When Aidan (my now 4.5 year old) was 3 years old, he decided that he was going to refuse to do anything “Chinese”. He used to lower his head and shove his hands deep into his pockets when asked to speak Chinese. He one day declared that he didn’t want to speak Chinese anymore. My son decided Chinese wasn’t cool, or hip, or relevant to anything he was interested in. Everything fun was in English, his Chinese friends all spoke English with him, and I understood English too.
Over the years, I had searched for Chinese language resources for kids under 6, but couldn’t find anything that engaged long enough to benefit. I kept thinking there was a lost opportunity here, since the best time to learn/maintain languages is before the kids are 6. Since I’m conversationally fluent in Mandarin, I thought speaking to him at home would be enough, so I didn’t spend too much time worrying about the lack of language tools. But once I realized outside influences were competing for his attention, I knew I needed additional tools to re-spark Aidan’s interest in his mother-tongue. Forcing Chinese down his throat wasn’t an option for me, because I’ve seen how that type of influence leads to rebellion later on… parents speak to their children in the mother-tongue and the kids respond in English.
I’ve been in the videogame industry for over a decade, and after several moms approached me about the idea of leveraging the ever-so-popular tablet to become a language-learning tool, I jumped on board. This tablet-based tool is called Peach Ice Cream Adventures (PICA), and it will be a language-immersion adventure game specifically designed for 3-6 year olds, with Spanish, Chinese and French being the first three languages we are developing. What started off as a joint effort between three moms wanting a fun way to keep a mother tongue in the family has blossomed into a realization that there is a need for this tool extended beyond our own children and our own immediate needs: A Boston City Councillor of an inner city district wants PICA for his preschools/K1/K2.
If we raise enough money to make PICA, an awesome company called Isabella Products will be donating tablets pre-loaded with PICA to the schools so we can run a pilot next summer!!! And if that works, I have plans to roll out in other inner city schools as well. Kids from inner cities are usually have limited or have no access to the latest tools, but we want them to be part of the first.
We are using a fundraising platform called Kickstarter, which is a funding platform for creative projects. For a lack of better terminology, it is a pre-ordering platform that lets interested prospective customers pre-purchase (via pledges) to support the development and launch of the product. One catch is that Kickstarter is an “all-or-nothing” deal…you need to raise a minimum of the dollar amount or PICA can’t be made. We have 12 days to get enough pledges to get PICA into the hands of our kids and those in inner cities. Pre-order some cool Spanish (or Chinese or French) tools today to help us reach our goal. Folks pledging/pre-ordering as a gift for a special child in their life can let me know, and I’ll email a beautiful holiday card that states a purchase was made on the child’s behalf.