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Japanese Halloween Videos!

29 Oct

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Halloween is fast-approaching! In past years, our family has done Japan-inspired family costumes like Totoro and Pokemon, but this year we let each kid pick whatever they wanted– so they chose Elastigirl (from The Incredibles), a stormtrooper (from Star Wars), and Cinderella.

The weather in our part of the world has been just awful for Halloween festivities– cold and rainy every day. Perhaps it is the same for you. So I have compiled some of my favorite kid-friendly Japanese Halloween videos, so you and your kids can snuggle up under a blanket, maybe munch on some Pocky? and learn Japanese 🙂 Enjoy, and ハッピーハロウィン!

Shimajiro is always my favorite:

(Learn the lyrics to グーチョキパンプキン here)

 

A 30-minute compilation of Halloween songs by ピンキッツ:

 

Super Simple Japanese always publishes great songs:

 

Learn how to fold a cute origami ghost:

 

Halloween make-up how-to for tweens, by ちゃおチャンネル:

 

Or perhaps order or borrow Studio Ghibli movies to watch! I think Kiki’s Delivery Service is especially perfect for this time of year.

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Play Smart by Gakken book review (and GIVEAWAY!)

24 Aug

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I have three children, ages 10, 8, and 3. I often find myself in situations that involve a lot of waiting, especially with my 3-year old. Waiting for her older siblings while they participate in piano lessons and other extracurricular activities. Waiting at the airport. Waiting at the dentist’s office. Waiting for dinner to be made.

And waiting is HARD for a preschooler! I don’t want her to have too much screen time, and I also want her to be mentally stimulated . One of the best solutions I have found for these WAITING situations are these workbooks by Gakken called Play Smart.

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Want to win all 6 of these books? Keep reading!

The workbooks are full-color on every page and the paper is very nice. They are age-appropriate, fun, and have STICKERS! My daughter honestly can and has worked on these books for hours. We use them when she needs to be sitting quietly in church. We used them on the airplane when we went to Japan this summer. And we work on them when her siblings are at school. We totally love them and I can see her skills improving with every book we complete.

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The following is from the Gakken website:

Gakken Play Smart Workbooks are bestsellers in Japan where 1 million Play Smart workbooks are sold each year, and the books have been enjoyed by tens of millions of children. The winning Play Smart formula:

• Puts the emphasis on fun – so much so, that children have no idea that they’re building important skills while they trace lines and shapes, cut and paste objects, solve mazes, create crafts, and tackle other simple, enjoyable activities.

• Includes parent involvement: Extensive research asserts that young children learn the most, have the highest rates of literacy, and the most developed math skills, and even social skills when there is parent involvement in the learning process. Every single page of the Play Smart workbooks includes “notes to parents” offering advice to help each child progress.

Has been proven to strengthen kids’ reasoning, decision-making, and concentration skills, which helps them prepare for the classroom – and for life.

• Includes age-appropriate trying, cutting, pasting, and drawing activities to build fine motor coordination and other important skills. 

• Uses  stickers within the context of certain activities and also as rewards for completed work.

We made a video of us working on the Play Smart Animal Picture Puzzlers for Ages 3+.

These books are in ENGLISH but I try to speak to my daughter in Japanese as we work on the pages together. I love seeing some Japan-inspired pictures on some of the pages.

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I can’t wait for you to check these books out. I have teamed up with Gakken to host a GIVEAWAY! One lucky winner will be sent the full set of Play Smart Picture Puzzler Books– 6 workbooks total!  To enter, simply visit this site: https://www.gakkenplusna.com/playsmart then tell me in the comments below which Play Smart book would be perfect for your child! Then, for a BONUS entry, follow @gakken_playsmart on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/gakken_playsmart/ then leave another comment saying you’ve followed them. Don’t have a toddler or preschooler? Please share this giveaway with someone who does.

This Giveaway will begin on August 24th and conclude on Friday August 31st at 9pm EST. At that point, a winner will be announced and must contact me within a week to claim their prize. This giveaway is only open to residents of the United States. 

The winner is Lindsey!! I will be emailing you 🙂 おめでとう!

No worries if you don’t win… these books are affordably priced at $6.99 each. They are available on Amazon (free shipping for prime members). Gakken even has a few FREE pages you can print and try out if you just can’t wait! Free printables HERE! Stock up for all those times of WAITING :).

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Disclosure: I was sent some free Play Smart books by Gakken to try out and review. I have tried some of their other workbooks in the past, both from Japan and from the U.S. and LOVED them, so I was happy to write this blog post and host a giveaway. If you purchase these books through my Amazon links, I will receive a small percentage of the sale to help keep this website up and running. Arigato!

Japan-inspired Classroom Valentines

24 Jan

Eek! It has been a long time since I last blogged! So sorry. (I post more often on my –> Hiragana Mama facebook page if you’d like more updates!).

So the fall/winter holidays came and went in a whirlwind and now it’s almost Valentine’s Day! At my children’s school, they still exchange valentine cards so I’ve been trying to brainstorm ideas for cards. If you want to be unique, why not try a Japan-inspired Valentine’s card?

For example, use origami. Here are some ideas I found on Pinterest. There are hundreds of ideas on there! Here are my favorites.

First, a unicorn origami valentine bookmark, found at willowday.net.

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Next up, Origami Troll valentines, by PinkStripeySocks.com.

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Aren’t they sooo cute??

Here is an origami Kissing Lips valentine by homemade-gifts-made-easy.com

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You can visit Origami Club to learn how to make basic hearts out of origami: Origami Club.

If you and your kids are not the crafty types, you can always purchase pre-made cards from places like Etsy.

Check out this cute Totoro valentine by Etsy seller playerNo2

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You could also buy clip art from sellers like Cockatoo Design

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Minted.com also has these adorably clever cards that you can order.

Udon Card

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Wasaaaabae (this one is my favorite)

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Check out Minted for even more! (No, not sponsored. No part of this post is sponsored. I just like to find good stuff and share them with you.)

My children’s school doesn’t allow food to be passed out, but if your school allows it, I thought it would be fun to pass out candy like Hi-Chew, interesting-flavored Kit-Kats, or little packs of Konpeito (Amazon Associate links). I have seen some of these foods being sold at World Market, and of course at Asian grocery stores.

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Aren’t these little bags of konpeito so cute? $9.99 for 50 packs!

I am sure you all could come up with some Japan-inspired Valentine’s Box ideas as well. What have you done in the past, and what do you plan to do this year? I would love to hear.

 

 

NEW Gakken Go Go Workbooks!

10 Sep

I believe learning should be fun, motivating, and rewarding. If you believe that too, you should check out the new Go Go series by Gakken!

Gakken has been creating educational materials in Japan for years. Go to any bookstore in Japan, and you will see shelves lined with workbooks by Gakken. Just recently, they have started branching out and creating workbooks for sale in the United States. They reached out to me to see if I’d like to review the new books, and I said SURE! because I knew they create good-quality books.

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The books arrived and my children (even the ones who are too old for them) couldn’t wait to flip through the colorful pages and admire the cute stickers.

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Hmm which sticker to use next?

The first thing that impressed me was the quality. Every page, front and back, is full-color. The pages are nice and thick so you could use pencils, crayons, or markers. The stickers are high-quality and the illustrations are adorable.

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2-4 year old tracing book

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Go Go Tracing 2-4 (Gakken Workbooks)

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from the 4-6 year old mazes book

I also liked that the books are very age-appropriate. I received several books for 2-4 year olds. My almost-2-year-old could do some of the beginning pages, but the rest of the pages were a bit too advanced. I know they will be just perfect in a few months! However, she wants to use up all the stickers NOW! 🙂

Right now they also have books for 3-5 year olds and 4-6 year olds. I hope that as the company keeps expanding, they will publish more books for older kids too! (See all the currently available books HERE). I would also love to see their Japanese language books (like hiragana) here too.

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cute stickers galore!

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As someone who is passionate about Japanese culture, I was thrilled to see that pieces of Japanese life are included in the books. People who don’t know anything about Japan may be confused by things like Koinobori (carp fish) and Hinaningyou (Girls Day Dolls), but I LOVE it!

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Gakken workbooks are available for purchase NOW! And I think they are very affordable, ranging from $5 to $8 on Amazon. Totally worth it to keep my kids busy and learning. The stickers are definitely motivating and rewarding for little ones.

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Here are the Amazon links to purchase the books.

Go Go Intellectual Skills 2-4 (Gakken Workbooks)

Go Go Life Skills 2-4 (Gakken Workbooks)

Go Go Cutting and Pasting 2-4 (Gakken Workbooks)

Go Go Tracing 2-4 (Gakken Workbooks)

Go Go Drawing 2-4 (Gakken Workbooks)

Go Go Life Skills 3-5 (Gakken Workbooks)

Go Go Mazes 3-5 (GakkenWorkbooks)

Go Go Cutting and Pasting 3-5 (GakkenWorkbooks)

Go Go Mazes 4-6 (Gakken Workbooks)

Go Go Intellectual Skills 4-6 (GakkenWorkbooks)

Want to try out a few pages before deciding to purchase? Gakken has generously provided free sample pages from each book, which can be downloaded HERE. Enjoy!

 

Japan-Inspired Gift Ideas!

12 Dec

Recently, I frequently find myself gifting Japan-related things! For example, my daughter took a bag full of Japanese candy for a birthday party. For Christmas, my older kids are getting a Yokai Watch DVD set and my toddler is getting a Mel-chan doll. It is a good way to be unique! Here are some gift ideas for the Japan-lovers in your life:

Melissa and Doug Sushi Slicing Set (a fun alternative to “traditional” food!)

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Kendama Toy (great for all ages!)

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Vive Le Color! Japan Coloring Book for Adults

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Yakusen Bath Roman Bath Salts (Japanese bath salts are sooo relaxing)

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Making Tape Gift Box (the mt brand from Japan is simply the best. I use it for everything!)

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Mitsubishi 100 Colors Colored Pencil Box (my kids have this set and it is awesome. Every color you could ever want, durable, and the color glides onto paper so smoothly)

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Nintendo Hanafuda Card Game (great for older kids, teens and adults)

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Yokai Watch Karuta (for your Yokai Watch fanatic)

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Kracie Pop N Cookin Candies (oh so-unhealthy but so fun to make and eat)

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Pack of Japanese Snacks

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Uncle Goose Hiragana Wood Blocks

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Go to my online Amazon store to see more ideas!!

Japanese Back to School Supplies!

6 Aug

Have you all  started your back-to-school shopping yet? We have enjoyed our summer but I can’t wait to get back to the school routine (and have some peace and quiet in my house– ha!).

Something that (I feel) is far superior in Japan are school and office supplies. The pencils and erasers my kids use at their American school are always breaking/doesn’t erase well. We went to an office supply store while we were in Japan and I was in heaven! So many high quality supplies, and designed well too.

I came back to the U.S. and was pleasantly surprised that many Japanese school supplies are available on Amazon! And you can’t beat the free shipping. I gathered some of my favorite items into my Amazon store for you here. I’ll keep adding as I find more:

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My 7-year old daughter and I highly recommend these MONO erasers. She chooses these over her cute, character-shaped erasers every time because they WORK!

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My son would go crazy over this Yokai Watch Bento Box. I would buy this for him if I hadn’t just recently purchased a Super Mario one for him in Japan! (My kids are currently obsessed with this show… maybe I’ll write a post about it later).

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And it’s time to kick it into high gear with our Japanese studies. I find that my kids’ Japanese gets worse once the school year begins because they are immersed in English so much of the day. Thankfully, there are now a lot of Japanese-language materials available online now, like this Hiragana Practice Board.

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What back to school supplies do you like the most? Are you excited for your kids to go back, or do you wish summer could last a little longer?

NHK for School!

27 Jan

Dear Hiragana Mama Readers, thank you so much for sticking around! We welcomed a new baby girl into our family a few months ago and have been savoring these fleeting newborn days. I have even less free time than before, but I really wanted to share this website with you today: NHK for School.

http://www.nhk.or.jp/school/

I visited this site a few years ago and back then, it was nothing to write home about. But now, it is a fabulous GOLDMINE of educational resources for the school-aged student. The site contains thousands of educational episodes and video clips, along with suggestions for how to use it at school/home. The content can be searched by grade level (first grade through high school) or by subject (Japanese, math, social studies, science, art, physical education, etc). It is pretty awesome.

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Now, I wouldn’t recommend this site for people who are just beginning to learn Japanese, or toddlers. If you don’t know a little bit of Japanese, it might be hard to navigate this site. The website was designed for students in Japan to supplement their learning at school. This site is perfect for those of us living overseas trying to teach our children about the Japanese language and culture. I feel like this is a great mid-week supplement to Japanese School (hoshuuko). If you can’t afford TV Japan, this is a great alternative. You can read more about the purpose of NHK for School in English, here.

Anyway, if you haven’t already checked it , click this link and enjoy!! http://www.nhk.or.jp/school/

ノージーのひらめき工房/Nosy’s Inspiring Atelier

2 Jul

 

One of our current favorite kid’s shows on TV Japan is “ノージーのひらめき工房“, which is listed in TV Japan as: Nosy’s Inspiring Atelier. We didn’t even realize it was a children’s show at first because of the odd name. It is a show that inspires children to be creative with materials they can find at home. It is a great show for preschool through elementary-aged kids. My kids are always inspired to create something after watching the show.

Here is an episode I found on YouTube:

What is your current favorite Japanese children’s show?

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P.S. Don’t forget TANABATA is July 7th!! Click here for my posts about this Japanese holiday.

 

More about tanabata by Kiwi Crate HERE.

by the Japan Society HERE.

100th Day of School, Japanese-Style

18 Feb

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Many kindergarten classes in the United States celebrate the 100th Day of School. My daughter’s class was no exception. For homework, we were asked to make a project out of 100 things. We tossed around a few ideas and of course, my daughter wanted to try the most time-consuming idea, haha. We decided to fold 100 origami cranes!! It took a lot of patience over several days, but we are happy with the finished product. Needless to say, my daughter is now an expert at folding cranes.

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Did your children do anything for their 100th day of school? If you have to complete a similar project in the future, I encourage you to infuse some Japanese culture into your project! You could make 100 shuriken’s (ninja stars), write the numbers 1-100 in Japanese, etc. Stand out from the crowd and be unique!

A video about how to count to 100 in Japanese by JapanSocietyNYC!

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?

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