Babies, Toddlers, and Preschoolers

So you’ve decided to teach your little one Japanese… congratulations! Raising a child to be bilingual is probably one of the greatest gifts you can give a child. Difficult, time-consuming, and frustrating at times– yet the reward will be worth it in the end.

The babies through preschool stage is when children’s brains are like sponges. They absorb absolutely everything. And thus, it is the best time to expose them to a second language. And exposure is the key word. Whether you only have the time and energy to Facetime a Japanese relative once a week, or are able to spend several hours a day playing, singing, and reading with them… any amount is better than nothing.

On this page I will link to resources you may find helpful in your journey. Use some or all– it is up to you to decide how much time and energy you are able to dedicate.


Listening to authentic Japanese will help little ones learn vocabulary, pronunciation, and grammar naturally. Here are some ways you can help them listen to as much Japanese as possible:

  1. If you know Japanese, speak to them in Japanese as much as possible. Or dedicate special times during the day when you will speak to them in Japanese– for example, while you are changing a diaper, while eating dinner, or working on an art project. Sometimes one parent will decide to only speak in Japanese, while the other speaks English (or other native language).
  2. Sing or chant Japanese songs, rhymes, and fingerplays. My kids LOVED this.
  3. Converse with relatives who know Japanese in person or on Facetime/Zoom.
  4. Listen to Japanese music, yomikikase (read-alouds), or stories via CD’s, podcasts, a music streaming service, or YouTube.


I am a huge advocate of reading to children every day. Even babies! Even teenagers! It is a great way to expand vocabulary and help children understand the way words form together to create language. It helps them learn about people and places they have never seen before. It also helps them see with their eyes what letters, words, and paragraphs look like.

Click HERE for information on where to purchase Japanese books.


Children learn best through play. In addition to fingerplays (as mentioned above), here are some additional games/activities you can try:

  1. Inai-inai-ba (peek a boo!)
  2. Jyan-ken-pon (rock paper scissors)
  3. Shiritori (a word game, best for ages 4+)
  4. Ken-ken-pa (hopscotch)
  5. Daruma-san ga koronda (similar to Red Light Green Light)
  6. Oni gokko (tag)


While a lot of screen time is not encouraged for this age group, there are some great videos geared toward teaching little children about Japanese language and culture.

My favorite shows are:

  1. The Shimajiro channel on YouTube (Playlists for: Babies, Ages 1-2, Ages 2-3, Ages 3-4, Ages 4-5)
  2. On Netflix (in the language settings, you can change these shows to Japanese): “Mochi and Waffles”, “Old Enough!”, “PJ Masks”, “Llama Llama”, “Storybots”, “Octonauts”. If your child has a favorite show, try going into the language settings and see if you are able to switch it to Japanese. I’ve found that about half of the shows have this option.
  3. On Disney+ many of the children’s show’s can be watched in the Japanese language. Just go to your setting menu. Some shows that are great for this age group are: “Bluey”, “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse”, “Muppet Babies”, and “Fancy Nancy”.

Click HERE for more places to find TV shows, movies, and videos.


Click HERE for an article I wrote called “Is Raising Bilingual Children Worth the Costs?”

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