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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!

Kodomo No Hi Videos

5 May

May 5th is Kodomo no Hi (Children’s Day) in Japan. Here are some videos to help your children learn about this holiday.

A great interactive video by Benesse, 「しまじろうとこどもの日を楽しもう!」<こどもちゃれんじ>4月ライブ授業:

“What is Kodomo no Hi?” (こどもの日ってなあに?)by CHK名古屋:

The classic children’s song associated with Kodomo No Hi by キッズボンボン, 【♪うた】こいのぼり〈振り付き〉【手あそび・こどものうた】Japanese Children’s Song, Nursery Rhymes & Finger Plays:

Read-Alouds about Kodomo No Hi:

A Just-For-Fun Koinobori Stop-Motion animation:

Mell-chan dress for a real-life girl

2 Oct

メルちゃんが大好きな1歳の娘のために、メルちゃんとお揃いのドレスを作ってあげました。

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My 1-year old daughter loves her Mell-chan (メルちゃん) doll from Japan. We ordered it for her (via Amazon) last Christmas, and she has not stopped carrying her around (by the hair, lol!), changing her clothes, and feeding her food.

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So I thought my daughter would be thrilled if I sewed her a dress just like her doll (and, it can double as a Halloween costume). I just eyeballed the pattern and used fleece, felt, and velcro. It took me about 3 hours (I’m not a seamstress!) and was a labor of love.

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I was crushed when I showed the finished dress to my daughter and she REFUSED to wear it! She went limp like a noodle and had tears running down her face. She did NOT want to wear the dress!!

I think she didn’t want to wear it because she hates to be treated like a baby. She thinks she is a big girl/a mama. So a few days later, I tried again, saying “It’s a mommy dress!”. And–whew! She put it on!

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Taking pictures of a 1-year old is near impossible to say the least. She was either 1. Running or 2. Not smiling while I tried to take some pictures. Haha! But I managed to get a few.

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What are your children going to be for Halloween? Anything inspired by Japan? My older two want to be Pokemon. Maybe I will post about their costumes later. Other Japan-inspired ideas I threw around in my head were:

  1. Characters from Totoro (Totoro’s, Mei-chan, Cat-bus, etc.)
  2. Characters from Anpanman (Anpanman, Melon pan-na chan, Baikinman, etc)
  3. Characters from Shimajiro (Shimajiro, Mimirin, etc)

I’ve also seen super cute baby-sushi costumes, and of course the ever-so-popular ninjas.

Halloween is becoming an increasingly popular holiday in Japan. Is it celebrated where you live?

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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!

 

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.

11. Takanotetsuya has many great songs for preschoolers. I think this channel is intended to be for prospective preschool teachers in Japan.

12. 保育士バンク!チャンネル【公式】This is another channel full of songs of preschoolers, performed by preschool teachers.

13. TEASOBI channel : even more songs and finger rhymes

14. 子ある日和 手遊び歌 Japanese children’s songs performed by teachers, plus origami instructional videos.

15. Super Simple Japanese has great Japanese videos with good animation.

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.

3. YouTube Channel キッズボンボンhas many videos about animals, science, kanji, hiragana, fairy tales and Japanese folktales, etc.

4. The FujiTV Kids YouTube channel has many educational and just-for-fun videos.

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.

2. The Science Channel website has a lot of great videos for gradeschoolers on up.

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!

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!

Keropon’s! ケロポンズ/エビカニクス

14 Aug

keropons-pToday I want to share with you an adorable Japanese music duo that creates music to get kids and parents moving! They are called Keropon’s (ケロポンズ), and here’s their group’s description from their website:

親子で楽しめる、笑いあり、歌あり、遊びあり、体操あり、ミュージックパネルあり、なんでもあり~のステージを全国各地でくりひろげ、その面白さは宇宙的!と評判。

(My rough translation: “Creating music, play, dance, and everything else that children and parents can enjoy together– it’s so fun it’s out-of-this-world!”).

Here’s one of their music videos, called  エブカニクス(Shrimp-Crab-Exercise):

Click HERE to browse more of their fun music videos.

See how a Japanese Preschool in Los Angeles (Suika Preschool) used this song in their classroom:

I’m going to try some of these songs with my kids today!

“Kids Step” Website (キッズステップ)

7 Jun

Oh how I love the internet! I am always discovering wonderful new resources for teaching my children Japanese.

The website I want to share with you today is called “キッズステップ” (Kids Step). This website is full of free printable worksheets for ages 2-6. The activities are grouped by age or skill level and include things such as mazes, dot-to-dots, numbers, hiragana, katakana, and simple arithmetic to prepare your kids for school. The illustrations are simple and beautiful. The website is very well-designed. I encourage you to visit, print, and start one of these worksheets with your children today!

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Screenshot from kids-step.com

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