Our First Magic Treehouse unit study: ancient China for “Day of the Dragon King”


As part of my experimentation to figure out what works best for us in our kindergarten year of homeschool, and after a read aloud chapter book fail, I decided to do something I knew Porter would like. Something I had actually been wanting to try for a long time. I made up a unit study to go along with a Magic Treehouse Book. We’ve read several of these books, by Mary Pope Osborne, together and while they aren’t my favorite books to read aloud, Porter LOVES them and always begs for another chapter. So I figured I’d try to deepen the experience by enriching our book with go-along picture books and a few activities.

I chose “Day of the Dragon King”, where Jack and Annie travel back to ancient China. The internet was full of Magic Treehouse resources, and Pinterest had TONS of ideas for a China unit study. I only felt limited by what picture books I could actually find from my library, and by time. I knew we’d read through this book in one week, so I planned a week-long unit study.

Companion Picture Books

  • Story about Ping written by Marjorie Flack, illustrated by Kurt Wiese (we had fun looking up pictures of the actual Yangtze River after this.)
  • The Pet Dragon: A story about adventure, friendship, and Chinese characters by Christoph Niemann (This book was probably my favorite part of the whole unit study. The author tells us a story about a girl and her dragon while teaching us about Chinese characters. It was so much fun to read, and went along well with our Chinese slat book craft, below.)
  • Lon Po Po by Ed Young
  • The Empty Pot by Demi
  • Tikki Tikki Tembo by Arlene Mosel, illustrated by Blair Lent
Working on our Chinese slat books 

Activities We Did

  • Chinese Slat Books- I used the tutorial found here. We had so much fun with the characters we learned about in the book,
  • Visit the Asian supermarket and pick out a few treats- we chose some chocolate-filled panda cookies and some children’s training chopsticks
  • Practice using chopsticks- we first tried cotton balls, but soon graduated to smaller things like cubed cheese and grapes.

Activities I had the intention of doing, but didn’t

  • Cupcake liner dragons- tutorial here.
  • Go out for a Chinese meal

Youtube Videos

Apparently YouTube is a treasure trove of short, educational episodes especially for kids. With only a few minutes of searching, I found these and thought they’d be most suitable for my kids, but there were many more to choose from.


This approach to the Magic Treehouse series was a lot of fun, I really felt like we immersed ourselves more in the story as we read extra picture books and did some related activities. We did this back before Christmas, and although we haven’t done another once since then, I have a few plans for more Magic Treehouse based unit studies in the works.

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