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“Friends” by Aiko Ikegami

15 Apr

 

It is no secret that our family is obsessed with books, both English and Japanese. We go to the local library every week and come home with piles of books. I often do my research online beforehand, looking up the most recent award-winners, reading Amazon reviews, etc so I know what I’m looking for.

A few weeks ago I walked by the “New Books” section at the library and this pretty book caught my eye:

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It is “Friends”, by Aiko Ikegami. I was lured in by the cover illustration, and when I saw that the author was Japanese, the book immediately went into my library bag.

We were pleased to find that not only were the illustrations beautiful, but the story was wonderful as well. Here is the synopsis:

A girl from a faraway place begins her first day at school. She doesn’t speak the language and she looks different. She just doesn’t fit in. But one day, she makes an unexpected friend–a squirrel! Then a rabbit joins them. Soon the girl’s fuzzy woodland friends are followed by human ones and school becomes more fun! When a surprising new student joins the class, the girl and her new friends know just how to make him feel at home.

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I don’t know about you, but I can relate all-too-well to being the new kid at school. I moved around several times as a child, and can tell you that it is nerve-wracking to begin life at a new school, and especially in a new language. My children have never moved, but they got a taste of this feeling when we visited Japan last summer and I enrolled them in school for a few weeks. My kids were shocked at how different everything was. The food–the routines–the discipline–the bathrooms–the language– ! But the wonderful thing about children is, they are great at making friends, even with a cultural or language barrier. This book shows how easy it is to reach out to someone new and help them feel welcome.

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I highly recommend this book for all children. It is simple and short but can help you begin a conversation with your children about what to do if a new kid joins their class- or might help ease their worries if THEY are the new kid. I was thinking it would be nice to have several copies on hand to give out to any new kids in my children’s classes. How thoughtful would it be to gift them a book like this with a hand-written note? Might be wise for teachers to have a copy as well.

One last idea– this would make a sweet farewell gift for a Japanese student returning to Japan, or an exchange student. You could include a message about how you’re glad to have become friends!

Anyway, I liked the book so much that I looked up the author/illustrator online. She has a website at: aikoikegami.com. I was thrilled to discover that she lives in the same city as my parents and immediately sent her a note telling her how much we enjoyed her book and if we could meet someday.

Aiko was kind enough to send me a signed hardcover copy of her book to give away to a blog reader! If you would like a chance at winning this book, simply leave a comment on this blog post saying who you’d give this book to and why. (Book giveaway only open to U.S. residents). I’ll announce the winner on Monday April 18! (Don’t worry if your comment doesn’t appear right away… sometimes it takes me awhile to check and approve the comments!)

Giveaway is now CLOSED! I used Random.org, and the winner is commenter #1!!

“G”, please email hiraganamama@gmail.com within a week to claim the book! Thank you everyone else for commenting!

Thank you, Ikegami-san! We look forward to reading your future books!

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“Friends” by Aiko Ikegami can be purchased at Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

Best Online Japanese Educational Videos for Kids

24 Feb

I know I have videos all over the place on my blog, and many of them need updating (sorry!). So I’ve compiled a list of the best YouTube channels onto one post for you. Please let me know if there are any great ones that I’ve missed! Thank you so much to the people and companies who create these videos so the rest of us can learn Japanese!:)

Best Japanese YouTube Channels for Babies and Toddlers:

1. ノッカーナアニメーション (nokkana animation):  adorable, short videos that will entertain your little one and teach them a few words in the process. Lot’s of Peek-a-Boo-style videos. There are dozens and dozens of videos and playlists, teaching everything from hiragana, colors, nursery songs, and a lot of more. (They also have a similar channel called Nokkana World).

Best Japanese YouTube Channels for Preschoolers:

1. しまじろうチャンネル(SHIMAJIROCH): I just love everything by Benesse. I credit Shimajiro and his pals for a lot of my children’s Japanese education. This YouTube channel is full of short stories and fun songs. 

2. 東京ハイジ (TOKIOHEIDI) : Lots of cute animations and songs!

3. チブクラ!(Small Crafts): Short videos that will inspire you and your preschooler to craft.

4. oojioo: A YouTube channel just full of cute ekakiuta’s (songs that help you draw).

5. 童謡チャンネルby takanonGB: Lots of Japanese children’s songs with lyrics so you can sing along.

6. 動く絵本、童謡、いないいないばあ の動画「ゆめあるチャンネル」: Lots of Japanese children’s songs, fingerplays, and stories! They’ve added a lot of new content since I last visited a few years ago. Here is their website: www.yumearuehon.com

7. Visit my blog post where I’ve listed all the best hiragana learning videos!

8. YouTube Channel SongsPlace has many children’s songs and fingerplays.

9. SongsLand is another channel with Japanese children’s songs.

10. PinkFong has a lot of Japanese animated short stories (lots of Aesop’s Fables) and songs. There’s English videos mixed in there as well.

 

Best Japanese YouTube Channels for Grade-Schoolers:

1. jun egusa has created a lot of animated videos to teach math, Japanese history, kanji, etc! I’m pretty impressed.

2. The Mr. Men Little Miss videos by Sanrio has many many little episodes that could help with Japanese listening skills.

 

Best Japanese Educational Videos for Grade-Schoolers:

1. NHK for School is hands-down, the best resource I have found. You can search all of their educational videos by grade level or subject matter. Love this website so much! I have sung its praises before in this blog post.

 

Best Japanese Educational Videos for High Schoolers and Beyond:

1. Erin’s Challenge! by the Japan Foundation : lots of videos and other resources for the older Japanese student. (blog post)

2. JapanSocietyNYC: has a lot of excellent videos showcasing the Japanese language and culture.

3. PuniPuniJapan: The animation is interesting but you can learn a lot of Japanese vocabulary! Lots of Japanese lessons.

 

Please comment below with your favorite resources and YouTube channels!

More Shimajiro Videos

2 Feb

Shimajiro (Benesse) has some of the best Japanese videos for kids on the internet!

 

 

Here is a video that’s  perfect for Setsubun (which is tomorrow!)

Print Kids (printable Japanese educational worksheets for grades preK-3)

2 Mar

We have had a lot of school cancellations due to the weather lately (our city’s coldest February in 150 years!). On those no-school days, I’ve had to devise a plan to keep my kids busy and learning. We’ve been printing some worksheets from ぷりんと きっず (Japanese study free paper website). It has activities that are PERFECT for my preschooler and first-grader. I plan to use this site to keep my kids learning during their summer break as well!

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This is just a small sampling of what’s available on the website. There are learning activities for grades preK-3rd grade, with plans to add more. There’s practice worksheets for hiragana, katakana, kanji, telling time, reading a calendar,counting money, etc. You can see all the subjects covered here on their sitemap. Here are the top 10 worksheet from the site:

printkidsYou can “like” them on facebook to stay up to date: https://www.facebook.com/print.kids.net

I encourage you to visit Print Kids and browse around. You are sure to find something for your kids or yourself!

Kodomo Challenge Live!こどもちゃれんじライブ授業

19 Jul

Just discovered a new TV series by Kodomo Challenge called “こどもちゃれんじライブ授業“, where children can explore many different things like various occupations, yoga, English, animals, etc. The episodes are shown “live” (children in Japan who own the Kodomo Challenge Tablet can participate in the show as they watch).  In Japan, the show is on every Saturday morning. I’m not sure if it’s viewable on any TV stations elsewhere. Here are two YouTube videos I found. The first is an episode exploring a Japanese bakery, and the second is about the mysteries of animals. Enjoy!

 

BONUS Kodomo Challenge Videos, “ともだちできたよ”, “はじめましてこんにちは”, and “リトミック/ダンス”. Watch them quick:) Sometimes they get taken down after awhile.



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.

Japanese Kids Websites: Kids Club and Online Books

19 Dec

image from 2kids-club.com

The makers of the popular website Origami-Club have a newish sister site called “Kids Club” that’s worth checking out. It has printable mazes, coloring pages, and instructions for kirigami, ayatori, etc. You can view the site in Japanese or English.

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They also have a wonderful site called E-Douwa (Douwa means “children’s stories”) where you can read many children’s books, in Japanese, online! This is a great resource if you are having a hard time finding Japanese books to read. There are Japanese folktales, Aesop’s Tales, stories from the brothers Grimm, etc.

image from e-douwa.com

image from e-douwa.com

 

PS I hope you and your loved ones have a very happy holidays!! Search my blog for  “Christmas“, “New Years“, etc for Japan-related activities !:)

Simple Hiragana Chant

25 Oct

A simple & straightforward way to teach hiragana to toddlers! Repetition really is a great teaching tool!

video by babylionmovie on YouTube

DIY Training Chopsticks (トレーニングはし)

10 Oct

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Recently, we took the kids to a Japanese restaurant, where they ordered a bowl of ramen. I was delighted when the waitress brought them some training chopsticks. As I studied the chopsticks, I realized it is super easy to make yourself! It took me a few tries to get the tension just right, but it WAS really easy. So the next time you go out to eat at an Asian restaurant, just take along a rubberband (or hair tie) and you are ready to make your own training chopsticks in just a few minutes!

I made you a short video so you can see exactly how it’s done:

After I published my video, I saw that a few others have made similar videos. You can watch them all to see which technique works best for you😉

Please share with your friends who have children, or adults who have yet to master the art of using chopsticks!

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P.S. Eating Japanese food with a fork is silly. Learn to use chopsticks! (past post about training chopsticks here)

Click HERE and scroll down to see how to use real chopsticks.

Japanese Greetings/ あいさつ + An Update

4 Oct

Wow, I can’t believe I haven’t posted in a month! Blogging has been taking a back seat to other priorities for now. I know I have received a lot of emails that I haven’t replied to… I am so sorry😦. The older I get, the more I am learning  it’s ok to say “no” to some things in life so I can be a peaceful, happy mommy and be able to devote quality time to myself and my family. Some things our family has been up to: back-to-school (kindergarten and preschool!) for my kids, new after school activities, apple-picking, costume-making, jury duty, birthdays, Zumba, business trips, and of course, learning Japanese😉.

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I am planning to blog about Undoukai (Sports Day at Japanese School), how to make your own training chopsticks, reading-aloud to your kids, good Japanese books we’ve read recently, traditional Japanese games, etc, so keep checking back. In the meanwhile, check out my past posts about Japan-inspired Halloween costume ideas and How Halloween is celebrated in Japan. 

I’ll also leave you with these Shimajiro videos I watched with my son this morning. The theme of these videos is greetings/あいさつ… something my kids need to work on.  These videos are perfect for toddlers and preschoolers!

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