I just wanted to share some sites for those of you interested in Bennesse’s Kodomo Challenge Program (こどもちゃれんじ). Bennesse has a mail-order educational packet available for all age groups, from newborn~college. I am only familiar with the programs for babies/toddlers. My kids LOVE learning with Shimajiro. My daughter has learned a lot of Japanese vocabulary and songs from watching the DVD’s and reading the accompanying books. She’s also learning about science and Japanese culture. We think it is awesome!
We don’t have an actual subscription- we have just received some from friends as their children have grown too old for the program. But if you actually sign up for the subscription, each month you will get a DVD, books, educational toys, etc. The DVD’s for kids are about 15 minutes long, which is perfect. I think they will even mail you something special for your child’s birthday. In Japan the package is about 2000 yen/month.
You can subscribe even if you live overseas. Here is the website for overseas subscribers (warning: you will need to be able to read Japanese). Click here to see pricing. I think it is about $50/month for those in the United States. You could also have a relative subscribe in Japan and have them mail the packets to you… but I’m not sure if that would save you any money.
If you live outside of Japan, don’t have a lot of Japanese community resources, and are serious about your children learning Japanese (and having fun while they do so), I highly recommend Kodomo Challenge!