Up to date information about children’s entertainment – film, TV, DVD and more…. from founder and president of KIDS FIRST! Ranny Levy

Ni Ho, Kai-lan Welcomes in Chinese New Year

Ni Hao, Kai-lan, the new animated series from Nick Jr. is a play-along, think-along series that introduces preschoolers to both the Chinese language and the Chinese culture. The premiere episode, “Dragon Boat Festival,” debuts on Nick Jr. on Thursday, Feb. 7 at 11 a.m. ET, the first day of Chinese New Year.

Ni Hao, Kai-lan is Nick Jr.’s first play-along, think-along series to feature an intergenerational family. Through the eyes of five-year-old Kai-lan, the series explores the colorful aspects of her upbringing and background. The series is based on creator Karen Chau’s memories of growing up in a bicultural and is steeped in her personal experiences from living in a bicultural Chinese-American household. Ni hao means “hi” in Mandarin Chinese. Kai-lan is Ms. Chau’s given name before it was Anglicized to Karen and the character resembles Ms. Chau as a young child. Kai-lan Chau is an exuberant Chinese-American five-year-old who invites viewers to come play with her and her best friends.

Just as Dora and Diego popularized biculturalism for the Latino culture, Kai-lan represents the next generation of preschool programming exploring biculturalism in an expanded way for Chinese-Americans. Kai-lan weaves together being bilingual with being bicultural. The show familiarizes viewers with aspects of Chinese American culture while it introduces its language. At the same time, it celebrates growing up in an intergenerational family and having friends from diverse backgrounds.

Along the way, the show incorporates other concepts important in preschool programming. Ideas such as taking turns, disappointment and jealousy. And, it supports an emotional intelligence curriculum lighting cause and effect thinking in the social/emotional world. The show provides simple coping strategies, often set to catchy simple songs. Every episode follows the adventures of Kai-lan and her friends as they learn to identify their emotions and stop to consider the feelings of others. They tackle issues such as what causes Rintoo to get mad or how patience and practice help Tolee get better at rhyming.

Kai-lan’s world is brimming with magical sights and sounds that are colorfully and simply executed. The animation is based on Ms. Chau’s drawings which are engaging but simple. The characters are also quite charming. YeYe, Kai-lan’s grandpa, is a character whose world is full of Chinese customs and traditions that he wants to pass on to his granddaughter. Tolee is a five-year-old panda-loving koala who is the thinker of the group. Hoho the monkey brings his boundless energy to the group and Rintoo is a rambunctious five-year-old tiger with a thirst for adventure and thrills, but beneath it all is sweet and caring.

The stories range from The Dragon Boat Festival to the big lantern festival which celebrates the end of Chinese New Year. Emotions are explored such as anger, “when you feel too mad, the first thing you do, is calm, calm down.” Or, listening, “I put my hand to my ear that helps me to hear. Ting! I use my eyes to see who’s talking to me. Listen, listen, listen. Ting!” Or, patience, “When waiting is really hard for you, just do something you like to do.”

Interest in learning the Mandarin Chinese language is increasing dramatically in the US where an estimated 50,000 American children are being taught Mandarin in public schools, with an additional 50,000 studying in private settings. At the same time, some 300 million Chinese are learning English – a sign of China’s increasing impact on our global culture. This series, and others like it provide a growing desire for US citizens to learn this somewhat complicated language.

“Good luck Ni Hao Kai-lan – we hope you are a grand success.” From your fans at KIDS FIRST!

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