Ancient China

Ahh, school is out for the summer. Maybe I will have a little more time to work on some blog posts. This is one of the favorite units from this past semester and the kids would say the same.


For most of our studies I piece together items from different things around our house but while looking up activities for learning about ancient China I came across this calligraphy set and knew the kids would love it.


I printed and lamented these Chinese character cards from activityvillage. This was great reading practice, as they would first read the word in English and then would recreate it.


The kit included an ink stone (small black bowl) that the girls loved using to make the ink with. After they placed a few drops of water in the bowl they took turns rubbing the ink stick around. They then picked a brush and went to work. They had so much fun and think we should switch to using brushes and ink for writing instead of a pencil. While they “painted” their words I read the days lesson. We went through lots of paper and came back to this many times. kids-chop
story-chopsticksI found all kinds of fun books to read while we were learning about ancient China. While the kids practiced using chopsticks we read The Story of Chopsticks by Ying Chang Compestine. While not historical, this is a cute story that imagines the circumstances surrounding the invention of chopsticks. There are several other books that are a part of this series that we enjoyed but they weren’t really part of ancient history.


Eli was a little comical while trying out the chopsticks. He gave it a good try with two and then switched to stabbing them and finally gave up and decided his hands were much more practical.

TeatimeWe finished our snack time with some Chinese tea and lots of practice pouring.

Screen Shot 2016-05-25 at 1.29.39 PMOur favorite read aloud was The Warlord’s Beads by Virginia Pilegard. We learned that Abacus is derived from the Greek word ‘abax’, meaning ‘calculating board’. The first Chinese Abacus was invented around 500 B.C.

While I read the kids worked on stringing beads to create their own Abacus. Surprisingly Eli loved this activity the most. The girls were ready to be done about half way through but Eli happily put each and every bead on his. Even months later he likes playing with his.



We had a membership to the MO Botanical Gardens this last year and took advantage of their beautiful Chinese Garden. This was a great place for examples of many different types of Chinese flora and fauna and to see a few different traditional architectural elements.


IMG_8112 A dear friend had a beautiful shawl that she let us borrow. It was hand made and after learning about weaving in past lessons everyone had a great appreciation for the amount of time and talent that was put into this fabric.

We also learned about the invention of silk. I don’t have a picture but when we ate out at a nice Chinese restaurant one night and Eden was supper excited when we had silk napkins to use.


We watched this youtube video on current rice production and talked about how it might have been similar and different in ancient China.


We ended our unit study with an introduction to the Great Wall of China.

20160317-IMG_4717Work began on the Great Wall during the Qin (Ch’in) Dynasty (221 B.C – 206 B.C.), at the end of what is considered the ancient period.

We learned that the great wall was made of stone, brick, packed earth, wood, and other materials.

We used rice crispy treats that I cut into brick size pieces and chocolate icing as mortar.

I considered having everyone work together to make one large wall and talking about how many people it took to make the wall all working together for 20 years. Instead we just talked about it and I let each kid make their own smaller model.

The base was made from a heavy cardboard cut into a long rectangle. Then I made each kid a template from the cereal box to follow. They traced around the template so that they would know where to build.


The temptation to eat the bricks was real. They decided after each row they could stop for a “lunch” break and sample any broken bricks. After 5 rows of bricks a layer of chocolate mortar icing was put down and then the cereal box template was put on top.


Another row, stairs, and a small tower finished the wall. They were all so proud of their work. This was a fun project. I think we will have to do more building with cereal bricks in the future.