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.

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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.

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

Other blog reviews of Ciaohu:

Cost: 

  • 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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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. 😛

Dislikes:

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.

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Other sticker books I’m eyeing:

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Character Writing, Reviews

Chinese Calligraphy for Kids

This calligraphy set is fun, educational, reusable, mess-free (just water), and so cheap! I told Little Man this is how emperors wrote their imperial scrolls in ancient China, which completely blew his mind. 😂

I’m pretty amazed at how it looks exactly like 墨水 (ink) but is not. It dries off in a few minutes without leaving a trace.  


Little Man is new to Chinese writing so we are using this for practicing a few 笔画 strokes and scribbling right now. I tried writing a few words and realized that my Chinese handwriting is seriously ugly. Guess I need some practice too. 😝

This magical product is aptly named “magic cloth”. The set that I bought comes with 5 cloths, a calligraphy brush and brush holder (pictured above). I like that it has some tracing cloths and some blank cloths. Obviously it’s a cheap brush but it serves its purpose for play! 

Where to buy:

I bought mine from World Taobao for $1.50 USD for the entire set. 

You can also get it from these English websites AliExpress for $3-10 or EBay for $1-15 but you have to be patient and wait 20+ days for it to arrive from China. Magic cloth and brushes sold separately. 

If you’re impatient, then order it from Amazon Prime for $10-20. Magic cloth and brushes sold separately. 

Search the above sites for “kids calligraphy”, “magic cloth”, “儿童 毛笔 水写布”. 

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Curriculum Review, Learning to Read, Reviews, Si Wu Kuai Du 四五快读

Curriculum Comparison: 《四五快读》vs. 《基础汉字500》Sagebooks

There are two highly popular curriculum out there for parents to teach their child to read Chinese. In this post I will do a comparison of《四五快读》and《基础汉字500》, also known as Sagebooks or Basic Chinese 500, to help you decide which to get!

Disclaimer: I do not have personal experience using Sagebooks, just my extensive internet research and browsing them at the bookstore.

First, what are they?

They are curriculum designed for the child to learn the most commonly used Chinese characters, by the end of which they should be able to read simple reader books by themselves.

《四五快读》covers more characters at 552 (in the first six books) and 800+ by the eighth book compared to Sagebooks which has 500 exactly. Some parents buy both and use them concurrently, but I think one is sufficient. The characters covered are largely the same.

Cost Comparison:

The total cost for《四五快读》is ~$25, as compared to Sagebooks which cost at least $100-300. A huge price difference!

The other thing I really like about 《四五》is that you just buy one nice complete set of 8 books. Everything is included. Bam.

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In contrast, Sagebooks has 5 levels and 5 books per level, for a total of 25 books. At Popular bookstore in Singapore, they sell each book individually and a few books were not available. Meaning you have to run to several stores or buy from several sellers on Carousell to collate all 25 books. 😣 In addition, the parent guide is found separately on the website, and flash cards have to be purchased or you have to make your own.

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Alternatively, the complete set of books can be purchased online from the HK publisher for a whopping $243 USD, not including shipping. 😱

Teaching Style:

The primary difference between these two is the teaching style. 《四五快读》is more “textbook style”, and the child learns to read characters, phrases, sentences, and short stories (sample lesson shown below).

I really like that it teaches different 造词 combinations for each character. My son has learned a lot of new vocabulary like 大学生,小学生 which I don’t think he would otherwise encounter.

After the child reads each sentence, he points to the picture that matches what he read. A great way to check for comprehension!


Flash cards for the characters are included in the back of each book to cut out. Very convenient. There’s multiple of each character so you can make your own sentences.

I ❤️️ these reading charts which are found every few lessons. The intensive practice really helps my son differentiate similar looking characters like 白,日,目.


As the books progress, the font size gets smaller and smaller, pictures get fewer and fewer, and story gets longer and longer. I love this! It has really helped build up my son’s confidence and reading ability. Overall, I find 《四五快读》very similar to the book I used to teach my son to read in English. This is the main reason why I chose it, because I already know this method works for us.

Sagebooks on the other hand teaches through a “storybook style”. Every lesson introduces a new character and you read a story that has many repetitions of that character as well as previously taught characters. It is like the Chinese equivalent of Bob Books or Dick & Jane books.

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As you can see, each page has a picture and the sentence in characters, pinyin and English. I’m pretty sure my English-dominant son would rely on the pinyin, resulting in me not knowing if he is reading pinyin or characters.

Target Audience:

As the name suggests, 《四五快读》is ideally suited for 4-5 year olds. I think it would be okay for a 3-year-old who has strong Chinese background. The author actually taught her daughter to read 1000 characters before she turned 3!

《四五》was designed for Mainland China parents to teach monolingual Chinese children, however I am using it successfully to teach my American-beginning-Chinese-learner to read. So I would say that it is ok for use with children even if their Chinese is not strong, BUT the parent’s Chinese must be strong! This is because the parent guide is 30 whole pages in Chinese! 😂


This parent guide is a must read and full of important information. Please do not use 《四五》without reading the parent guide first. It would be akin to trying to build complicated furniture without reading the instructions.

I don’t know if there is an official recommended age for Sagebooks, but most parents also use it around 4-5 years old or slightly younger. There seems to be consensus that 3-5 years is the optimal age to teach Chinese reading.

Sagebooks seem to be designed for bilingual children and bilingual parents, because both the books and parent guide are Chinese-English. It is better suited for parents with limited Chinese proficiency.

Time Commitment:

Similar for both. It takes about 15 minutes practice a day, 5-18 months to complete, depending on child’s age, temperament, and how diligent you are!

In summary…

I do not think one is better than the other; there is no one-size-fits-all. If you are consistent with practice, I’m pretty sure either of these curriculum will succeed in creating a reader.

For me, I like things 1) cheap, 2) organized, 3) simple black-and-white, 4) focused on characters only, 5) pedagogy and research based, so needless to say I went with 《四五快读》and LOVE IT. ❤️

Have you used either of these? Share your experience in the comments!

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Fall activities, Mid-Autumn Festival, Preschool Reads, Reviews

Preschool Reads: 《中秋节》Mid-Autumn Festival

中秋节 is coming up on October 4 this year! I wanted to get a book so that we can learn about it together, because… erm… I actually know nothing about it. 😝

I like to get 全套 (whole set) of books because it saves so much time, hassle, and $$ compared to buying each book individually:

And now I have books for all the Chinese holidays for the whole year. Sweet. 

I was worried Little Man wouldn’t like these traditional Chinese stories but surprisingly enough he does! He has asked to read《中秋节》every day for over a week now.


He’s quite fascinated by the shooting suns with bows and arrows, thievery, sword brandishing… BOYS. 🙄

His Chinese is not strong so I had to translate almost everything at first. With each reading though, he understands more and more, and now I can read the whole book to him without translating.

The illustrations are so cute! This is Little Man’s first exposure to 古装 (ancient Chinese outfits) and he finds their hair and outfits very interesting indeed.

Overall, I’m very pleased with this《中秋节》book and think this set is super value-for-money. I can see us using it for several years to come.

Warning: ⚠️ I never realized that Chinese legends are so violent?! There is a fair bit of mature content like scary monsters, death, committing suicide (端午节 and 元宵节), and stealing women’s clothes while they are bathing in the lake (七夕). 😱😱😱 Definitely pre-read to see if your child is ready to handle these topics!!!

Price: $3.80 USD for set of 10 books

Shipping weight: 0.9kg (~$15 shipping to USA)

Buy from: World Taobao

Publisher: 海豚出版社 Dolphin Books

ISBN: 978-7-5110-3689-6

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Preschool Music, Preschool Reads, Reviews

Preschool Music: 《两只老虎》Two Tigers (Book/CD)

This book came highly recommended by several members of a bilingual parenting group, so I was determined to track it down when I was in Singapore last month.

Well, they were right. This book/CD is all kinds of awesomeness. Probably the best purchase of the 70+ books I brought back to the USA with me.

Little Man (age 4.5 almost 5) LOVES, LOVES, LOVES this book/CD set. Ever since we came back from Singapore over a month ago, he has listened to only this CD in the car, on repeat, non stop. He has stopped listening to all of his previous favorite English CDs and only listens to this. Which is pretty crazy considering he used to flat out refuse Chinese music.

This book/CD set is quite ingenious really. There’s a picture that goes with every song, which really helps my boy understand what it’s about. I’ve noticed that his Chinese vocabulary improving steadily each time we listen to it.

It has many classic children’s songs like 生日快乐 (Happy Birthday) and 当我们同在一起 (The More We Get Together), and many Chinese classics.

And the lyrics and pinyin!! Super love! ❤️ Little Man loves to read/sing along and often excitedly tells me from the backseat that he sees some characters he knows. This book has a lot of the common characters that he is learning in《四五快读》. He is even self learning more characters. One time he said “there is a word that looks like an arrow pointing up”. I said “Is it ‘个’?” and he said yes. And just like that he learned a new word!


I also have these two other books that are from the same collection but I can’t tell you how they are. Like I said, Little Man does not listen to anything except《两只老虎》. I do not know why he won’t touch these two even though they’re the same style. In the meantime, I’m very happy about his repeated reading/listening because it’s really good for language development!

Jan 2018 Update: Little Man still loves this and listens to it all the time after five whole months, which is pretty amazing because he’s the kid who always wants new things. We have a lot of other Book/CD sets but this is the definite favorite. He enjoys reading and singing along and has learned a lot of Chinese characters and pinyin this way.

Amazingly he has also “forgotten” that he used to listen to English CDs in the car. We now listen to 100% Chinese in the car. WIN. 🙂

FYI, for the other two book/CD sets pictured above, the 拔萝卜one is okay and I don’t recommend the 说学逗唱 one, the songs are weiiird.

CD: 40 tracks, 72 minute

Buy from: Popular Bookstore in Singapore/Malaysia. Not sold online.

Publisher: Popular Book Corporation Ltd

ISBN: 978-986-301-337-2

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