocabulary and comprehension enough that they can eventually read the book.

#6.米小圈快乐西游记 Mi Xiao Quan Xi You Ji

Link here: XimalayaFM


Mi Xiao Quan is a hugely popular series in China, the equivalent version of Wimpy Kids. I’ve mentioned numerous times how much my son loves Mi Xiao Quan, starting with the original books and audiobooks, then the other spin-off series like idioms and riddles. I recently realized there’s yet another spin-off series Journey to the West.

Unlike the Diary of Mi Xiao Quan audiobooks which are free, the Journey to the West audio cost about $12 USD. Well worth it in my opinion as it is extremely well produced. In the introduction they stated that the author spent six months writing it and they found the best voices in China to record and the best producers for the music.

I absolutely ❤️ it. I like it even better than #4 You Fu CDs listed above because they do a good job of providing lots of details and descriptions. It also includes interesting snippets from the unabridged 原著 Journey to the West – e.g. asking “Do you know how tall the Monkey King is?” then quoting that it says that he is not taller than 4 feet tall. What a good way to introduce kids to the unabridged version!

It is also more “modern” – it is a recent production so the music and sound effects are toned down, not as “old fashioned” as You Fu CDs which were produced in 2003. Nonetheless I think they both have their merit and I don’t regret buying them both.

And… that’s all I have for right now! I am looking for more intermediate-level books and will update more as we get to that level.

Chinese Resources, Preschool Reads

Kids Joy Chinese Book Set {GIVEAWAY}

You may be surprised to hear that despite owning thousands of Chinese books, this is my very first set of bilingual books. Most bilingual books I’ve seen are written with very simplistic Chinese vocabulary as they are targeted towards children who are just learning Chinese.

I prefer books with interesting vocabulary and sentence structure that are written by native speakers. I was immediately intrigued by Kids Joy Traditional Chinese Toys Book Set, written by three moms who grew up and attended college in China and moved to the USA.

This book set comes with 5 hardcover storybooks + 1 free coloring book in a sturdy box. If you do not speak or read Chinese, there is read-aloud audio found on their website or scan the QR code in the book. The audio is read by a professional TV host in China and I was impressed with the high quality.

Each storybook shows a little boy and girl playing with a traditional toy such as rattle drum, shuttlecock, bean bags, etc. What a fun way to introduce Chinese culture! I remember playing with these during my childhood in Singapore. I spent countless hours sewing and playing five stones in primary school. Ahhh.. fond memories. 🙂


Each book has a heartwarming storyline. For example, in the 不倒翁 (tumbler) book, the theme was being like a 不倒翁 and not give up when you face obstacles.

I really like the “Did You Know?” section that gives a brief history of the toy. Who knew that these toys have been around for thousands of years and were played in the royal palace?

At the end of each book there are instructions for you to make your own toy! Little Man was really excited to kick 毽子 (shuttlecock) and I really appreciated that the materials were things we already had at home. Good way to re-purpose plastic bags too. 😉 There are also video instructions on the website.

Overall I find it a very cute and meaningful set and it introduces Chinese culture in a fun, interactive way. There were quite a few new vocabulary that he did not know so it was a good learning experience.

Giveaway Details

  • This contest will run from Sep 12, 2018 – Sep 20, 2018, 7pm CST. One winner will be selected at random.
  • The winner will receive a Traditional Chinese Toys Book Set (5 hardcover books + 1 coloring book) worth $49.95 sponsored by Kids Joy. Contest is open to participants from any country but the prize will only be mailed to a U.S. address.
  • Each person can have a maximum of two entries, as listed below.
  • The winner will be contacted via Facebook Messenger after the contest ends to claim his/her prize directly from Kids Joy.

To enter the contest:

Disclaimer: Book set was provided by Kid Joy for review. Opinions are my own. 
Chinese Resources, Learning to Read, Si Wu Kuai Du 四五快读

四五快读 Si Wu Kuai Du: A Review

As you probably already know, I am a big fan of 四五快读. I have a few other blog posts like how we use it and how I organize our materials, but I wanted to wait until I finished the entire curriculum before I wrote a review.

Anyway, momentous occasion today. We finished all 8 books! YAAAAAYYYYY!!!!!! 😊😊😊

Here’s a general overview of our experience.


Background: My son grew up in a 100% monolingual American English environment for his first 4.5 years. When we started 四五快读 he barely knew any Chinese and I taught him both the character and meaning at the same time, e.g. “This is 天. It means sky.” When we started Book 1, he didn’t even know what 火, 木, 云 meant!

Time: We started when he was 4 years 10 months old and completed at 5 years 7 months old. It took a total of nine months diligently working on it every day for about 15 mins.

As the name of the series suggests, it is designed for 4-5 year olds. Of course it could be used for younger/older children too, but younger children may not have the attention span and older children might find the animal stories kinda lame.

Cost: I bought the set of 8 books from Taobao for around $25 USD

Outcome: He can now read around 700-800 characters, short stories and simple storybooks. Technically the series covers a total of 825 characters but he has forgotten some of them. For those of you from Singapore, this is basically means he’s covered most of the characters in the P1 syllabus and a substantial portion of P2 (however he cannot write any of them).


  • Cheap
  • Comprehensive program – everything is planned out for you and flash cards are included
  • Builds up a child’s confidence from reading simple sentences with lots of pictures to long stories with hardly any pictures. THIS IS THE BEST THING ABOUT THIS PROGRAM! It trains kids to not be afraid of long pages of text.
  • No pinyin (I guess some people wouldn’t see this as a pro but I do!)
  • According to the author, child should be able to read about 80% of the words in children’s books after completing this series. I would say this is pretty accurate.


  • Typos (there are a few every book)
  • Printing error!! My Book 5 had like 20 misprinted pages OMG!!!!!!! 🤦‍♀️

I won’t say that my son loves 四五快读 because that would be a lie. I had to deal with a lot of complaints initially but he is now used to 四五 as part of his daily routine and doesn’t mind it. He is very proud of what he has accomplished and has even brought 四五 to his preschool for Show & Tell!

Some readers mentioned to me that they bought the series but find it so intimidating. I freaked out too and thought there’s no way my kid could learn all that. Here’s a tip: only look at the book you’re on and don’t look ahead! Focus on taking baby steps every day.

Progression from Book 1 to Book 8:

First week (Aug 2017):

Beginning of Book 1 (Aug 2017):

End of Book 1 (Sep 2017):

Book 2 (Oct 2017):

Book 3 (Nov 2017):

Book 5 (Jan 2018):

Book 8 (Apr 2018):

Leisure Reading

During the course of the last few months while doing 四五, I also massively acquired Chinese storybooks and read to him as often as I could. It started with 1-2 picture books a day to now 1-2 hours of Chinese books a day. ME reading, not him.

The impact of this on his language development was HUGE. His Chinese vocabulary and grammar exploded and he became able to read with increased speed and fluency. You will notice in the videos that somewhere along Book 3, he stopped reading character by character and started reading by chunks.

Side Note

Because I did not expose my son to Chinese until 4.5 years old, he has substantial difficulty with pronunciation of tones. I did not take this seriously at first because I thought he would eventually figure it out with time. Well, turns out we got until Book 8 and he STILL did not figure it out by himself and basically sounded horrendous since the stories were now very long. The longer the sentence, the more inaccurate his tones were.

Around the middle of Book 8, I started aggressively correcting his tones using the following strategies:

  1. Correcting him every single time he makes a mistake
  2. Listening to lots of CDs/MP3s of native speakers
  3. Improving my own pronunciation. I’m usually kinda lazy and mumble a lot but I make a conscious effort to pronounce as clearly as I can.
  4. Having him repeat after me, bit by bit. At first he could only imitate 2-3 characters with the correct tones, but he slowly became able to imitate 4-5 characters then longer sentences accurately.
  5. Taking a step backwards and reading EASY books. We practiced My First Chinese Words readers which has one repetitive line per book.
  6. Used the tone marks in pinyin to visualize it (I feel he is a better visual learner than auditory)

After several weeks of my intensive boot camp, he became a lot more conscious of tones and got better at certain combinations which are hard for him (e.g. a lot of fourth tones in a row). Overall I would say he has improved markedly because I only have to correct him about 5 times per story now instead of 5 times per sentence!

Please follow me on Facebook for our latest videos and updates.


I know we still have a long way to go for language, reading and pronunciation, but I think his progress from the first video until now is very evident. 🙂 For those of you just starting this journey, 加油! Persevere and you will see the fruits of your labor very soon.💪🏻💪🏻💪🏻

5.5 years old, Chinese Resources, Reviews

Chinese Resources: Ciaohu Subscription

Disclaimer: Sample issue of was provided by Apex Brilliant Child Development (A.B.C.D. Inc), distributor of Ciaohu in the USA. Opinions are my own. 

Ciaohu 巧虎 is a popular magazine subscription from Taiwan (shipped worldwide) for young children from babies to 2nd grade+. I’ve heard many parents rave about Ciaohu and was excited to try it out. This review shows the 學習版 ‘Learn’ version for 5-6 year olds which I selected since Little Man is 5.5 years old.

Every issue comes with a magazine, activity book, interactive activities such as games, STEM, toys, and sometimes CDs/DVDs. The content and activities are tailored for your child’s age, e.g. pretend play toys for toddlers and more academics for older kids.

Video review of Ciaohu:

I found the 學習版 ‘Learn’ version to be spot on for my son’s developmental level. The content is just right for his comprehension, attention span, and in line with kindergarten curriculum for Math, Science, Phonics (zhuyin) etc. The activity book also contains ~30 pages of fun activities that kids love, e.g. stickers, mazes, spot the difference.

In my opinion, the main benefit of magazines (as compared to books) is the wide variety of topics and vocabulary. Most of the Chinese books we own are fiction and revolve around my son’s interests of superheroes and mythology. Ciaohu provides a diverse “diet” of non-fiction, various themes, and exposure to everyday vocabulary of native Chinese children.

When Little Man opened the package, he immediately wanted to get started with the Science experiments. I found the instructions very clear and my son was able to follow the directions by looking at the pictures.

I also love large clear font and plentiful illustrations! Large font is really important for beginning readers and my son was able to read some parts of the magazine with me. He particularly enjoyed reading the comic. With some practice, I expect that he will be able to read this magazine by himself.


Right now we use 95% Simplified at home but the Saturday school my son attends teaches Traditional. I feel that Ciaohu will be good for more exposure to Traditional text as well as practice reading 注音符號 (zhuyin), something that I am learning as well. Don’t be afraid to expose your child to both Simplified and Traditional! Kids can easily pick up both because they are just that smart.

They provide the entire year’s schedule so you can see exactly what materials you’ll be receiving each month and the topics. Schedule for 2018-2019 “學習版” (starts September) shown here. Click the links below for other age groups.


Check out the Ciaohu website for a preview of these other levels:

Other blog reviews of Ciaohu:


  • 12-month subscription $345 USD ($28.75/month)
  • 6-month subscription $188 USD ($31.30/month)

You will receive one of these free gifts when you subscribe! If these gifts run out, Ciaohu will substitute a different age-appropriate gift.

To subscribe, complete the form below. Email info@ciaohu.com if you have any questions.

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5.5 years old, Bilingual Journey, Chinese Resources, Curriculum Review

Summer Goals 2018

SUMMER IS COMING! 🙂 ☀️ ☀️ ☀️

So many mixed feelings as we approach this summer. It’s the last one before my baby heads off to big kid school a.k.a. kindergarten. Because of his Fall birthday he’s actually attended three whole years of Montessori preschool and I know he’s ready for new adventures. Still I’m dreading him going to real school because it means more after-school commitments and less time to do our own thing.

In addition, since he will be attending Spanish immersion kindergarten and be in a Spanish environment for most of his day, I have to balance Chinese and English at home and make sure he is progressing in both.

Age: 5.5 years


Present Levels:

  • Knows about 800 characters
  • Can read simple picture books without pinyin
  • Can read 3000-word bridge books with pinyin when sufficiently motivated
  • Produces correct tone about 70% of the time


  • Increase word recognition to 1000 characters
  • Read 1500-word bridge books without pinyin
  • Read more 3000-word bridge books with pinyin
  • Produce correct tone 100% of the time
  • Get more fluent with 37 zhuyin symbols and blending (Don’t really care about this as much, but it would be nice if I could check this off my list)



Present Levels:

  • Reads books with lots of illustrations
  • This week he read Fantastic Mr Fox and half of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory but he didn’t seem to enjoy them. I feel like he may not comprehend lengthy text with limited pictures.
  • Does not like non-fiction
  • Lisp for /s/, /sh/, /ch/, /th/ is driving me crazy


  • Increase stamina for books with higher text-to-picture ratio
  • Increase vocabulary and comprehension
  • Read more non-fiction
  • Fix his lisp



Present Levels:

  • Has general concepts of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division but has numerous gaps everywhere
  • Finished Singapore Math 1A and in the middle of 1B


  • Convert his “Montessori math” (beads, snake games, etc.) concepts to more “traditional math”
  • Increase speed and accuracy of mental math
  • Memorize the whole multiplication table (has 4s, 6s, 7s and 8s left)


As usual…

I have so many grand plans. As for whether they will come to fruition… It’ll be fun for me to look back at this in three months time LOLOLOL. 😝

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Chinese Resources, Online shopping

How to Buy Books from Taobao When You Can’t Read Chinese

Honestly I don’t know if it’s advisable to purchase from Taobao if you don’t know Chinese. Several people asked about using Google Chrome Translate and I think it is possible but proceed at your own risk!

If this is your first time buying from Taobao, here’s some tips:

  1. Limit yourself to $20-30. That way even if you screw up, the worst that could happen is you’re out $30.
  2. Buy from just 1-2 sellers. One seller would be the best because then the chances of screwing up are less.
  3. The prices fluctuate. Taobao is like Amazon in that prices can fluctuate every day, sometimes by $10 USD! I usually add a bunch of stuff into my shopping cart and monitor prices over time. There is usually a sale once a month.
  4. Have a Chinese-speaking friend who can translate for you in the event that the seller texts you in Chinese and expects you to text them back in Chinese. This happens about 30% of the time, so pretty often.
  5. Expect to pay more for shipping than the items. You won’t know how much international shipping costs when you first purchase the items. Estimate international shipping to cost around 1.5-2x the price of the items, e.g. if your items cost $30, shipping might cost $45-60. Mentally prepare yourself for this so you don’t get sticker shock when it comes time to pay for shipping! Because the books themselves are SO cheap, it will still be completely worth it. (E.g. Little Bear books cost $5, say shipping costs $10, the total is still only $15 compared to the $50 you’ll pay if you buy them within the USA.)
  6. Getting book sets will save you the most. They are cheap and I get the whole series one fell swoop. Win. 🙂
  7. The first time is the hardest. Don’t worry it gets much easier after the first time. Taobao will become your best friend and you can join me in the #taobaoaddicts club.

Ok are you ready? I even set up a new TB and Alipay account so I can show you how it’s done.

What you need:

  1. Smartphone with Taobao app
  2. Computer with Google Chrome
  3. Visa credit card
  4. Patience 😉

You can do the first part of the process on the computer using Google Chrome but you will still need the app. For whatever reason sellers can only text you via the app. You will not get the messages if you log in on the computer. I don’t know why, I’ve tried. If you don’t respond to their text messages then your items may not get mailed out or will get returned or whatever. The app is of course only in Chinese, which is why I said hopefully you have access to a Chinese-speaking friend you can ask for help if you need it. 😛

Step 1. Open the Taobao website on Google Chrome

If you in the USA it will automatically take you to the World Taobao website and display prices in USD. On the top right corner of your browser you can click the little symbol (to the left of the star) to translate the whole website into English and it will look something like this:


Step 2. Register for an account

Click on “Register”, enter your phone number, and type in your verification code when you get it.


On the next screen, type in the following information:

  • Line 1: Country 美国 (USA)
  • Line 2: Full address
  • Line 3: Zip code
  • Line 4: Name
  • Line 5: Cell phone number
  • Line 6: Phone number

Click to checkmark the box to use this as your default address, then click the button “保存” to save.


Step 3. Add items into your shopping cart

This post assumes you already know what you want to buy. If you don’t know what to buy, please refer to my other posts about Buying Books from Taobao, Book Reviews, Chinese Resources, How to Choose Books, etc.

Like I said, if this is your first time, try to stick to buying from one TMall (天猫) bookstore. TMall (shown by the symbol of little red shopping bag and black cat) are bigger companies and less risky. In my example below I’m buying from three different TMall bookstores because I’m a Taobao pro. 😛

These are the TMall bookstores I’ve bought from with good selection of children’s books and high ratings:

It is pretty easy to get free domestic shipping. Most sellers offer “免邮” (free shipping) when you meet minimum purchase of 48 yen (around $7 USD).

Step 4. Select your international mail carrier

You have three choices for your international mail carrier: EMS (default), USPS or UPS. This is the company that will collate your items for you in their China warehouse and mail them to your US address.

I always choose USPS because they are the cheapest, fast, efficient and package the items pretty well. I’ve had bad experiences with EMS so I do not use them anymore and I’ve never tried UPS.

If you don’t change the international mail carrier, it will automatically use EMS. If you do want to change it, then click on “修改服务商” and select USPS. For USPS, the first 1kg is 72 yen and every next 0.5kg is 20 yen, meaning the more you buy, the more you save on shipping. For this reason, I usually wait until I have several things I want before making a purchase.

In this example I am purchasing 17 paperback picture books, 2 hardcover picture books and 2 paperback textbooks.


After changing your mail carrier, check that your items are correct, your address is correct, then click the red button “提交订单 (confirm order).


Step 5. Set up Alipay account

You will then be taken to the payment screen to set up Alipay, which is the China version of Paypal. Think of a 6-digit PIN number with no repeating numbers, then type it in twice in the blank spaces shown. Remember your PIN number. You will use it a lot.

Click to checkmark the box to agree to their terms and conditions, click the orange button to confirm.


Step 6. Enter your Visa card number

I did not have any difficulty with this step, although I was taken to a separate verification screen for my Wells Fargo card. If you are having trouble with this, either try a different card or call your bank. Sometimes credit cards get declined due to fraud prevention.


On this next screen, IMPORTANT!!!! NOTE!!!! Under “cardholder name”, enter your Last Name in the first space, First Name in the second space. 


Step 7. Success! 

Hopefully you will be taken to this screen. Do a little dance for finishing Part I. It’s not over yet though.


Step 8. Download the Taobao app and log in.

The second I logged into the app, I received a message from each of the three sellers asking me to confirm my order and address. Click on “确认” (confirm) for all of them.


Step 9. Wait for your items to arrive at USPS warehouse

OPTIONAL: Over the next couple of days, the sellers will mail out your items and you can check the status on your app. If you click on “我的淘宝” (the little person on the bottom right corner), your items will be shown under “待发货” (the briefcase looking thing) when they have not been mailed out. They will move to “待收货” (delivery van) when they have been mailed out and you can click on the delivery van to track your package.

You don’t have to obsessively check on the status unless you want to. The app will send you a message when the item has been signed for at the warehouse “订单已签收”, and send you a 2nd message when your item is safely deposited at the warehouse and you need to pay for international shipping “您的包裹已入库,点击支付海外段运费”.


Wait for all of your items to arrive at the warehouse before you pay for international shipping. Since I bought from three sellers I had to wait for three packages to arrive. They can combine up to twenty packages for you! Do this only when you’re a TB expert.

Step 10. Pay for international shipping

When your items have been accepted at the warehouse, the option “合并转运” will pop up:


In this screenshot below, you can see that two of my items have arrived but one (in the middle) has not.


A few days later, the third package arrived. Now I have the option to pay for international shipping for all of them. When I select all of them, it shows that the package weight is 3.62kg and shipping costs 192 yen ($30.47 USD).


Click on the orange button “运费结算” (calculate shipping) and you will be taken to the payment screen. Then click the orange button “确认订单” (confirm order) and pay via Alipay.


Step 11. You’re DONE!

Sit back, relax and wait for your package to arrive! In a few days, it should show on your Taobao app that USPS has sent your package on its way and its tracking number. There’s nothing else to do except wait for it to show up on your doorstep in about two weeks.



  • Total number of books: 19 paperbacks + 2 hardcover
  • Cost of books: $32.97
  • Cost of shipping: $31.36
  • Total cost: $64.33 ($3.06 per book)


  • Order placed on: Jan 29, 2018
  • All items arrived at USPS warehouse and I paid for shipping: Feb 1, 2018
  • Package dispatched from USPS warehouse: Feb 2, 2018
  • Package arrived at my home (USA): Feb 21, 2018

Wow that was a long post. Hope it helps!

You can contact me via FB Messenger on my page Hands-On Chinese Fun if you have any questions.


Chinese Resources, Reviews

Chinese Resources: Sticker Books

There are so many things to consider when buying Chinese materials for your child:

  • Chronological age
  • Language age
  • Interests and personality
  • Laziness level of parent 😝

If you’re a lazy parent like me then I have just the thing for you: Sticker books!

The only thing you need to do is cut the sticker sheets out with a craft knife:

And read them to your child, of course. Personally I much prefer reading than thinking of what to say. Because thinking in Chinese 💭 is TOO MUCH WORK.

Here’s what I like about this particular set.

#1. Cheap

TEN sticker books (24 pages each) cost less than $4 USD! IKR?! I think I paid more for each English sticker book when Little Man was a toddler.

#2. Covers a wide variety of topics and age range

Some books have age ranges on them 2-3 years, 3-4 years, 4-5 years, 5-6 years and others are based on topics like Science, Math, Logic, Language.

It goes from simple stories and vocabulary (animals, clothing, occupations) to more advanced concepts like food chains, telling time, character recognition and 成语 (idioms).

#3. Vocabulary and comprehension

Overall they are a good fit for Little Man (age 5) and are great for Chinese language bonding time. It helps me realize the gaps in his vocabulary because sometimes he doesn’t understand when I read him the instructions. Actually I don’t know the meanings of half the idioms shown above so it’s educational for me as well. 😛


The books don’t lay flat because of the binding. Most of the time I have to hold it flat for Little Man while he sticks the stickers on. GAH. Same problem with many English sticker books that I’ve bought from Amazon so it’s not just these ones.

Also I find it hard to believe a 2-year-old would have the fine motor dexterity to manipulate the teensy stickers. Use your parental judgement on that one!

Buy from:

Taobao link here. Like most items I buy from TB, the shipping costs more than the items.


Other sticker books I’m eyeing:

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Chinese Resources

Chinese Resources: Twinkl Review {GIVEAWAY}

3/7/2018: This giveaway contest has ended.

I came across Twinkl by chance when browsing online for Chinese coloring sheets. They are a UK-based company so most of their resources are in English, but they also have a huge variety of resources in Simplified Chinese and many other languages.

A Twinkl subscription gives you unlimited access to all their high quality printables in every imaginable topic. In my work as a speech pathologist, I help students of all ages across all subjects from Chinese, English, Social Skills, Math, Science, Social Studies, and even PE. Sometimes the kids want to color pictures or do crafts. I can find almost everything I need on Twinkl!


Many of my students with special needs have difficulty writing and cutting worksheets, so I often turn the printables into file folder games which are fun, hands on, and reusable. 🙂

The other thing I like to do is turn printables into Montessori-style cards by adjusting the printer settings to print 6 of them on a page:

image1 (3)

The Twinkl search engine accepts English and Chinese searches, e.g. typing in “形状” yielded a mind-blowing FIFTY-TWO shapes printables in Chinese:

They also have a nice variety of real photos and more cartoon-type illustrations so you can choose what you like based on your preference:


I also like to browse all the Chinese resources available by scrolling to the bottom of the page and clicking “中国 China”. Look at all the different languages available!

They frequently have new printables based on current holidays or events. Here’s a sampling of the materials for Winter Olympics and Chinese New Year:


Every time I browse around, I end up finding yet another super cool thing. The other day I randomly discovered Singapore (my homeland) coloring sheets and National Day printables and about fell out of my chair. AMAZING!

How does Twinkl work?

You get unlimited access to all their materials with a flat fee of $6.99 USD per month ($78 annual). They have great customer service and are responsive to emails/feedback in a few days. The printables are often available in a variety of options like English, Chinese/English, Chinese/Pinyin or Chinese only so you can select what you prefer.

If there is a printable that you like that is not yet available in Chinese, you can contact them to translate it. So far I’ve requested for a handful of printables to be translated and they have been so obliging each time and email me when it’s ready. 😀



Twinkl has a huge array of materials for teaching vocabulary, language, and themes and you can find most of the units covered in school like body parts, colors, weather, seasons, holidays, etc. However there is not much for teaching the more technical aspects of Chinese like strokes, radicals, and character writing.


The other con is that some materials are only available in UK English and when I use them with my American students, I get comments that things are “spelled wrong”. I do not mind this really as it gives me an opportunity to discuss with them that there are variations in English around the world.

Is it worth it?

You’re probably wondering if the subscription fee is worth it and the answer is… it depends on how often you use it. If you use it almost every single day like me, then of course it is 100% worth it for the high quality materials AND time saved AND convenience of downloading what you need immediately.

The best way for you to decide is to browse around and try the free Chinese sample pack (link below), which includes the printables shown here and more:

Download the absolutely free Chinese Resource Pack here! You don’t even need to give them your email.

Giveaway Details (This contest has ended)

  • This contest will run from Feb 26, 2018 – Mar 5, 2018, 7pm CST. One winner will be selected at random.
  • The winner will receive a 12-month Core Twinkl Subscription sponsored by Twinkl. Since this is an online subscription, this contest is open to anyone from any country! Click here to read Twinkl Terms & Conditions
  • Each person can have a maximum of three entries, as listed below.
  • The winner will be contacted via Facebook Messenger after the contest ends to claim his/her prize directly from Twinkl.

To enter the contest:

  • Must like and follow both Hands-On Chinese Fun and Twinkl USA Facebook pages.
  • Must comment on this Facebook post with the country you are residing in.
  • (Optional) For an extra entry, share this Facebook post. Remember to set the post to public.
  • (Optional) For an extra entry, follow both @handsonchinesefun and @twinklusa on Instagram and comment on this Instagram post with the country you are residing in.

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