Archive | Teaching Japanese RSS feed for this section

Benesse Challenge Touch Review!

9 Sep



Last year I introduced you to Benesse’s Challenge Touch/Kodomo Challenge program on this post. The program is for elementary aged children and offers a monthly downloadable curriculum. Many of you were just as interested in this program as I was. If you are hearing about Challenge Touch for the first time, here is a little introductory video:

This summer when I visited Tokyo, I happened upon their new Aoyama Area Benesse in the Shibuya/Omotesando neighborhood. The one in Aoyama is the flagship store, but there are locations all over Japan. These “Area Benesse” offices can help you answer questions about Benesse programs and products, sign up for services, try out materials, etc.


When we entered the building, we were immediately greeted by very friendly staff. One staff member helped my 7 and 5-year olds get started on some activities while I asked another staff member questions.

The biggest question I had was, “Can we use the Challenge Touch program in the United States?“.

The answer was yes… and maybe. Yes, as long as you have reliable internet connection, you can use the Challenge Touch tablet and download the monthly curriculum anywhere. The only problems you then face are:

  • Benesse will only ship its products to a Japanese address (at least that’s how it is currently). So you will either need to go to Japan and buy it while you are there (we had them ship the tablet to our hotel) or have it sent to a friend or relative, then have them ship it to you.
  • If your tablet happens to break, you will need to pay the shipping back to Japan, as well as have your friend/relative ship you the new one, which can be costly and a hassle.

We decided to take the risks and sign up to do the Challenge Touch program for one year. I thought the pricing was very reasonable. With the exchange rate the way it is now, it came down to about $25 per month (and the tablet is free as long as you continue the program for at least 6 months!). I also signed up for the insurance program, which was only about $15 per year. If you sign up for insurance, if your tablet breaks, you can get a new one for around $30 (otherwise I think they said a new tablet costs about $300).

A few days after putting in our order, our package arrived. In it was our tablet computer and some paper educational materials like workbooks and a kanji dictionary. (They actually sent us materials for the wrong grade at first. I contacted them and they immediately sent me the correct grade level).


We charged up the device, entered our login information, and then downloaded our first month’s program. It was pretty easy! (If you don’t know Japanese well, all of this might be difficult to navigate. The program is designed for children grades 1-6 who can speak Japanese already, not for adults learning Japanese for the first time).

The program was very easy for my second-grader to figure out on her own. She had a lot of fun playing with all the features. She completed her first two assignments in Kokugo (Japanese) and Sansu (math) and declared it was awesome. The program does a really great job at keeping kids motivated and having fun while learning. We are currently going on month 3 of using the program and she still loves using the Challenge Touch every day.

Other things we love about the Challenge Touch program:

  • There is an online library where you can borrow 5 electronic books at a time. There are hundreds of titles to choose from! This is included in the monthly fee.
  • You can practice writing kanji and play a game where you learn the multiplication tables, even when you are not connected to the internet.
  • My daughter enjoys sending me emails every day.
  • Just 3 months into the program, I can already tell my daughter is better at reading and writing kanji.

Some cons:

  • I didn’t realize Benesse sends out paper materials every few months, even if you just signed up for the electronic version. This is great, except I feel badly my aunt in Japan has to go through the hassle of forwarding all these materials over for us. I wish I could just pay a little extra to have everything sent to the U.S.
  • I am constantly worried my kids are going to break the tablet, haha. We have a rule in our house where they MUST be sitting at a desk if they are using it (no standing, walking around, laying on the couch, etc). We’ve also lectured them about not pressing too hard with the pen. So far so good.
  • The voltage is different here. Easy problem to fix though, we just use a transformer:


My kids normally use headphones as well when doing benkyou (study) on the Touch. We highly recommend this one! It is sized perfectly for kids’ heads, had a durable cord, and I don’t have to worry about the volume being turned up too loud. Headphones are a must for us because with 3 kids running around our little house, it can get quite noisy and hard to concentrate.



Bottom line is that we are so glad we took a chance and decided to try the Benesse Challenge Touch program. I can see us continuing for the next few years, and may even get a second device for our son when he begins first grade. I hope that someday soon they will make the program downloadable for iPads– wouldn’t that be nice?

Read more about the Kodomo Challenge program HERE and feel free to contact them if you have any questions. They are very nice!


I am NOT affiliated with Benesse and have NOT received any free products or compensation for writing this review. 

Using Labels to Learn Japanese

25 Mar

I recently came upon the realization that I really need to work on my children’s vocabulary. So one night while they were sleeping, I used masking tape+marker to label items around the house in Japanese! When they woke up in the morning, the kids had fun discovering what I had labeled in the kitchen, living room, bathroom, and bedrooms. I think this will help us learn some new words and use them in context. The labels are an eyesore, but I plan to remove them once I’m confident we have mastered the use of that word.





If you would like to do the same, just walk around your house and write down the things that your kids would not be able to name in Japanese. There may be some words that you’ll have to look up in a dictionary! Use a permanent marker to write the word on masking tape, and stick it on the corresponding item. When everyone in the family has learned the word, you can remove the masking tape.

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!


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:

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

Benesse Challenge Touch (チャレンジタッチ)

9 Feb

With my daughter starting first grade (一年生) at her Japanese Language School soon, I have been looking into how to best prepare her for the more challenging studies ahead. I will be sharing all the great resources I have found for first-graders with you on this blog!

In the meanwhile, I wanted to know if any of you have heard of or are planning to try the brand-new “Challenge Touch/チャレンジタッチ” program by Benesse? They are the company that does the Kodomo Challenge/Shimajiro programs. In the past, they have offered monthly subscriptions for their learning packets which have included books, DVDs, and educational toys. Beginning in April 2014, they are rolling out a new program for elementary aged children where all of those materials are being replaced by a tablet. Each month, new material will be downloaded onto the tablet. Children use the touch pen to learn and practice kokugo (hiragana, katakana, kanji, etc), math, English, etc. Here are some videos to show you what it’s like.

For lower elementary grades:

For upper elementary grades:

See more sample videos here.

I am SUPER interested and hope this will be available to those of us living overseas. I am getting to the point where I feel like I’ve taught my daughter almost all the Japanese words that I know and she is starting to fall behind her native-Japanese friends at school. We can use all the help that we can get. I plan to send Bennesse an email and will let you know what I find out.

UPDATE: Challenge Touch will work outside of Japan if you have a wifi connection. However, it must be ordered by someone who lives in Japan (so if you have a relative that is willing to have this program sent to their home, then forward it on to you, this may work for you).

Mr. Men & Little Miss Japanese Videos by Sanrio

5 Feb


image from

I remember reading Mr. Men & Little Miss books when I was a child. Something about their bright colors, simple shapes, and distinct personalities was appealing to me! It seems they are making a come back these days. Check out their adorable website here.

The reason I share this on my blog is because I stumbled upon Mr. Men & Little Miss videos, that are in JAPANESE! They are made by Sanrio Japan. The videos are about 3 minutes long and perfect for little (and big) kids. These videos would be a great opportunity to teach children Japanese “feelings words(きもちの言葉).” For example, before or after showing the following video (Mr. Happy), you can teach children the following vocabulary:

しあわせ(shiawase) = happy

ふしあわせ(fushiawase) = unhappy

かなしい(kanashii) = sad

えがお(egao) = a happy face

わらう(warau) = to laugh

Here the formula I would use for getting the most out of these videos!

1) Watch the video by yourself and write down any words that you think your children don’t know.

2) Teach the children those words.

3) Watch the video together and discuss.

4) Review and practice using the new words throughout the week.

Here are a few more videos. You can find all of Sanrio’s videos here and here, and all the Mr. Men & Little Miss videos here.

Want to watch these videos in English? Click HERE.

Japanese Kids Websites: Kids Club and Online Books

19 Dec

image from

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.


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

image from


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

Chibi Maruko-chan

26 Feb

Did anyone else grow up watching/reaching Chibi Maruko Chan(ちびまる子ちゃん)? Not only is this popular cartoon series fun to read, but great for learning Japanese words and learning about Japanese culture. (Click HERE to see the original cartoon series by Sakura Momoko on Amazon)

I  recently discovered a new series of educational cartoon books called “満点ゲットシリーズ (Get a Perfect Score Series) featuring Chibi Maruko-chan, and I am in love with them!!! They are meant for elementary-aged and older students, and PERFECT for an adult like me who wants a good review/brush up on their Japanese. If you happen upon these books, I highly recommend them! Click HERE to see all the books in this series.

There are books for learning kanji, keigo (polite Japanese), Japanese idioms, haiku, etc. There’s even books for learning math and social studies too. I want to read them all!



There are several copies available on and Ebay, and one book in the series at Let me know if you find them anywhere else! My daughter’s Japanese School has most of these books so I’ve been borrowing one every few weeks to read.

App GIVEAWAY: LinguPinguin Japanese!

25 Feb


This giveaway is now closed. Winners were announced in THIS POST

I have a wonderful Japanese-learning app to share with you today. We recently downloaded the “LinguPinguin English/Japanese” app  by Elevision Film on our iTouch and my kids have been loving it! It is easy enough for my 2-year old and interesting enough for my almost 5-year old to play with too. It is like an interactive English-Japanese dictionary for children. You choose a topic, such as “Animals”, then when you click on a picture of an elephant, it will say “Elephant” if you are in English mode, or “ぞう” if you are in Japanese mode. The animations are really cute! After children have learned the words, there is a quiz they can take. Here are some screenshots:





Click HERE to watch a video of the app in action. There are many different versions of the app available (Japanese, French, Chinese, etc) : Click HERE to visit the Lingu Pinguin website and see all the different languages available and read more about this app.

At just $1.99, I think it is a GREAT deal for a quality app. You will definitely get your money’s worth.

We all love FREE though, right? So Lingu Pinguin has generously offered to give away two promo codes for the Lingu Pinguin app! Yay! To enter the giveaway, simply comment on this blog post sharing why you or your children want to learn Japanese. Then come back Wednesday morning, February 27, to see if you won! Promo codes will be emailed to the winners. (App is for iPhones, iPads, and iTouch).

Have a great week, everyone! またね!

Ready Steady NihonGo!

1 Nov

Ready Steady NihonGo!” is another wonderful Japanese-learning/teaching resource by the Japan Society. The website provides ten 45-minute lesson plans for introducing children to the Japanese language and culture. The lessons are fun and interactive… it makes me want to be a Japanese Teacher! Each lesson includes printable flashcards and sample dialogue.

Here’s a description of this program from the Ready Steady NihonGo! website:

Ready Steady NihonGO! has been carefully structured to tie in with
the National Curriculum Objectives for KS2 Modern Foreign
Languages. These aims are all clearly stated in the initial summary
and also at the start of each lesson plan. Curriculum links to other
subject areas are also listed, thus making Ready Steady NihonGO!
a complete and relevant unit of work in any upper primary classroom.

Ready Steady NihonGO! also ties in with the latest ‘Oracy’,
‘Intercultural Understanding’ and ‘Knowledge about Language’
learning objectives as stated within the Key Stage Two Framework
for Modern Foreign Languages (autumn 2005). Points of particular
relevance include the following:

• providing children with the opportunity to imitate and play with the
sounds and sound patterns of the target language
• asking and answering questions on a range of topics
• learning about the cultural traditions, celebrations and literature of
countries where the target language is spoken and making
comparisons with their own
• recognising the language (Japanese) uses a different writing
system, has different ways of expressing social relationships and
borrows words from other languages

Targets discussed within the new ‘Languages Ladder’ can also be
applied to Ready Steady NihonGO! and any child who completes
the ten week course can be expected to show progress up the rungs.
Foundation stones in language awareness will also have been laid
and these will support any future study of Japanese.


If you are a parent teaching your children Japanese or a Japanese Teacher looking for a wonderful resource, please check out Ready Steady NihonGo! You’ll be glad you did!

%d bloggers like this: