There are so many great resources for adults who want to start learning Japanese.
But adults generally have a more methodical way of learning languages. They’re able to study grammar, make logical assumptions, and are able to reason and deduct conclusions based on sentence structure.
Kids, however, don’t learn languages that way at all.
I’m sure you have heard that children can learn a language much more easily than an adult can. This is because children learn in a more intuitive way. They can immerse themselves in a language and gain much more than an adult can.
That is why resources for children who want to learn Japanese can sometimes be much different.
So if you want your child to learn Japanese, then where can you start?
Well you’re in luck, below is a list of top resources that are perfect for kids who want to start their journey of learning Japanese!
This will be particularly helpful for families stuck at home during lockdown or homeschoolers.
Toddlers, preschool and kindergarten ages
JapanesePod101 has a ton of resources for learning Japanese, including podcasts that start from newbie lessons.
But this video they produced is great for very young children like toddlers to start learning Japanese.
It includes over 20 minutes of Japanese children’s songs, just like the ones they play on TV in Japan.
Children can pick up simple Japanese naturally by watching videos like this, with adorable animations and clear hiragana words on the screen to follow along.
Read this JapanesePod101 review.
The Super Simple YouTube series has an entire catalog of Japanese songs and entertainment for children.
These shows use, you guessed it, “super simple” Japanese and the animations are colorful and eye-catching.
Some of the videos are up to one hour long, so your child can get a fully immersive Japanese experience.
The songs are so catchy, you won’t be able to help yourself from singing along!
Gus on the Go is an app available for download in the App Store, Google Play, and Amazon.
It is geared for ages 2-6 and teaches simple vocabulary in an exciting way. Your kid can learn Japanese numbers, food, shapes, and more, with Gus, a cute little owl who flies around the world teaching children new languages.
This great app has interactive lessons and engaging lesson reviews to make sure every child understands the material.
Duolingo is one of the most popular language-learning apps, and it has Japanese!
In fact, there are two apps available, the regular Duolingo App for ages 13 and up, and Duolingo Kids for ages 3 to 6. It was designed by language experts and is tailored for quick and effective learning.
This app works great for kids because it teaches Japanese in a natural way, with playful awards and achievements that make learning feel like a game.
With its cute owl mascot and adorable illustrations, this app is sure to keep your child’s attention while they learn Japanese.
Read this Duolingo review.
When your child is ready to start consuming some Japanese TV, there is no better TV show than the much-loved Anpanman.
Anpanman is a character with an “anpan” shaped head, which is bread filled with a sweet bean jelly.
The rest of his friends are also sweets and they get into endless adorable adventures. Anpanman is one of the most popular children’s TV shows in Japan, and you would be hard-pressed to find a child who doesn’t know about it.
The TV show’s website has a list of all the character bios you can learn about. If you want to watch the show, there are a ton of clips and even some full episodes available on YouTube.
It is a fun way to introduce children to native Japanese material.
Another great children’s TV show that is popular in Japan, and throughout the world, is Doremon.
Doremon follows the story of a robot cat sent from the future to help improve a young boy’s life. This beloved story started out as a manga, but it quickly spread to TV and video games.
The Doraemon website features loads of episodes of the TV show and links to games and applications that are all Doraemon-themed.
Primary school ages
When your child says they want to learn Japanese, the alphabet is obviously the first place to start.
The absolute best way to learn the hiragana characters is Japanese workbooks for kids! There are plenty of these on Amazon for a cheap price.
They are the perfect practice method for learning each character, including how to write it, and common vocabulary that uses the character.
Most of these workbooks have plenty of fun illustrations and pictures to keep your kid entertained while they learn.
OutSchool is an amazing online learning platform for children. They have classes on everything from art to science, and of course, they have many courses for Japanese!
Since it is sometimes difficult to find tutors for young Japanese learners, this platform is exactly what you need.
Each class is tailored to a certain age group and for a small fee, your child can start learning Japanese with a tutor of your choice.
Courses are around $10-$30 per lesson and start as low as age 5.
There are a lot of books on Amazon for older children who want to learn Japanese, but younger kids don’t have the attention span to sit down and learn grammar or vocabulary.
That is why “First Thousand Words in Japanese” is a great start.
This series has been around for years and covers multiple languages.
It has all the beginner vocabulary that children are interested in learning like animals and food, with colorful illustrations to keep them engaged.
This list wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t include at least one video game!
Boku no Natsuyasumi meaning “My Summer Vacation” is a PlayStation game rated for all ages.
It follows a young boy playing in an open-world adventure when he stays at his Aunt and Uncle’s house in the countryside for summer vacation. This game is absolutely great for young children because there is no set storyline, and no stressful monsters to fight.
The game is open for kids to explore and have fun, like catch insects, or go fishing.
The Japanese in the game is simple and easy to understand, so any child can learn a lot.
Japanese From Zero has been a great staple in Japanese learning textbooks for many years.
It is not necessarily designed for children, but their progressive method makes it super simple, fun, and easy to follow, so kids would have a wonderful time learning with these books.
But if you don’t want to buy the textbook, there is Japanese From Zero online as well! Their online courses are free, but you have to sign up.
The lessons go slow and are easy to understand.
It’s a great resource on its own, or a good preview if you want to buy the textbook series they offer.
I would recommend the books or lessons for a comprehensive guide to learning Japanese for kids.
Middle school ages
Also available on Amazon to purchase, I’m Learning Japanese takes a whimsical approach to learning the language.
It’s essentially a basic textbook, disguised as a cute story with anime-style characters. It revolves around three children that befriend a magical fox sensei who teaches them Japanese.
It is a lighthearted text with a ton of practical lessons that any child would enjoy.
This simply designed site is a great place to start for kids who want to learn Japanese.
It has a no-frills approach with easy-to-understand lessons that start at the very basics.
There are a few cute character illustrations and many detailed images about how to write each hiragana character.
The best part is, the lessons are free!
You can also choose where you want to start, at the very beginning, or if your child has studied Japanese for a bit, they can go straight into more complex conversational skills.
Kids Web Japan is made by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs for children ages 10-14 who want to learn Japanese.
The site has everything from pronunciation guides, alphabet writing practice, cultural information, and quizzes. It is a comprehensive site that allows children to learn all aspects of the Japanese language.
The characters even have virtual travel tours around Japan and popular Japanese folklore that kids can learn about.
The Kanji Memory Hint App is made by the Japan Foundation, which has a ton of resources for learning Japanese online.
This app is great for beginners who want to try and learn kanji in a simple way.
They have cute illustrations and mnemonic guides to make sure you can memorize each kanji with just a few minutes of practice a day.
It even comes with memory games and a ton of writing practice to make learning kanji a breeze.
High school ages
If you’re willing to pay a bit for lessons, Kaizen Languages is an incredible, all-in-one application.
It has full courses teaching writing, grammar, and conversational skills.
The app even has its own flashcard program. But the best part is the AI tutors that you can have a conversation with! This innovative technology is a whole new way to practice conversation skills.
Although the app is rated 4 and up, the professional design might not hold the attention of kids younger than 12.
Erin’s Challenge is also made by the Japan Foundation.
It is a set of video skits that introduce Japanese concepts in everyday situations.
The lessons follow Erin, a Japanese student in Tokyo, as she goes about her daily life in Japan. Each skit has several lessons, with English translations, listening practice, and tons of vocabulary.
The lessons deal with everything from riding the bus, to ordering sushi.
These are great for teens who want to break into the world of studying Japanese.
My Japanese Coach is a Nintendo DS game made by Ubisoft.
It is rated for everyone, but I think it’s best used by children ages 12 and up. This fun and interactive game is like carrying your own Japanese tutor in your pocket.
It boasts over 1000 lessons and a built-in dictionary with over 12,000 words!
The coolest feature of My Japanese Coach is that it uses the DS microphone so you can record your own voice and compare it with native Japanese speakers.
It also has loads of mini-games so your child can have fun learning Japanese.
Japanese in Anime and Manga is a fabulous site for kids who already have an interest in Japanese animation and culture.
It’s a learning website that tells a story, with a character line-up and pages of an actual Japanese manga comic book.
The manga is written completely in Japanese, so kids can test how much they know before revealing the readings, and the English translations for each speech bubble.
It is probably one of the most enjoyable sites to learn Japanese that I have tried.
WaniKani is a kanji application made by Tofugu, a trusted source in Japanese learning all over the online community.
When it comes to studying kanji, this app is second to none.
It uses a friendly mnemonic method and will give young learners a great foundation in learning each kanji by going over the radicals.
In all, it includes over 2000 kanji and over 6000 words, so there is plenty to learn, no matter how far your child wants to go with the language.
See this WaniKani review.
Explore some of these Japanese children’s resources
If you’re a parent, hopefully this list is a good starting place to get your children to study Japanese at home.
With these Japanese resources for children at your disposal, your kids will have some high quality Japanese resources to work through.
If you’re a teacher, the resources above will help with planning.
Are there any other Japanese language resources for children that you’d like featured here?
Add them in the comments!