Good Chinese learning products for kids are hard to find. There simply isn’t that much out there and what is out there may not be of the best quality. Due to the paucity of available products, those that do exist are often quite pricey. Children’s books usually start at $15 plus $5 shipping, which is a ton if you’re looking to build any kind of decent sized library. This makes it hard for the average family. So, being in the Christmas spirit, I wanted to share a wish list of great resources.
Concordia Language Villages – This is a week-long camp in Minnesota. Reviews are very good from families I’ve talked to and they have total immersion options for the entire family, which is great. Cost starts at about $600 per person a week, so it’s a big investment. Totally would be worth it if you have the money, so definitely number 1 on my wish list.
Qiaohu Subscription – This link is broken at the moment, but worked a few days ago, so I’m assuming it’ll be back up quickly. Qiaohu is an amazing DVD series to help children learn Chinese and good habits. In addition, you can get a monthly subscription for as low as $50 a month. This includes shipping from Taiwan, the DVD, an educational toy, a work book, and a CD. Super awesome value and lots of great stuff. The only issue is that it’s only available in traditional characters as far as I can tell.
Easy-to-Read Pen – This pen links with special audio books and reads the words as you scroll over them. Great learning tool for Chinese. The cost for the pen is $119 and then books are about $10 a piece.
Better Chinese – Better Chinese is probably the most widely used set of materials in Mandarin Immersion programs around the country. They have designed basically curricular modules for different levels and a homeschooling kit. The price starts at $236 and they also offer package deals for many translated Western children’s classics. Sets are usually over $100.
Arch Chinese – Wonderful site for creating character writing worksheets and other related activities. Subscription is cheap at about $60 a year.
2Kids Chinese – The best app for helping children learn Chinese reading and writing. Great games, story-driven content, fantastic progression. First couple chapters are free and then I think subsequent chapters are $6 a piece or so, but more than worth it.
Little Dragon Tales & A Little Mandarin CDs – These two music CDs are great. They are my two favorite I’ve found so far and cost is cheap compared to many of the other resources listed above at $10 or so.
Chinese Pod – This one isn’t for kids, except maybe teens. It’s by far the best learning resource out there for adults that want to learn alongside their children. Cost is only around $150 a year and that comes with tremendous access to materials. Forget courses and expensive computer software, this is the way to go.
Skritter – Skritter is the best app out there for learning to read and write characters. It’s designed for adults, but teens would definitely enjoy it and I think many younger children could, too. Subscription is $10 a month.
Fluent-U – Again, designed for adults, but older kids might get a kick out of it. It’s a site that uses video in an excellent way to help you learn. It has a number of useful tools like providing options for English, Pinyin, and character subtitles as well as being able to automatically make vocab lists. Pricing starts at $8 a month.
Trips to China – The last and most expensive. You’re going to want to book these on your own, not through a tour group as they will be all in English with other English speakers. Trips are a great way to boost language ability and show children the necessity of speaking another language. Alternatives are trips to China Towns in the US. Much cheaper and really not that different. Before booking a trip in the US, just do a little research and see if the China Town nearest you is mostly Mandarin or Cantonese speaking. Also, most US China Towns use traditional characters, though I’ve seen more and more simplified popping up, at least in Chicago.
Got some other great resources you think I should add, mention them in the comments!
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