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2014 Year of the Horse Activities

6 Feb
final yearof the horse

illustration by Agata Plank

I realize it’s already February, but あけましておめでとうございます (Happy New Year)!Thank you so much for following my blog. 2014 is the year of the horse. (Read more about the Japanese zodiac animals on this post).

Many thanks to Polish illustrator Agata Plank for creating the beautiful illustration above for Hiragana Mama. See more of her work at: http://agataplank.blogspot.co.uk/

If you were born in the year of the horse, here are some of your character traits (according to Japanese.about.com):

Horse (uma)

Born 2002, 1990, 1978, 1966, 1954, 1942, 1930, 1918, 1906. People born in the year of the Horse are skillful in paying compliments and talk too much. They are skillful with money and handle finances well. They are quick thinkers, wise and talented. Horse people anger easily and are very impatient.

Here are some activities you can do with your children to celebrate the year of the horse.

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image from papermodel.jp

1) Horse Paper Crafts here, here, here, and here.

2) Horse coloring page here.

3) Lean how to draw a horse here.

4) Horse (and other animals) matching game here.

5) A hundred other horse-related crafts on Pinterest, here.

Did you do anything with your children to celebrate the new year?

Happy Tanabata! 2013

7 Jul

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I’ll be honest, Tanabata usually takes a back seat to the 4th of July at our house. By the time we celebrate Independence Day by going to the beach, BBQ’s, and late-night fireworks, I don’t even want to think about celebrating another holiday 3 days later. How about you? How do you celebrate Tanabata?

So I was very grateful when my daughter made some Tanabata decorations at Japanese School yesterday.

 

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My daughter’s Tanabata wish: “にじがみたい” (I want to see a rainbow).

 

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Take a moment today to make a tanabata wish!

Search my site for “Tanabata” for more on this Japanese summer holiday!

2013 Kodomo No Hi /こどもの日!

5 May

Happy Children’s Day! I know I am late getting this post up… sorry! I hope everyone had a wonderful day. I am so grateful for my own children who bring so much fun and love into my life, and for all the other children I know!

Today we invited some friends over for a special Okosama Lunch (lunch for children).

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This year’s Okosama lunch(お子様ランチ) featured shrimp fried rice, potato and beef croquettes/korokke, and purin for dessert.

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At Japanese School, they made kabuto hats out of newspaper:

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And lastly, I want to show off my awesome mom. She teaches at a Japanese preschool (wish she lived closer!) and always comes up with the best ideas for crafts. For Kodomo No Hi this year, she and the children made these paper bag koinobori. She said she just used brown paper bags from the grocery store. I want to try making these next year!

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For  more Japanese Children’s Day ideas, just search “Kodomo No Hi” in the search toolbar to the right! :) Lots more ideas on my Pinterest board as well. Thank you for reading!

2013 Koinobori Crafts

30 Apr

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This Sunday, May 5 is Boys Day/Childrens Day (Kodomo no Hi) in Japan.

Our family celebrates by:

- Displaying Koinobori (previous posts with more info HERE and HERE)

- Making a samurai hat out of newspaper (planning to post about that soon)

- Eating Okosama Lunch (previous lunch HERE. this year I plan on making fried rice, ebi-fry, korokke, and purin)

*****

Craft #1

Since we don’t have giant koinobori (こいのぼり) windsocks to display outdoors, I decided to make a small koinobori bunting (ガーランド) to display inside our house. I made one koi for each member of our family. This little banner reminds me how much I love my little family!

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To make your own, you will just need:

- felt

- googly eyes

- glue gun

- embroidery thread and needle

- glitter glue

- ribbon

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I don’t have a pattern… I just free-handed it. Cut out your koi shapes, glue on the eyes with a glue gun, add scales using glitter glue, and embroider if you desire and attach a ribbon for hanging. Easy! Took me less than 2 hours, not including drying time for the glue. I think mine would look better if I had rainbow colored string or ribbon to string my koinobori.

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There are so many cute koinobi garland ideas online! Here are a few that I thought were especially cute:

Origami Koi Garland from DekiruNavi (would work double-time for Cinco de Mayo too!)

- Another koinobori felt garland idea, found on Rakuten. I love the pom-poms!

- A super simple and colorful koinobori garland by maki maeda’s blog

*****

Craft #2

In my craft stash, I found pieces of chipboard I had purchased at a craft store (Michaels) for less than a dollar per pack awhile ago. They turned out to be the perfect shape for making koinobori! My daughter decorated hers using oil pastels.

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What crafts, food, or activities do you have up your sleeve for Kodomo No Hi (こどものひ)?  Please share (and send me photos)! Check back soon for more posts about Boys Day!

Hinamatsuri Activities Roundup!

20 Feb
HinaPoster.jpg

Hinamatsuri poster. Hina dolls illustration from fumira.jp.

Hinamatsuri (ひなまつり), or Girls Day, is just around the corner (it is always on March 3rd!). We can’t afford a nice Hina Ningyou/Dolls set (nor do we have room for one), so I designed and printed up an 8×10″ poster to display in our living room to remind us of this Japanese holiday. I just googled “free Hinamatsuri image”, then added text to  my favorite image using Picmonkey.com to create my poster. You could also do the same thing using Photoshop.

I’ve blogged about Hinamatsuri activities to do with your children many times in the past. Click HERE for all my past posts about Hinamatsuri/Girls Day.

I’ve also been pinning cute Hinamatsuri ideas on Pinterest. Click HERE to view my Hinamatsuri Pinterest page!

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I hope those links will help get you prepared to celebrate this popular holiday. What will you be doing to celebrate?

How We Celebrated Setsubun!

5 Feb

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Oh my goodness, last week was so busy I barely had time to breathe! I meant to put up this post last week but…. obviously I never got around to it.

Anyway, the week leading up to Setsubun was a lot of fun. We began by drawing and coloring oni faces using oil pastels. Oil pastel crayons are the coloring material of choice at preschools in Japan. I love them too because the colors are bright and the color slides effortlessly onto the paper (only downside is that it’s not very washable… parental supervision is important for young kids).

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To draw your own oni, begin by drawing the outline of the face. Then add horns, or “tsuno”. In Japanese cartoons, ogres usually have yellow, striped horns. Then add some curly hair and other facial features. I love how creative my daughter was with her oni.

We invited some friends over for a Setsubun Playdate. The children colored oni masks that I printed onto cardstock from KF Studio.

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We then made boxes to hold our beans out of origami paper.

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I didn’t want to be cleaning up beans in my house to I had the children toss their beans out the door, saying “Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!”.

We finished the playdate by making maki-sushi and eating them facing the lucky direction of the year.

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My daughter also learned about Setsubun at her Japanese preschool. They made these cute oni boxes using a milk carton and construction paper. Can you tell my daughter turned her oni into a princess?

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Did you do anything to celebrate Setsubun this year? What’s the next Japanese holiday you are looking forward to?

Setsubun 2013

27 Jan

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There’s only one week left until Setsubun(せつぶん/節分)! Do you have your supplies ready to celebrate this fun Japanese holiday with your children? (Unfamilar with Setsubun? You can read about it HERE, and see my past posts about it HERE, HERE, and HERE). Setsubun is next Sunday, February 3rd.

Here’s my suggestions for how to celebrate Setsubun:

1) MAME-MAKI (Bean-Throwing)

Materials Needed:

- dried beans (traditionally roasted soy beans, but you can also use peanuts, marshmallows, candy, etc).

- A box to hold your beans (you can make one out of origami HERE )

- Oni Mask (make your own or print one out, see my past posts)

How:

- Designate one person to wear the oni mask.

- Everyone else throws beans at the oni, saying “Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!”

- Everyone eats their age+1 in beans, for good luck.

Here’s our little family last year:

2) Eat Ehou-Maki

Materials needed:

- Ingredients to make a sushi roll (rice, sheets of nori, filling such as smoked salmon)

Just Bento has a great Ehou-maki recipe HERE.

How:

- Facing the lucky direction of the year (in 2013 it is south-south-east), eat your entire ehoumaki (futomaki) in complete silence.

3) Other Activities:

- Fold an Oni and Fuku out  of origami. Below is a great tutorial by Daily Origami. If it looks too advanced, click HERE for other options).

Read more about Setsubun (in Japanese) HERE.

Today we worked on making homemade oni masks. Tutorial coming soon!

じゅうにし: Jyuunishi, the Japanese Zodiac Animals

15 Jan

あけましておめでとうございます!How did you spend your New Years? My children and I ate mochi, played karuta, and watched a little bit of 紅白歌合戦 (Kouhaku Uta Gassen).

One of my daughter’s first homework assignments from Japanese School this year is to complete a worksheet about the 十二支/じゅうにし(Jyuunishi). This is something that I’ve never thought to teach her and something I don’t know too  much about either. So of course I used the internet to look for the best resources to teach my daughter about the Jyuunishi.

I think I will begin by showing her a video of the story behind the jyuunishi animals. Here are a few of the best ones on YouTube (I love the 日本むかし話/Nihon Mukashi Banashi series!):

I also downloaded the story of the Jyuunishi on my iTouch for 99 cents via the “Koehon” app (for iPhone and iPad). If you don’t already have this app, I highly recommend it! The app itself is free. Once you download the app, you will have access to 250+ picture books, most of them Japanese!! This is a pretty huge deal, if you ask me, since paper copies of Japanese children’s books are not readily available in the U.S. Most of the stories are only 99 cents. You can either read the text yourself or listen to a pre-recording. Visit the official Japanese Koehon website HERE. (BTW, there are LOTS of NEW, great Japanese apps for kids now. I will do a separate post on those later.)

If you don’t have an iPod/iPad, you can visit Xuite’s website to listen to the story of the jyunishi (in Japanese) then print off the provided worksheet to complete.

Here’s another video to help you remember the order of the animals:

Then I will help my kids figure out what animal year they were born in, and read to them their “personality traits”. You can find those HERE and HERE (this website has a fun animal-matching flash game at the bottom).

Then, I will teach them that 2013 is the year of the SNAKE(へび). We might color one of the snake coloring pages by  happylilac.net. My daughter made paper plate snakes (instructions HERE at “Crafts and Art for Children) at Japanese School.

If you have any other ideas, please share!

 

(You can read more about Jyuunishi on Wikipedia, HERE. It is basically the same thing as the Chinese Zodiac Calendar).

An Origami Christmas

21 Dec

Are you on a budget? Do you love DIY projects? Do your kids need something to keep them busy? Try folding paper to make beautiful decorations, ornaments, and gifts. Have you seen the amazing origami paper crane Christmas tree at Rockstar Diaries? One of my friends didn’t have a tree topper so they made one out of origami paper. It looked awesome! Just type in “origami wreaths” or “origami Christmas” on Pinterest and you will find beautiful projects like these (Next year, I want to make a wreath out of newsprint!):

wreaths

For Valentine’s Day a few years ago, I made an origami heart garland (see it HERE).

Lot’s of origami tutorials and inspiration here:

1. Origami Club

2. Daily Origami

3. Origami Fun

Do you like to DIY for the holidays? Or would you rather buy everything from a store?

Japanese Christmas Music Videos

20 Dec

I guess I was really just kidding when I said I wouldn’t be posting anymore in December! Haha.

A very cute Japanese Christmas song that we don’t have in the U.S. is あわてんぼうのサンタクロース/Awatenbo no Santa Claus. Lyrics can be found HERE.

Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer in Japanese is also pretty popular (another cute version HERE):

And a Christmas song from the always fun Shimajiro:

Try singing these songs with your kids today!

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