Age: 4.75 & 7.75
Presentation: 文字接龍 Shiritori
The kids and I played a fun game today while eating our Chocolate Chip cookies at Fat Apples. It’s something I’ve played with Thumper since she was about 4.5. This game is a great way to gauge what words your kids know, to have them think outside of the box, to be aware of tones, and lastly, to learn vocabulary from you.
In Japanese, the game is called Shiritori. Not sure what you would call it in English. But you could totally do a similar version in English with ending syllables or ending letters.
The way you play is simple. One person starts with a word (i.e. 2+ Chinese characters), probably a noun. The next person connects it by re-using the last character. For example, 天空，空腹，腹部，部首，手腳，餃子. You will note that it’s often a two character word used, even more often a noun. But, the rules are wide open. I’ve allowed the kids to use idioms (成語), phrases (大人->人都不在家), to allow the changing to tones between turns (天空->恐龍).
There are rules for what you cannot do as well. I don’t usually allow the kids to use 子 as ending character, because it’s hard to connect. Or, you cannot go in circles; 天空->空空 would be bad.
How We Play
This is a game we often play in the car. Super great for that 15-20 minute drive to and from school. Typically Thumper starts. I try to think up of words that are NOT children’s daily words. Otherwise you will keep using things like balloon, colors, food they eat, etc because it’s easy and things they know. I make sure to introduce words that I know are new vocabulary, and explain them. For example 空腹 is something Thumper doesn’t know. For Astroboy, I have to be patient and wait more than 10 seconds before asking him leading questions. For example, today he had to use “吃”, and I had to ask him in various ways “What do you like to eat?” before he could make up a word. It isn’t because he doesn’t understand the concept, but very young children have a tough time thinking up answers. They would do much better if you gave them choices instead.
Because coming up with words is hard without some practice, especially using characters that just have the same sound (rather than using the same character), so the kids can get frustrated. This is definitely something the adult needs to demonstrate often. Sometimes the game last only 3 minutes. Other times, like today, 10.
Also the concept of shiritori is very hard as well for young children. Astroboy had the tendency for the longest time to want to re-use the same beginning character. （天空->天上) And no matter how I just say, “空， 空什麼”, he did not get it. It’s probably just a development kind of thing. I have noticed that he turned a corner after 4.5 and had a leap in his Chinese skills.
I do want to note that today was the first time that Astroboy was actually able to participate in the game. You have to have enough of a vocabulary to start. Otherwise it’s frustrating to everyone. Once I saw that he has finally gotten the concept, I was generous with my clues and asked him leading questions. But this is the first time he could think of words himself.