With many Japanese parents pulling their children out of private English language schools to save money these days, I recommend that they try home schooling. There is no reason why parents can’t give their kids English lessons at home by leaving the teaching to food.
Yes, there are plenty of edible learning aids in our daily lives that we just need to put to work for us.
So reach into the pantry and pull out this week’s English lesson!
• Alphabet soup — This soup, made by Campbell’s, features alphabet-shaped pasta in tomato soup and is a perfect teaching aid for kids to learn their ABCs. They can sing the ABC song while eating with this new variation of karaoke (or is it “kara-choke?”).
Make sure kids can recognize each individual letter and say it out loud in English before sucking it up.
• Gummi bears and worms — What child doesn’t like to eat worms? These gelatin-based candies originated in Germany where the Haribo company first produced gummi bears, and the Trolli company introduced the gummi worms. Children can learn their numbers and colors with these sticky candy treats.
Group the bears and worms together according to colors and then count them, then have different color groups intermingle with each other. Kids will learn their colors and numbers with just a few snacks!
• Lucky Charms cereal — This is an American cereal with an Irish touch, made by General Mills. It is a perfect food to start your child speaking English words, mainly nouns.
The cereal contains toasted bits of oats and marshmallows. The marshmallows are the vocabulary aids as they are different shapes such as hearts, stars and moons. They make up 25 percent of the cereal content. Make your child say the shapes and colors before eating them.
Kids can also use the stars to re-create the constellations and the night sky, all without using a telescope! A quiz of the constellations would get your child off on the right foot in the mornings.
Not only will your child learn some new English words with this cereal, but also some Irish English as the jingle for this cereal features an Irish leprechaun singing: “Hearts, stars and horseshoes! Clovers and blue moons! Pots of gold and rainbows! And me red balloons!”
• Animal crackers — Animal crackers have taken the front role in educating children for over one hundred years. Having started in England, these fun classic snacks were made famous in the United States by Nabisco (National Biscuit Company) in the U.S., and have been exported to over 170 countries. Japan also has its own animal crackers.
Kids love animal crackers and will happily learn the English names of animals while eating horns, antlers, humps and trunks. Surely many kids already owe their extensive zoo animal vocabulary to these crackers. And since many Japanese people believe that hard crunchy food is good for the brain, this teaching method is a no-brainer.
What surprises me about animal crackers, however, is that despite their popularity around the world, they are still pretty basic. I mean, c’mon, couldn’t we have some more advanced animal crackers?
Why continue to harp on the same old zoo animals such as elephants, lions, and bears when there are plenty of other animals out there that could benefit by gaining animal-cracker status? How about endangered species animal crackers, or extinct or protected species crackers? Most children will learn the zoo animals in just a few servings and will be eager to move up the animal chain.
Animal crackers Level 2 could include Japanese animals with crackers in the shape of cranes, deer, foxes, wild boars, bears, tanuki raccoon dogs, and Hokkaido red squirrels.
Animal crackers Level 3 would be endangered or protected Japanese animals such as the Okinawan dugong, iriomote cat, Noma horse, the sei whale, the Japanese giant salamander, the togenezumi spiny rat and the Okinawan rail, a flightless bird.
There are so many animals in the world that if we could get the cracker manufacturers to create new series such as the above to use as edible textbooks, we could work right through Japan’s “red list” of endangered species. By kindergarten, kids could already graduate with degrees in animal crackers.
More advanced children can move on to grammar crackers, where they have to use the animals in sentences before they are allowed to eat them.
So you see, with a little bit of imagination and help from you and your pantry, your child will love English so much, he’ll eat it up!