Now that he’s a bit older, he’s also taken to mashing the buttons on LeapFrog’s Learning Friends 100 Things That Go book. The bilingual sound book dives deep on every form of transportation imaginable: skateboards, scooters, sailboats, you name it. Another book from the Learning Friends series, 100 Words About Places I Go, has more of a travel bent, teaching him common Spanish words for things he might encounter at a beach, farm, or amusement park. To build on that learning, we’ve introduced Lil’ Libros to his library. These beautifully illustrated board books celebrate culture and place through titles such as Vámonos a Oaxaca, Vámonos a San Salvador, and Vámonos a Antigua. In Spanish and English, children learn what makes each destination special. (Also available in the series: Bogotá, San Jaun, Santo Domingo, and Tegucigalpa.)
Peipei Zhou, the Shanghai–born, Brooklyn–based author and entrepreneur behind Julian’s cherished Coco Learns Spanish series, actually launched her musical book business with Mandarin on the brain. As a Chinese American mom, she wanted to be able to sing Chinese nursery rhymes with her children but couldn’t find any books on the market—so she made them herself. The interactive sound books in the Bao Bao Learns Chinese series features six nursery rhymes apiece sung by Zhou. It’s a mix of East and West: think “It’s Bitsy Spider” meets “Two Tigers.”
For kids old enough to study pictograms (around ages six to eight), Taiwanese author ShaoLan Hsueh’s Chineasy for Children is a smart buy. The book uses stick figures to illustrate 100 common Chinese characters, teaching young readers how to build words and phrases. In addition to covering numbers, food, family, and the natural world, it also touches upon hallmarks of Chinese culture such as dragon boat festivals to the zodiac. For children big into pretend play, the faux foods from Tiny Sponge are a delightful way to learn about cooking. The deluxe Asian breakfast set, for instance, includes wooden bao buns, a mushroom momo, tea eggs, youtiao (Chinese fried dough), soy sauce and vinegar bottles, a steamer basket, and easy-to-grasp chopsticks. While you’re at it, throw a Lion Dance marionette puppet in your cart to kickstart a conversation about New Year festivities.
Gifting your enfant their own copy of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s Le Petit Prince is sweet, but they’ll understand it better if you cover the basics first. Start with Opal Dunn’s Un Deux Trois: First French Rhymes, featuring 25 traditional nursery rhymes with illustrated vocab and an accompanying CD so children can hear lyrically correct pronunciations. Just as popular with the toddler set: Cali’s Books’ French Nursery Rhymes, a press-and-listen singalong book that plays 15-second clips of “Frère Jacques,” “Gentil Coquelicot,” and other well-known tunes. (Similar titles are available in Spanish, Brazilian, Greek, Chinese, and Hebrew.)
For more hands-on learning, the delightfully silly Making Faces set from Manhattan Toy teaches kids three and up about all kinds of emotions (happiness, excitement, fear) and how to articulate them in French. The box includes three magnetic boards and 31 punch-out facial features that can be mixed and matched to capture any expression. To really get your kid rocking and rolling, order the French edition of LeapFrog’s Let’s Record! Music Player. Children can push buttons to learn about letters, counting, and weather; record up to 30 seconds of their own caterwauling; or sing along with 20 classic songs such as “Ah! Les Crocodiles.”
There isn’t a baby on earth that doesn’t love blocks, nor a parent who wouldn’t appreciate the thoughtful design of Uncle Goose. These sustainable basswood blocks are handcrafted in Grand Rapids, Michigan, using materials sourced near the Great Lakes. The letters and pictures are printed with non-toxic inks and come in tons of languages: German, Spanish, French, Italian, Greek, Chinese Japanese, Korean, Hindi, Hebrew, Persian, and even American Sign Language.