Chinese characters are also read differently, from top to bottom right to left. They are not written left to right to horizontal rows as English and other romance languages. Long Is a Dragon: Chinese Writing for Children by Peggy Goldstein is a nice introduction to some of the characters. Or, just show them the Chinese numbers. As of February 2005, they could be found at:
While free exploration when the children are working on their own is fine. I think it is important to at least show the correct stroke order when introducing characters. It is an essential part of the character – even more so than in English. A character that is not written in the right order generally does not look as balanced or as attractive – and this can usually be seen even by people who do not know the characters at all. Stroke order can usually be determined by following a simple set of rules. (It starts “top to bottom, left to right”.)
Calligraphy ink is permanent ink. Some have used it at school. Others use poster paint or poster paint mixed with glue. The glue makes the paint shiny and helps control drips.
Children can make wall hangings – much more Chinese than framed pictures that they may see at home or in school – of calligraphy or paintings. Most Chinese paintings are made with just black ink – the levels of gray are achieved by how much water is used. I know one school where all of the preschoolers and kindergardeners made “bamboo” pictures and they did see the varying shades from using different amounts of water. Using chalk dipped in water will allow children to make a much brighter, more vibrant picture.
An inexpensive wall hanging can be made using a pencil glued to the top of a piece of paper, and tying ribbon to each end.
More more information on Chinese calligraphy see:
Take a look at Chinese painting, and why are colors used and not used
For Animated Chinese Characters
Chinese New year couplets
Write Fu / luck