Because I’m too lazy to write separate blog posts, here’s a comprehensive summary of all the audio devices we’ve used for the last two years from 4-6 years old.
For those of you who are new to my page, I only started teaching my son Chinese at age 4.5. I feel that #1 and #2 listed below are geared more for the 2-5 age group, however, we used them when he was older at 4-6 years old and he still enjoyed them. I’ve also heard the songs in Chinese immersion classrooms so I do think they are okay even up to 6-7 years old if the child is a beginner to Chinese.
#1. Songbooks with CD
What it is: Each book/CD has about 40 songs and there are lyrics and picture for each song. This was really helpful for my son when he didn’t know much Chinese yet and he could figure out the meaning of the song from the picture.Verdict: SUUPER SUUPER love and recommend these because they are such value for money! Each book/CD set costs less than $5 each (90 TWD on books.com.tw or buy in store at Popular bookstore in Singapore) and my son listened to these repeatedly until the CDs were scratched and damaged. Aside from introducing him to all the well-known songs that every Chinese child knows, he also learned a lot of vocabulary and characters by reading along with the lyrics.
Also it turned him from a kid who hates and doesn’t speak Chinese to a kid who does!!
I’ve recommended this many times and parents always say that their kids just LOVE it.
#2. Story Machine 故事機
What it is: It has hundreds of songs and stories pre-loaded in it and the child can use the buttons to select what they want to listen to. Mine is a fancier version that has WIFI connection so you can tune in to a radio channel for a new story every day, voice command, and parents can also wirelessly download new audio into the machine.
Verdict: I bought mine from Taobao for about $35 and had to pay $85 in sensitive mail to ship it to the USA. If I could go back in time I probably wouldn’t have paid $120 total for this and would buy a simpler version from a US-based store like Gloria’s Bookstore or Yobabyshop for about $50. Because truth be told, we barely used the fancy features.
My son still likes to listen to it occasionally when he’s doing crafts or some other silent activity. Since it doesn’t have a screen, it is more difficult to navigate to find the song/story you want. Also, he started outgrowing Chinese 兒歌 and 童話故事 around 6 years old.
#3. Smartphone Apps
What it is: There are hundreds of free apps out there but because I like to keep things simple, I only use three: XimalayaFM to stream audiobooks for him and NetEaseMusic and Spotify to stream Chinese pop music for me.
Verdict: Completely free and requires zero effort aside from hitting the play button!! I mean, can it get any easier? We use this on every car ride to play audiobooks via bluetooth. Occasionally he lets me listen to my music because… sometimes mommy needs a break from kids stuff.
The downside is that of course my phone is MINE and he can’t have control over it to play it whenever he wants. Which is why #4 below is so important.
#4. MP3 Player
What it is: I spent a long time looking for a portable music player for my son that is HIS to listen to his audio whenever and wherever he wants to. It’s not exactly feasible to walk around with a Discman and CD binder with 20 CDs… 🤣. I didn’t want anything with apps like an iPod because he would probably use it to watch videos and play games instead of the intended purpose of Chinese learning.
Anyway I found this $35 MP3 player from Amazon. I have his files organized into folders “Audiobooks”, “Music” and “Podcasts” and it is easy to navigate. It also has built-in speakers so you can listen with headphones or without.
Verdict: It’s great!! I love seeing him curled up in bed listening to his favorite 米小圈 audiobooks. It is super small and portable for travel and really easy to navigate. Given that it cost only $35 I’m not expecting it to last forever but it’s been doing it’s job for six months now.
It does take time for me to rip files from CD or websites into MP3 but I find it completely worth it. Besides, I can multi-use the MP3 files by also loading them into…
What it is: A reading pen that comes with 5000 stickers that you can use to either record your own audio or to play MP3/wav files that you transfer using your computer. I bought it on sale for $99 and it is now sold on Gloria’s for $121.
Verdict: I love this because it serves so many different functions!!!! It is also really easy to use although it does take time to record/transfer files. Examples below.
Read aloud Chinese/English books:
My son is learning Spanish which I don’t speak, so I rip the audio from Google Translate so that he can read along with it:
When I have to work late and can’t read Chinese with him, I have him record himself so that I can listen to it later:
Music and audio play a big role in our Chinese learning journey, particularly since I’m not a native Chinese speaker. It is a trial and error process to find out what works for your child, but most importantly don’t stop trying!!! I’ve heard many parents bemoan that their kids don’t like listening to audiobooks. It took my son a long time to develop a taste for them since he is a more visual and active learner. Try everything! Science, comics, magazines, folk tales, silly stories… If you keep trying eventually something will be a hit! 🙂
Questions? Comments? Connect with me via my Facebook page.
4 thoughts on “Music/Audio Devices for Chinese Learning”
Hi there – Thank you for such an inspiring blog. I am from Singapore myself and we live in Texas. I have 2 kids, 3 and 1, so I really love your very practical tips! I am very intrigued by the 火火兔 story machine and I’m trying to locate one that is preferable in all Chinese. Is taobao the only way to do it? What are the trials involved in buying a 火火兔 from taobao?
You had mentioned if you could do it all over again you would just buy one available in US in the $50 range. However, I checked both Gloria’s and Yobaby, they don’t have 火火兔 and while they have other kinds of story machine, it is out of stock! Do you have any other suggestions where I can procure one?
Really appreciate any suggestions that you might have. Thank you.
Hi there, nice to connect with a fellow Singaporean! Gloria has the Food Superhero story machine available: https://glorias-bookstore.com/products/food-11
If you prefer the Bear story machine that is out of stock, you can FB message her and she can probably order one for you.
The problem with ordering 火火兔 is Taobao does not ship electronics internationally so you have to pay an agent expensive sensitive mail shipping to get it. If you have a friend going to China you can ask them to buy one for you.