Earlier this week, I discovered the addictive Skritter, a tool for learning simplified Chinese characters and the tones of those characters.
As promised, on Thursday I got the chance to let my four-year-old daughter use Skritter. She naturally likes to play video games, so I asked her, "Do you want to play a Chinese character game?" Naturally the answer was yes.
So I sat her down in front of the screen. The first character, if I recall correctly, was wǒ 我 ("I"). Out of context, I'm not sure that she knew what it was, even though she heard it, so I gave her some quick example sentences so she definitely knew which wǒ it was. To make this easier for kids, it'd be great if you could replay the pronunciation and if it had example sentences in Chinese, or even if it at least could read the English meaning out loud. Then I could just show her which button to push and she could go at it all on her own.
Once she knew what she was writing, I showed her how to press the "show" button to reveal how to write the character. She knows very few characters at this point, so she had to show pretty much every one. A few she only showed once, and then, beaming, she said, "I showed it once and then just remembered it!" Bingo. I hope getting kids to learn remains this easy forever.
Once she knew what she was writing and how to figure out how to write it, I just let her go to town. For each new character, she'd ask me what the word was. Some, like rén 人, she knew, but for the most part I had to give her examples so she'd understand the meaning. But she happily sat there going through them. This certainly looks like it can be a great tool for her to learn Chinese characters.
Related: Skritter to learn Chinese characters