Chinese Books for Babies

**This post was sponsored by Jessica Kingsley Publishers. I also received a review copy of Chinese Symbols for Baby Brains, as well as a review copy of Tai Ji Dancing for Kids. As usual, all opinions and thoughts are my own. This post includes Amazon affiliate links.

People always ask me what books they should read to their babies to help them learn Chinese. I find this question amusing on my best days and eye-rolling on my worst.

Look, I get it.

We want our kids to learn Chinese. We want them to read and speak and all of it fluently.

But it’s not going to happen by reading the perfect Chinese book.

However, research does show that reading to our babies is good for developing their listening skills and helping them recognize shapes and colors. Listening is important for learning language and the sounds attached to a particular language. Other studies show that babies are most attracted to high contrast colors like black, white, and red.

All this to say that while reading Chinese books won’t automatically make your child fluent in Chinese, it’s good for brain development and even provides extra snuggle and cuddle time. (Assuming your baby doesn’t eat the book like my children were wont to do.)

I have to confess something, though. The only child out of my four kids that I actively read to every single day as a baby was Cookie Monster (~8). Is it any surprise that he’s my first?

My other children were lucky if they ever got me to read them a book at all. You can imagine my guilt (however minor) about Sasquatch (1) in regards to the not reading and the not reading in Chinese.

Recently, I was approached by our sponsors to check out their latest book, Chinese Symbols for Baby Brains by Chungliang Al Huang with Lark Huang-Storms. This book uses high contrast Chinese calligraphy designed to stimulate a baby’s developing retina and brain. Huang is a highly regarded authority of Tai Ji, Taoism, and related disciplines. He is a best-selling author of books on mind/body/spirit integration and an artist and performer.

Honestly, I was fully expecting to be underwhelmed because I’m a cynic and baby books are usually boring to me. I went online using Amazon’s sneak peak function and skimmed the previews to make sure this was a book I wanted to own. (I tend not to review things that I don’t like because it seems rude to accept products and then hate them online.)

I was immediately struck by Huang’s beautiful calligraphy.

I decided then and there to review the book. After all, I love Chinese calligraphy and I particularly love any images that show me the pictures within the Chinese characters.

So, we’ve established that I loved the book and the illustrations. What about my kids?

Well, I can’t speak to whether or not Sasquatch’s developing retina was stimulated, but I can say he loved looking through the Chinese Symbols for Baby Brains.

On the few occasions I’ve tried to read to Sasquatch, mostly because I was already reading to Glow Worm (4), the baby was unimpressed and fidgety and would try to grab my book and destroy them.

When I sat down with Sasquatch to read Chinese Symbols for Baby Brainshe actually stared at the pictures and pointed at them and flipped the pages! (Incidentally, it’s a board book so there’s the added bonus of me not having to worry that Sasquatch would immediately ruin the book.)

Sasquatch trying to steal Chinese Symbols for Baby Brains from Glow Worm

In fact, when Sasquatch saw Glow Worm with the book later that same day, he waddled over and tried to steal the book! Glow Worm liked to look at the pictures, too so he refused to let his little brother take it.

I can’t believe they fought over a book. Wait. I can. Sasquatch constantly has FOMO and wants to have whatever his siblings have.

What I didn’t expect was how interested Cookie Monster and Gamera (6) were in the book, too. They enjoyed trying to read the characters and delighted when they got it right. Plus, they really wanted to read the book to Sasquatch so I ended up not having to read to my baby after all. BONUS!

My one quibble with the book is that the pronunciation key at the end of the book doesn’t include tones with their pinyin. That might not be a big deal folks who are literate in Chinese, but for those of us who are not, it would have been a great help.

Is your baby going to be able to read Chinese characters just from this book?

No. Of course, not.

But no one expects their babies to learn how to read English from ABC board books, either.

Will their retinas be stimulated and their brains be forced to develop? Probably.

But most importantly, Chinese Symbols for Baby Brains is that rare find in a baby board book. It’s both art and educational.

I highly recommend Chinese Symbols for Baby Brains for art-loving babies, families who want to introduce their babies to Chinese, and any family with a new baby. This book is beautiful and I would love for any of the pages to be framed prints in my house.

I’ve included some pertinent details, pictures, and video below.

Title: Chinese Symbols for Baby Brains

Where to Buy: Amazon or Jessica Kingsley Publishers

Sample Pages:

Here’s the video of Sasquatch and Gamera going through the book.

And since I mentioned Huang’s other book, Tai Ji Dancing for Kids, here are some pictures of that book as well.

 

Chineasy Tiles: 5 Minute Review

**I received a review copy of Chineasy Tiles, as well as an accidental set of silverware, from the lovely staff at Chineasy. As usual, all opinions and thoughts are my own. I use affiliate links in the post.

Game: Chineasy Tiles

Price: $89 $71.20

How to Purchase: Amazon

Company: Chineasy Limited

Ages: 3+

Level: Beginner

Description: Based off of the Chineasy Methodology (you may be familiar with their (affiliate links) Chineasy book and flashcards), this award-winning game is a fun way to learn or review 48 characters that can be combined into 235 phrases/composite words.

The game comes with 48 flash cards of high-frequency characters (these characters are the same in both traditional and simplified), 100 tiles, 1 master board, 4 play boards, and 1 cotton bag.

No resource guide or instruction manual is included, but you can download a constantly updated guide online. The guide has 10-20 activities you can use the Chineasy Tiles to play.

Sample Pictures:

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

5 Minute Review: First things first. Is this going to make your child literate in Chinese?

No.

That’s a lot to expect from a game that only has 48 characters (although there are 235 word/phrase combinations).

However, it is a fun and multi-use game for kids – regardless of Chinese ability.

All of my children, (~8, 6, 4, 1) enjoyed Chineasy Tiles and considering just how many children I have, that’s not easy. (Plus, we invited Rhythm Girl (5.5) to join us and she loved it, too.)

We’ve only had the game for about a week and the kids have asked to play with it every single day. Glow Worm (4) especially likes to take out all the tiles and look at them and fill up the play boards. Gamera (6) begs to play BINGO every time and Cookie Monster (~8) eagerly joins in.

I can easily see this game being played with a Chinese tutor, a Chinese Immersion classroom, or family members – even family members who don’t know any Chinese.

Here are a few things that I loved about Chineasy Tiles.

1) I love the quality of the materials. Everything down to the box is sturdy, quality stuff so I don’t feel as if my children will IMMEDIATELY ruin the game. Love the tactile feel of the tiles and the play board. The drawings are familiar from the Chineasy book and are also fun and beautiful.

And yes, even though we had barely opened the box, Sasquatch (1) decided that he enjoyed the taste of the flash cards (there are a few teeth imprints already – THIS IS WHY I CAN’T HAVE NICE THINGS!) and enjoys grabbing tiles by the fistful, wreaking havoc as he is wont to do. (This totally gives me hives because I really don’t want to lose any of these lovely pieces.)

2) I love the versatility of the games and activities. There are so many ways to play and use the tiles, flash cards, and board. We tried out 4-5 of them (BINGO, Find It First, Charades, Spot the Twins, Tug Tug) the first afternoon and I look forward to trying out more games with the kids.

3) My kids LOVE the BINGO game. They also enjoyed trying the different activities and were really excited to try as many as possible.

4) I think it’s a good product for beginners – especially if they are just folks who are checking out Chinese and looking for a fun way to learn some characters but may be intimidated. The flashcards and tiles make it easy to remember and associate pictures with the characters.

5) There are lots of activities for total beginners, kids/people who have no exposure and background to Chinese or Chinese characters.

6) I think this would be a fun tool/game for Chinese teachers to employ with students. It is a fun way to engage kids even before they know too many characters. It’s also a lot of fun even if your kids know a bunch of characters. (My older two know 1200+ and still had a great time.)

With that said, there is some room for improvement.

1) It cannot be avoided. This is a pricey product.

However, it is evident that the quality of materials is above your average game. My contact at Chineasy mentioned that their whole team is comprised of perfectionists and they only sourced the best materials as well as hired award-winning artists and illustrators so it’s clear the money went into the product.

2) As I mentioned before, there are no instructions included and I hate hunting and finding things. I want everything I need to be there to be there. Obviously, this is a small quibble, but it does need to be pointed out.

3) Another minor thing is that there doesn’t seem to be a master list of how many tiles there are per character. Some of them have only one tile, others have three. Since I’m anal retentive, I really want and require a list because I know my children will lose one and I will have no idea which tile it is and that will bother me forever.

4) A few of the games don’t seem to work as well with the tiles. Charades seemed okay, but some of the terms are too hard to act out (at least for children) such as PEACE, or MAN. Some of the games (such as making phrases/combo words) would benefit from including measure words like 個隻, etc.

An easy way to get around this is to just remove the harder tiles before the kids play. (I am lazy so I did not.) Also, there is nothing preventing us from adding measure words of our own on pieces of paper

5) My older two children know about 1,000-1,200+ characters so the Memory Game and some of the other ones were simply too easy (and also, not possible to play because they can actually read the characters).

Obviously they are not the target market, but keep in mind, they still really liked playing all the games. In fact, the easiness of the characters and funny pictures (their favorite is the flash card for 大 because it is the butt of a Sumo wrestler) is a huge selling point because they don’t have to think super hard and just enjoy playing.

I mention this in case you’re a super Tiger Parent and you want the game to be more challenging. There are definitely ways to play more challenging versions (like composing phrases and combination words), my vocabulary just isn’t wide enough to take advantage.

6) I think this game would benefit from future expansion sets (and if more of you purchase Chineasy Tiles, the greater the likelihood – so do it for ME) but it’s a good start.

All in all, I think it’s a solid game for beginners and for folks who want to learn more about Chinese. It’s definitely geared towards kids who are not fluent and don’t come from heritage families – but I can see how heritage families would also be drawn (no pun intended!) to the game.

Highly recommend.

Here’s a video of my kids playing BINGO. You can also get a good view of the flash cards, tiles, and play boards.

Here’s another video of my kids and their friend playing BINGO .(What can I say? It was their favorite.)

Did you know I wrote a book on how to teach your kids Chinese? You can get it on Amazon (affiliate link) and it’s conveniently titled, So You Want Your Kid to Learn Chinese.

It’s full of practical advice, detailed applications, and heavy amounts of snark. Find most of the answers to your questions about how you can help your kids learn and speak Chinese (as well as read).

Top 3 Free Things I Do for Self-Care

Today’s post is a quickie (TWSS!).

I have often gone to do the stereotypical self-care things like massages or pedicures or MNOs only to come back and be bombarded with stress all over again.

Here’s what I finally discovered. BONUS: they’re all free. (A quick summary after the video.)

Again, I am away from the computer and YouTube is hating my phone. So you’ll have to make do with my FB Live link. But I will update with the YouTube video soon!

https://www.facebook.com/MandarinMama/videos/1764031296962537/

1) Get enough sleep.

When I am tired and sleep-deprived, I am wretched. I snap at my kids, my annoyance threshold is at a minimum, and I yell at the slightest irritation.

When I have enough sleep, these things are no less aggravating, I just have more stamina and patience.

Sleep is KEY.

2) Get enough to eat.

I often forget to eat because I am lazy and hate eating with my children. Therefore, I put it off and by the time I remember, my stomach is ingesting itself and I am HANGRY already.

Then, of course, I yell and am irritable. I sound like a grumpy bear right before hibernation. There may be some truth to that comparison.

3) “Adult.”

Most of the reasons I am stressed is because I have not taken care of the things I am supposed to. Whether it’s paying a medical bill, writing a piece by deadline, or clearing off my kitchen table, a lot of my stress is caused by my lack of adulting.

It stands to reason if I stop procrastinating, I would be much happier.

Alright! That’s it for today. Hope these tips were of some use.