5.5 years old, 6 years old, Chinese Resources, Reviews

西游記 Journey to the West for Kids (Part I)

Happy summer 2019!

We are having so much fun in the sun and I have been so lazy to blog. But here I am, finally got off my lazy *** to share some of our favorite 西游記 materials for beginners. These materials are abridged for preschool/early elementary age and are introductory level, so don’t expect it to include all the details. The main purpose is to hook kids’ interest.

I’ll start out by saying that I had no interest in Journey to the West when I was a kid growing up in Singapore. I remember it being on TV and my thoughts were that Monkey King and the Pig looked sooooo fake and dumb. I especially hated how Pig’s ears looked glued on and his big belly and man boobs are so ewwwww.

xiyouji

Anyway, things change when you get older right. Especially after you have kids. It’s like you have to force yourself to do things you hate, and then realize that it’s actually not so bad after all. (Am I the only who feels this way?)

Why Read Journey to The West?

  • Reason 1: It is one of the four classics of Chinese literature. There are constant references to it in books, songs, tv shows… Last week, I watched a talk show and someone said her husband has “火眼金睛”, a reference to Monkey King. Yesterday, my son was reading a completely unrelated book and he recognized several characters in there like 牛魔王 (Bull Demon King) and  蜘蛛精 (Spider Spirit) from Monkey King. Like I said, it’s everywhere.
  • Reason 2: It is also a nice stepping stone to other Chinese mythology and legends as it introduces many Chinese “gods” and “goddesses” like Jade Emperor, Guanyin, Erlang Shen, etc. This is also a huge part of Chinese culture.
  • Reason 3: It’s FUN. Both boys and girls will find this story irresistible. Kids really love knowing about each “god” and their “powers” and “weapons” and who is more powerful and who will defeat who (comparison of “powers” is also why my son loves the 小妖怪 series).

Materials We Used

I’ll share what we used in the chronological order that we acquired them.

#1. 西游立體書 3D Pop-Up Book

This was my son’s very first introduction to at 5 y.o. and I think it was a great choice because he was jaw-droppingly WOWED by the stunning illustrations and pop-ups.

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Click here for Taobao link to buy

Unfortunately, I found it difficult to read this book since it didn’t have pinyin and I wasn’t familiar with the character names (although I could probably read it now). My son was also afraid of the “spider” page. As a result he only requested me to read only the first two pages of this book over and over. As I later found out, the first two pages tell the story of 大鬧天宮 (Havoc in Heaven) which is sometimes told as a stand-alone story, so I guess it turned out just fine.

Regardless, this book was the beginning of his interest in Journey to the West so it served its purpose. It really is a lovely book.

#2. Little Fox Chinese

I really recommend these YouTube videos produced by Little Fox Chinese because it’s free, well produced (not crappy homemade videos), and short! Each video is only about 5-6 minutes long and easy to understand, perfect for short attention spans. Little Fox Chinese even has the companion printable books and MP3 for download on their website if you sign up for an account. We didn’t do this because, you know, lazy.

littlefox

These videos really helped my son understand the story. Little Fox is made for Chinese language learners so the language is by far the easiest to understand of the whole lot. This is a great introduction for kids.

#3. 西游記 注音版 Chapter Book (pinyin version)

This book comes in Traditional Chinese (buy from 博客來) or Simplified Chinese (buy from Taobao). What I like about it is each chapter is really short, only about 5-6 pages, so it was manageable both as a read-aloud and for kids to read themselves. The pictures are cute and I like them far better than the numerous other versions out there with ugly pictures.

The story is summarized (a bit too summarized in my opinion) into about 120 pages and a lot of details were left out. But, I definitely feel like it was a worthwhile buy since it was only $2 on Taobao. 👌 This was easier for me to read aloud to him since it has pinyin!

#4. 幼福 金鼎獎西游記 You Fu Audio CDs (24 CDs)

youfu

Link to buy here and here

This is an award-winning audio narration from Taiwan and highly recommended by many parents. I bought it when my son was ~5.5 and we only listened to a bit before he lost interest. It was probably too long and complicated for him at that time.

However, he suddenly picked it when he was 6.5 years old and this time he loved it and listened to the whole thing (12+ hours) in the car over several weeks. Goes to show that sometimes we just have to be patient and wait for kids to be developmentally ready.

Note that this is not an audio book (where someone is reading out a book), but more like an 廣播劇 audio drama (with a narrator and actors acting out parts). There is a lot of sound effects and clinging and clanging and overall very LOUD. I did not like it at first but got used to it after a while. It has a lot of advanced vocabulary and idioms and we both benefited from listening to it.

#5. Back to #3

Shortly after listening to #4, my son picked up the book (listed in #3) and read it. I was beyond thrilled! I just wanted to point this out because it is evidence that listening leads to reading. Having your kids listen to the audiobook first will build their vocabulary and comprehension enough that they can eventually read the book.

#6.米小圈快乐西游记 Mi Xiao Quan Xi You Ji

Link here: XimalayaFM

mi

Mi Xiao Quan is a hugely popular series in China, the equivalent version of Wimpy Kids. I’ve mentioned numerous times how much my son loves Mi Xiao Quan, starting with the original books and audiobooks, then the other spin-off series like idioms and riddles. I recently realized there’s yet another spin-off series Journey to the West.

Unlike the Diary of Mi Xiao Quan audiobooks which are free, the Journey to the West audio cost about $12 USD. Well worth it in my opinion as it is extremely well produced. In the introduction they stated that the author spent six months writing it and they found the best voices in China to record and the best producers for the music.

I absolutely ❤️ it. I like it even better than #4 You Fu CDs listed above because they do a good job of providing lots of details and descriptions. It also includes interesting snippets from the unabridged 原著 Journey to the West – e.g. asking “Do you know how tall the Monkey King is?” then quoting that it says that he is not taller than 4 feet tall. What a good way to introduce kids to the unabridged version!

It is also more “modern” – it is a recent production so the music and sound effects are toned down, not as “old fashioned” as You Fu CDs which were produced in 2003. Nonetheless I think they both have their merit and I don’t regret buying them both.

And… that’s all I have for right now! I am looking for more intermediate-level books and will update more as we get to that level.

Kinder Reads, Learning to Read, Reviews

Review: 紅豆綠豆碰 Comic Books with read-aloud CD

It was love at first sight with these comic books when I saw them last Fall on another blog. At that time, we were 100% Simplified but I knew I had to get these even though they are in Traditional Chinese.

Why we love them

#1. KIDS LOVE COMICS!!!! If you want to get your kid interested and excited about Chinese, here’s a tip: comics!

#2. Each book has 30-40 stories of 4 pages each. Each story takes only a few minutes to read so it’s great for when you have just a few minutes to spare or short attention spans.

comic1comic2

#3. Stories are easy to understand – kids can also use the picture cues to figure out meanings of new vocabulary.

#4. They are healthy and educational – each book has a different theme such as protecting the earth, how to be a good friend, learning is fun, etc. My son has learned so much vocabulary and general knowledge, e.g. what to do in an earthquake.

#5. MP3 CD!!!! You can listen to the audio without the book because the narrator sets the scene and they have different voices to act it out. It’s amazing quality and really fun to listen to. My son surprises me with the Taiwanese phrases he picked up like “我就說嘛!” and “看我的厲害!” Sooooo funny.

If you have a C-Pen, you can easily transfer the MP3 to make your comic books read aloud. This is particularly awesome for non-Chinese speaking parents {Read more about how we use C-Pen}

#6. Affordable price – these are going for just $7.95 USD each. Considering how he loves it and listens repeatedly, I definitely got my money’s worth!

#7. They are a nice bridge to Kang Xuan Top945 Learning Magazine. Many of you are familiar with Top945 magazine which is one of the top children’s magazines in Taiwan with excellent informative articles. However, kids may find it difficult to read this magazine and/or may not be interested.kx1kx2

For me, I used 紅豆綠豆碰 comic books first to hook my kid’s interest before introducing the more difficult 康軒學習雜誌 Top945 Learning magazines. Because my son was already familiar with the Red Bean, Green Bean characters (same voices for audio CDs as well), he was immediately drawn to the magazines even though it is challenging for him.

Where to Buy

For U.S. customers, C-Stems is selling them for $7.95 each! This is lower than competitors’ pricing.

I find all of them to be pretty similar so choose them based on your child’s interest or your own preference, e.g. To focus more on social skills, get the book “交朋友好好玩”. If you want to read more on Chinese New Year, get “沒有紅包的新年”, etc.

Other Reviews

Four copies of 紅豆綠豆碰 was provided by C-Stems.com for review. Opinions are my own. As mentioned above, I already purchased some of these comics myself six months ago. 
Reviews

Customized Chinese Stickers and Gifts

Hello! Here’s another comprehensive post, this time about all the personalized Chinese items that I’ve used and love.

Name Labels

I ordered name labels from Taobao and they’re great! Very affordable at $2-$10 USD, lots of different designs to choose from and great quality. Pro tip: Since these stickers are so light, they can basically ship for free when you consolidate them with an order of books from Taobao.

Waterproof stickers that I use for water bottle, lunch box, school supplies, etc. {Taobao link}

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Iron-on labels for coat, snowpants, backpack and other clothing items. I wanted both English and Chinese names since it’s for school. {Taobao link}

Customized Gifts

Create some fun, unique items and to show the world how proud you are to speak Chinese! 🙂 Think of all the t-shirts out there that say things like “big brother”, “cool dude”, “little princess” etc. but in Chinese. How cool would that be?!

Check out my friend Marissa’s Facebook page Lexi Drew for You and send her a FB message. She was soooo patient with listening to all my ideas 💡 and changing my mind a million times. We messaged back and forth to tweak things to look exactly the way I wanted. Where else would you find a seller with such infinite patience??

Note

Marissa does not know Chinese so you have to send her an image of the Chinese characters you want. I used this Calligraphy Generator website: Type characters into the text box, then click on the fonts below to generate it. There’s so many different fonts to choose from! I also like this Font Generator which has a lot of cute fonts.

Save the images and send them to her:

I love the end products!

Shirt with Little Man’s interest and favorite Chinese saying. T-Shirt=$14

Pencil case with his Chinese name to store our C-Pen. Decal=$5

Pouch to hold baby teeth! Pouch=$5

Questions? Comments?

You can contact me via my Facebook page Hands-On Chinese Fun.

6 years old, Audiobooks, Home Library, Kinder Reads, Learning to Read, Magazines, Reviews

Review: 康軒學習雜誌 Top945 Learning Magazine for 3-12 y.o.

There are several Chinese children’s magazines out there but my personal favorite is Top945 康軒學習雜誌.

Magazines are better than books?!

Did you know that childhood experts recommend magazines over books? Magazines provide diverse knowledge and a wide variety of texts like fiction, non-fiction, poems, and interactive content.

Why we love Top945 Learning Magazine:

#1. Well-rounded vocabulary and General Knowledge – I want him to be able to converse on a wide variety of topics in Chinese, not just his limited interests of superheroes, potty jokes and all that useless stuff. 😝

pg1pg2

#2. Mix of real photos and drawings – My son loves the cute characters of Doudou, Nini and Professor Why. They really hold his attention and interest!

doudou

#3. TWO magazines per month for the elementary versions – This basically covers all of my non-fiction needs and is good value-for-money.

#4. Audio CD with every issue!! – Fabulous way for child to acquire advanced vocabulary especially if parent is not a native speaker.

#5. Ideal for busy families – We listen to this in the car and it makes our car trips so so enriching and productive. I don’t need to do anything except hit the play button. Yay for lazy parenting! 😉

The accompanying CD is REALLY REALLY GOOD. Worth its weight in gold in my opinion. My picky son who refused to listen to anything except 米小圈 for the last several months enjoys listening to them. The speakers have perfect enunciation and are very engaging.

Sample clip from CD (PreK-K version). The voices are younger and cuter.

Sample clip from CD (1st-3rd grade version). The voices are more mature and the language more advanced compared to the clip above:

We are listening to them for the second time now because there’s lots of idioms and complex vocabulary that he only understood about 50% of it the first time. The second time listening, his comprehension increased to 70-80%. I explained some key words to him in English as well. I always love materials that are challenging because that’s how kids learn and improve right??

Little Man is not able to read this magazine by himself yet (aside from the comics), so I am having him listen to build up vocabulary. Next year when he is in first grade, I plan on having him read it so he can learn how to read informational text, towards the long-term goal of reading newspapers as an adult.

***I just found out only the US version of Top945 still comes with CD. If you order from Taiwan it will not come with CD but you can download MP3 from their website. ***

Look Inside

Click on the images below to see the inside pages. Full magazines are available online so you can see every page! Wow.

PreK-Kindergarten version 學前版:prek

1st-3rd grade version 初階版:1st

4th-6th grade version 進階版:4th

Supplemental Teaching Materials

Top945 comes with additional materials such activity books, board games and hands-on activities etc., (Click here for details on what is included with your subscription: PreK-K version, 1st-3rd grade, 4th grade and up).

supplemental
Annual subscription comes with activity books, hands-on toys, board games, etc.

Free Gifts!

Exclusive free gifts for my readers: The first 30 subscribers will receive two of the following comic books with MP3 CDs (worth $30)! These are additional to the other free books you will receive when you subscribe to 1 year or more.

These comic books are AMAZING. The quality of the paper and the audio CDs are top notch and my son absolutely loves them. Really recommend to increase kids’ interest in reading Chinese books.

{Click here for review and sample pages of 紅豆綠豆碰 comic books}

U.S. Subscribers

Click on the links below to subscribe to Top945 Learning Magazine (payment via PayPal). In the comments section, type in “Hands On Chinese Fun” to receive your free comic books!

C-Stems is the official distributor of Top945 and other children magazines like Ciaohu and Little Newton in the USA. An issue of Top945 was provided for review. 


Questions or comments? Contact me via my Facebook page!

5.5 years old, Chinese Resources, Reviews

Chinese Resources: Ciaohu Subscription

Disclaimer: Sample issue of was provided by Apex Brilliant Child Development (A.B.C.D. Inc), distributor of Ciaohu in the USA. Opinions are my own. 

Ciaohu 巧虎 is a popular magazine subscription from Taiwan (shipped worldwide) for young children from babies to 2nd grade+. I’ve heard many parents rave about Ciaohu and was excited to try it out. This review shows the 學習版 ‘Learn’ version for 5-6 year olds which I selected since Little Man is 5.5 years old.

Every issue comes with a magazine, activity book, interactive activities such as games, STEM, toys, and sometimes CDs/DVDs. The content and activities are tailored for your child’s age, e.g. pretend play toys for toddlers and more academics for older kids.

Video review of Ciaohu:

I found the 學習版 ‘Learn’ version to be spot on for my son’s developmental level. The content is just right for his comprehension, attention span, and in line with kindergarten curriculum for Math, Science, Phonics (zhuyin) etc. The activity book also contains ~30 pages of fun activities that kids love, e.g. stickers, mazes, spot the difference.

In my opinion, the main benefit of magazines (as compared to books) is the wide variety of topics and vocabulary. Most of the Chinese books we own are fiction and revolve around my son’s interests of superheroes and mythology. Ciaohu provides a diverse “diet” of non-fiction, various themes, and exposure to everyday vocabulary of native Chinese children.

When Little Man opened the package, he immediately wanted to get started with the Science experiments. I found the instructions very clear and my son was able to follow the directions by looking at the pictures.

I also love large clear font and plentiful illustrations! Large font is really important for beginning readers and my son was able to read some parts of the magazine with me. He particularly enjoyed reading the comic. With some practice, I expect that he will be able to read this magazine by himself.

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Right now we use 95% Simplified at home but the Saturday school my son attends teaches Traditional. I feel that Ciaohu will be good for more exposure to Traditional text as well as practice reading 注音符號 (zhuyin), something that I am learning as well. Don’t be afraid to expose your child to both Simplified and Traditional! Kids can easily pick up both because they are just that smart.

They provide the entire year’s schedule so you can see exactly what materials you’ll be receiving each month and the topics. Schedule for 2018-2019 “學習版” (starts September) shown here. Click the links below for other age groups.

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Check out the Ciaohu website for a preview of these other levels:

Other blog reviews of Ciaohu:

Cost: 

  • 12-month subscription $345 USD ($28.75/month)
  • 6-month subscription $188 USD ($31.30/month)

You will receive one of these free gifts when you subscribe! If these gifts run out, Ciaohu will substitute a different age-appropriate gift.

To subscribe, complete the form below. Email info@ciaohu.com if you have any questions.

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Chinese Resources, Reviews

Chinese Resources: Sticker Books

There are so many things to consider when buying Chinese materials for your child:

  • Chronological age
  • Language age
  • Interests and personality
  • Laziness level of parent 😝

If you’re a lazy parent like me then I have just the thing for you: Sticker books!

The only thing you need to do is cut the sticker sheets out with a craft knife:

And read them to your child, of course. Personally I much prefer reading than thinking of what to say. Because thinking in Chinese 💭 is TOO MUCH WORK.

Here’s what I like about this particular set.

#1. Cheap

TEN sticker books (24 pages each) cost less than $4 USD! IKR?! I think I paid more for each English sticker book when Little Man was a toddler.

#2. Covers a wide variety of topics and age range

Some books have age ranges on them 2-3 years, 3-4 years, 4-5 years, 5-6 years and others are based on topics like Science, Math, Logic, Language.

It goes from simple stories and vocabulary (animals, clothing, occupations) to more advanced concepts like food chains, telling time, character recognition and 成语 (idioms).

#3. Vocabulary and comprehension

Overall they are a good fit for Little Man (age 5) and are great for Chinese language bonding time. It helps me realize the gaps in his vocabulary because sometimes he doesn’t understand when I read him the instructions. Actually I don’t know the meanings of half the idioms shown above so it’s educational for me as well. 😛

Dislikes:

The books don’t lay flat because of the binding. Most of the time I have to hold it flat for Little Man while he sticks the stickers on. GAH. Same problem with many English sticker books that I’ve bought from Amazon so it’s not just these ones.

Also I find it hard to believe a 2-year-old would have the fine motor dexterity to manipulate the teensy stickers. Use your parental judgement on that one!

Buy from:

Taobao link here. Like most items I buy from TB, the shipping costs more than the items.

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Other sticker books I’m eyeing:

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Character Writing, Reviews

Chinese Calligraphy for Kids

This calligraphy set is fun, educational, reusable, mess-free (just water), and so cheap! I told Little Man this is how emperors wrote their imperial scrolls in ancient China, which completely blew his mind. 😂

I’m pretty amazed at how it looks exactly like 墨水 (ink) but is not. It dries off in a few minutes without leaving a trace.  


Little Man is new to Chinese writing so we are using this for practicing a few 笔画 strokes and scribbling right now. I tried writing a few words and realized that my Chinese handwriting is seriously ugly. Guess I need some practice too. 😝

This magical product is aptly named “magic cloth”. The set that I bought comes with 5 cloths, a calligraphy brush and brush holder (pictured above). I like that it has some tracing cloths and some blank cloths. Obviously it’s a cheap brush but it serves its purpose for play! 

Where to buy:

I bought mine from World Taobao for $1.50 USD for the entire set. 

You can also get it from these English websites AliExpress for $3-10 or EBay for $1-15 but you have to be patient and wait 20+ days for it to arrive from China. Magic cloth and brushes sold separately. 

If you’re impatient, then order it from Amazon Prime for $10-20. Magic cloth and brushes sold separately. 

Search the above sites for “kids calligraphy”, “magic cloth”, “儿童 毛笔 水写布”. 

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