When you were a child, did your parents ever ask you to run an errand (おつかい) for them on your own? I vividly remember going to the department store in Tokyo to buy some bread, all by myself… and I was only 4 years old! I felt like such a big girl! I even walked to my piano lessons by myself at that age. If you’ve ever visited Japan, you know that even today, young children take the train to school by themselves.
In this day in age in America, not only would this seem unimaginable, but downright dangerous to send a preschooler out by themselves. I don’t even let my kids play in our yard without me out there with them. (Oh how it would be nice to go back to the “good old days!”).
Anyway, “Hajimete no otsukai”, or “My first time running an errand by myself” is a pretty big milestone to some families in Japan. I recently found out that there is a TV show called “Hajimete No Otsukai/はじめてのおつかい“… the show has been around for over 20 years! TV Japan aired one of their specials recently and my kids were GLUED to the show! My kids must have been thinking, “What? A kid like me going shopping all by themselves? That is crazy!”. It was an adorable show! Here’s one of the older episodes found on YouTube:
You can watch an entire 3-hour long special HERE.
One of my favorite Japanese children’s books is also called “Hajimete No Otsukai“. I think the book might have inspired the TV show.
I’d love to know about your “first otsukai” experience, if the country you live in is safe enough for kids to run errands by themselves, or any other thoughts you may have! :)
Today I want to share with you an adorable Japanese music duo that creates music to get kids and parents moving! They are called Keropon’s (ケロポンズ), and here’s their group’s description from their website:
(My rough translation: “Creating music, play, dance, and everything else that children and parents can enjoy together– it’s so fun it’s out-of-this-world!”).
Here’s one of their music videos, called エブカニクス(Shrimp-Crab-Exercise):
Click HERE to browse more of their fun music videos.
See how a Japanese Preschool in Los Angeles (Suika Preschool) used this song in their classroom:
I’m going to try some of these songs with my kids today!
Here is a list of great printable kanji practice sheets! On all of these sites, the kanji are divided by grade level. Master the First Grade (一年生) kanji, then go to the next level. Please leave a comment if you know of any other great websites or resources for learning kanji.
1. Happy Lilac
Happy Lilac also has other great printables for elementary-aged children HERE.
2. 子育て、ことば育て (Kotoba.littlestar.jp)
(This website might be by the same people who made the Happy Lilac website… they look very similar)
This website doesn’t have printables, but has great interactive games for reviewing kanji
Hiragana Practice Sheets
Katakana Practice Sheets
It has been a few months since we signed up for TV Japan (cable TV channel). It has been worth the investment for us. I do wish there were more shows available for school-aged children (most of the kids’ shows are geared toward toddlers) but I feel that replacing most of our TV time with Japanese instead of English shows has helped my children speak more Japanese at home. My kids’ (ages 3 and 5) favorite shows are Pitagora Switch, Design Ah, and Kid’s Discovery.
image by NTV
Our newest obsession is a show called Shimura Zoo (天才！志村どうぶつ園）by Nippon Television Network. It is a great show for all ages! The show is about celebrities taking care of adorable baby animals. I like that there’s lots of subtitles so we can practice reading Japanese too :). A lot of the episodes are available on YouTube for those of you who are not subscribed to TV Japan.
The only downside of this show is that my children now beg me to buy a pet every day…
In just a year from now, my daughter will begin learning kanji at Japanese School. In the first grade (6 years old), students typically learn to read and write 80 kanji characters. I am going to begin working on creating a “Kanji Practice Sheets” page, similar to my “Hiragana Practice Sheets” and “Katana Resources” pages. Do you know any GREAT websites for learning kanji? If so, please let me know so I can include them on the list.
In the meanwhile, here are some YouTube videos about leaning kanji that are geared toward children:
“部首のうた” by Jun Egusa
漢字アニメ「森」by 吉野 登志也 (more videos here)
P.S. THANK YOU so much to everyone who has “liked” the Hiragana Mama facebook page! –>
I’ve made a lot of things out of origami in my lifetime, but I have never made something as fun as this! I was inspired by Kozue (of Kozue’s Show and Tell) to make a slinky out of origami paper (折り紙スリンキー). You guys, it is seriously so cool!
The instructions for this slinky are pretty simple (video at the end of this post). BUT you have to fold 50+ pieces of paper so it takes quite a bit of patience. It took me about 2 hours to complete my slinky (while watching a movie with the kids), and mine used 64 pieces of origami. My 5-year old daughter attempted to help me, but she did not have the patience to make more than one ;). This would be a great little project for a child in elementary school, or really, anyone for the matter. It would be the perfect activity for an airplane flight, or a great cure for summer boredom.
One piece of advice I have is to tape all the pieces together as you go (using just a little bit of tape). If you’re going to put a lot of effort into something, you don’t want it to fall apart right away! My kids have been playing a little rough with this slinky so I am very glad I reinforced it with tape.
Another thing: I actually didn’t use “real” origami paper. I used paper from a Memo Cube (mine is from Staples)! If you go this route, make sure the paper you get is not sticky on the backside. My daughter’s favorite color is “rainbow”, so she was thrilled with this slinky!
Sorry I went a bit overboard with the number of photos in this post… I had too much fun taking the pictures!
Here is the how-to video by the creator of the origami slinky, Jo Nakashima!
What is the coolest thing you have ever made with origami?
P.S. “Slinky” in Japanese is “Slinky/スリンキー” or “Rainbow Spring/レインボースプリング”.
Is anyone else’s neighborhood full of (pesky) dandelions (たんぽぽ)? Weeding is one of my least favorite things to do– so to be honest, I’m not very fond of dandelions. Many people in Japan, however, think dandelions are “cute”! My daughter loves them too, and always picks me a dandelion bouquet.
Last week, I decided to “make lemonade out of lemons” and turn these weeds into something pretty. My daughter and I collected the biggest dandelions in our yard and made flower crowns. It was a very fun bonding experience, and she LOVED her crown!
I didn’t take step-by-step photos, but these are simple to make. First, make a small slit about an inch below a dandelion head using your fingernails. Then take a second dandelion and pull the stem through the first dandelion’s slit. Then make a slit in the second dandelion’s stem, and repeat until you have the desired length. We trimmed our dandelion stems so they were only about 2-3 inches long (if the stems are too long, the crown will look messy).
Instead of crowns, you could create bracelets, necklaces, or garlands to decorate a tea party. There are so many possibilities!
You can use other types of flowers to make these garlands too. If the stems are not very thick, you can follow the instructions on this Japanese website to tie them a different way. If you scroll down on the website, there are also instructions for making “twirlers” using dandelion stems. Simply take a dandelion stem and make several small slits around the top and bottom. Place the stem in water, and the slits will curl. You can then send it down a stream and watch it twirl away.
Have you been doing anything creative in nature with your children lately? Please share!
This giveaway is now closed. Winners were announced in THIS POST.
I have a wonderful Japanese-learning app to share with you today. We recently downloaded the “LinguPinguin English/Japanese” app by Elevision Film on our iTouch and my kids have been loving it! It is easy enough for my 2-year old and interesting enough for my almost 5-year old to play with too. It is like an interactive English-Japanese dictionary for children. You choose a topic, such as “Animals”, then when you click on a picture of an elephant, it will say “Elephant” if you are in English mode, or “ぞう” if you are in Japanese mode. The animations are really cute! After children have learned the words, there is a quiz they can take. Here are some screenshots:
Click HERE to watch a video of the app in action. There are many different versions of the app available (Japanese, French, Chinese, etc) : Click HERE to visit the Lingu Pinguin website and see all the different languages available and read more about this app.
At just $1.99, I think it is a GREAT deal for a quality app. You will definitely get your money’s worth.
We all love FREE though, right? So Lingu Pinguin has generously offered to give away two promo codes for the Lingu Pinguin app! Yay! To enter the giveaway, simply comment on this blog post sharing why you or your children want to learn Japanese. Then come back Wednesday morning, February 27, to see if you won! Promo codes will be emailed to the winners. (App is for iPhones, iPads, and iTouch).
Have a great week, everyone! またね！
This morning we spent our TV time watching a Japanese show called “シャキーン！(Shakiin)” via YouTube. It is a 7am show designed for elementary-aged children to help wake their brains up in the morning. It has been entertaining and educational for me as well. Here’s the description of the show by NHK:
子どもたちを “シャキーン！”と目覚めさせて、楽しい一日のスタートを切ってもらう知的エンターテインメント番組。「いつもとは違うモノの見方」や「柔軟な発想力」が 楽しみながら身につきます。舞台は、雲の上まで突き出した木の上にある謎の秘密基地。愉快な仲間、ジュモクさん、あゆちゃん、ナオト、ネコッパチが、学校で友だちと話題にしたくなるようなトピックを次々と紹介します。クイズにアニメにエクササイズ、即興ゲームや思わず考えさせられてしまう歌など、子どもたちの五感や記憶力・観察力・表現力を育むコンテンツが盛りだくさん。朝から「ハッ！」としたり、「へえ」とうなるバラエティに富んだコーナーで、「体の目覚め」と「心の目覚め」を促します。
(Can’t read Japanese? Try using Google Translate)
You can watch a few Shakiin episodes below: