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.

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?

Mr. Men & Little Miss Japanese Videos by Sanrio

5 Feb

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image from mrmen.com

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.

Things To Do In Japan With Kids: Visit Kyoto

9 Jan

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I’m itching to visit Japan again. Oh how I wish I could be one of those people who can go every year! I was looking through our Japan Trip 2012 pictures and realized I never shared pictures from our day in Kyoto.

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Kyoto would be a wonderful place to visit as a couple, by yourself, or with friends… but it is also very kid-friendly. There are many things to see and do and it is very walkable. Not to mention just GORGEOUS! You can’t fly all the way to Japan and NOT see Kyoto. We only had one day to spend in Kyoto, so we went to see Kiyomizudera and the surrounding area.

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(not super stroller-friendly)

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If you visit Kyoto, be prepared to eat a lot of delicious food and buy beautiful souvenirs.

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Would you pay a thousand dollars for this Totoro stuffed animal?

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Kyoto is one of my favorite places in Japan to visit. Next time, I would love to spend several days there… perhaps in the fall to see the 紅葉 (leaves changing colors).

I’m going to start saving my pennies so we can go to Japan again! Does anyone in Japan want to offer my non-Japanese speaking husband a job? LOL.

Frozen…

7 Jan

あけましておめでとうございます!

Is your town as frozen as mine right now due to this “polar vortex”? It is the coldest it has ever been in my entire life. This morning it was -6Fahrenheit, with wind chills at -40 degrees!! School and work has been cancelled, there’s ice covering the inside of our windows, and our dog who normally begs to go outside wants to stay in. Brrr!! On top of that, we are taking turns battling the flu– awesome! Hope you all are warm, healthy, and safe.

We had a wonderful holiday break  and watched a lot of movies. Our family favorite was “Frozen” by Disney! I am itching to go see it again, I am so in love with the music. Out of curiosity, I checked to see if I could find Japanese lyrics to any of the songs (the movie isn’t due to be released in Japan until spring). It looks like they are keeping the  songs in English, even in the Japanese version of the movie (correct me if I’m wrong), with the Japanese translation at the bottom of the screen. 

The Japanese version of “Frozen” is going to be called “アナと雪の女王 (Ana and the Snow Queen)”. I would love to see it. It is always fun for me to re-watch English movies in Japanese and notice how all the words were translated. Click HERE to go to the Japanese “Frozen” website. Warning: the trailer includes a ton of scenes from the movie.

2/5 EDIT: Here are the Japanese versions of the songs!! :)

 

Click here to see more!

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 ! :)

Japanese School Fun Fair

18 Dec

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Every year, the Japanese School we attend hosts a “Fun Fair” for its students and surrounding community. At this event, children travel around to different stations to play games, make crafts, wear kimonos, and participate in many other activities to help them better understand the Japanese culture.

Like all the other activities at Japanese School, this event is run by parent volunteers. Something I love about Japanese culture is how efficiently everyone works together. As I helped put up decorations for this event, I looked around and marveled at how hard and cooperatively everyone was working to pull this off for our kids. I didn’t see anyone sitting around or trying to get away with doing as little as possible.

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Some of the stations were:

1) Japanese calligraphy (しゅうじ)

2) Origami (おりがみ)

3) Paper-airplane making (かみひこうき)

4) Beanbag-toss

5) Yo-yo-scooping (ヨーヨーつり)

6) Super-ball scooping (スーパーボールすくい)

7) Tea Ceremony

8) Wear traditional kimonos/yukatas

9) Kendama (けんだま)

10) Hane-tsuki (はねつき)

11) Kendo (けんどう)

12) Karuta (カルタ)

13) Fukuwarai (ふくわらい)

14) Spinning tops (こままわし)

15) Used (Japanese) books sale

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Does the Japanese School near you host events like this?

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!

*****

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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