Julia's Corner

Mother's day through the generations

On Mother's Day, I like to tell my sons about my mom, her mom, and her mom's mom. It's not just because I come from a long line of great moms, but having two boys, I feel an extra need to educate them about strong, loving, working women.

In my family "working woman" has sometimes meant working as a full-time mom (like Nana, my mother's mother) or working as a career librarian like my father's mother.  My mom ran her own business from our home, and now I run my own business from an office in Union Square. I want my sons to understand that women can be both professionals, and great mothers.  I grew up at a time when this concept was still relatively new, and while more and more women do work outside the home, the perception (and perhaps more importantly the self-perception) of working women seems to be a "work-in-progress".

My boys know their amazing grandmothers well - their "grandma" works for the State of California and sends thoughtful care packages at every major and minor holiday, and my mother (Nana to them) is in her 70s, dances the tango, and is a cultural beacon - taking them to museums, piano lessons, and sharing her love of classical music.

So I tell them stories about my grandmothers, both long gone - Edna, who raised my mother in suburban Columbus, Ohio, while her husband managed his chain of drug stores, and Meira, my father's mother, who was the Head Librarian at Columbia Law School for 50 years.  I still remember going to her Upper West Side apartment as a kid, and helping her file all those 3x5 index cards.

Emmett and Adrian's little brown eyes widen with curiosity when I tell them these stories. They ask, "Did she know me?" and "Did grandma's library have The Cat in the Hat?"  While they may not get the full picture until they are older, I'm sure these stories help them understand that a woman can be a loving mother, and also have a thriving life outside the home.

Women friends of mine who don't yet have children often want to know how I balance running my own company, and having two little boys.  I like to tell them that the key is to forget the idea of "supermom" - she doesn't exist. Instead, I just try to balance out my busy work schedule with the field trips and class plays, and don't dwell too much on what I'm not doing.  Instead I try to stretch and do more of what I can do. And I have an amazing husband, who is a very "hands-on" dad.

As moms, we are all doing a balancing act worthy of Cirque du Soleil. So this Mother's Day, whether you are working at home or working in an office, let your family spoil you.  You deserve it.

A visual tour of Toy Fair 2012

We had a great time at Toy Fair this year, where Little Pim was exhibiting with hundreds of other toy companies.  So what's new this year? Take a tour through Toy Fair 2012, with our photo and video tour of the exhibition floor!

If you follow my blog, you'll know I was at CES last month checking out cool new tech toys.  I've been noticing a more toys that integrate your iPad or iPod touch into physical play.

Here's one that's a bit like space invaders, if you remember that.


These are the Heart to Heart dolls. Kind of like the American Girl Dolls, except they're from all over the world and age a little younger. We love the idea of introducing kids to different cultures and countries, what a cool new line!


Lego has just launched a new line of "girl-friendly" pink and white legos. They are doing a big marketing push to get more girls to play with legos, which seems to involve just making everything pink! Above is a gal made of legos, and her little dog too...


Walking my ladybug! These balloons have little legs and were a big hit this year.  Also available in giraffe, elephant and puppy.


Little Pim-ers at our booth!


Dolls after my own heart! They're made by Corrolle, a French company that has made its way to the US.


My boys have spent hours making marble mazes but I was never able to crack the code (my towers would fall over as soon as I dropped the marble!).  This new version from Mind Ware is so much easier to use that even I can use it, without asking any help from my four year old tower builder!

No Toy Fair would be complete without a huge lego creation for photo ops.  Here's the Hulk snaring another victim.


Bilingual Panel

Little Pim was proud to co-host a Bilingual Education Panel in New York City in November 2011 with Big City Moms and Kidville, featuring some of the most knowledgeable educators. Watch this 4 minute video to see the highlights. Enjoy, and let us know if you have any questions of your own.

Julia Pimsleur Levine

CES 2012

This was my second time attending CES (Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas. For the most part, this year's show felt like "here is what you saw last year, but now all these devices can talk to each other... and they're slimmer and faster!”  Convergence was a big buzz word this year (figuring out how to let all your electronics talk to each other) as was ecosystem (creating a "tech ecosystem" where all our gadgets live together in harmony). Cameras now have Wifi so you can send your videos to your computer without any cables. Affordable 3D camcorders have arrived, and the fridge that will do your shopping for you is just around the corner.

I also attended the Mommy Tech Summit while at CES, where panelists from companies like Leapfrog, PBS and Disney spoke about everything from the best new apps (check out the award winning Three Little Pigs and Cinderella by Nosy Crow), "gamefying" everything, and how we can be more tech literate parents.

So without further ado, here is the smart, the super cool and the silly of CES 2012.

The Smart

The fridge that shops for you

Take a Jetsons trip into the future with this Fridge (video). Just scan your shopping list with your smart phone and let the fridge tell you when you next run out of hamburgers or Gogurts.

The alarm clock that wakes you up with TV from around the world

A great way to keep up with your foreign language skills at home or on the road. Show your kids French, Italian or Chinese TV on a portable alarm clock! Fully wifi.

The snap-on display that turns your computer into a touch screen

Your kids touch screen happy? Mine are. This is a screen made for schools - so that kids can get up to the screen and touch, drag and tap their way to learning.

The Super Cool

Last year 3D everything was the hot new thing, and this year continues that trend, but with prices dropping there's a little more stuff we might actually be able to buy!

Kids asking for more 3D? Here is a handy snap-on screen...

This cool accessory slides on to your iPhone screen, and turns your screen 3D without the need for glasses!

Your baby will be even cuter showing off her moves in 3D

3D home video is here, and is getting more and more affordable (you can get a 3D camera for under $500 now!).

The world's thinnest OLED Smart TV

This 55" TV is only 4mm thick, and weighs under 17 lbs! It looked awesome, people were just standing around gawkin at it like it was Angelina Jolie.

The Silly

Grill burgers while you answer email


This handy device turns your iPhone into a BBQ sous-chef. The wires plug into the food so that your iPhone will tell you how hot your grill is, and when your food is ready! All while you are answering your email upstairs...

Take your iPhone for a stroll

The iPhone rider

I'm still not entirely sure why this exists, but if you ever wanted to turn your iPhone into a Roomba that doesn't vacuum, this is for you!

Original tech uses.. the computer dress

This is a dress with it's own computer display in the fabric. Never again will you have to worry about your iPad clashing with your dress at a formal occasion.

Which one of these do you think is the smartest? The silliest? Leave a comment below and let us know your thoughts!

The best multicultural gifts for young kids - Holiday Gift Guide

It’s time to buy presents! My antennae are up for gifts that are fun, educational, and will help our budding language learners to see themselves as world citizens. Your child is never too young to start playing with toys that feature other countries, languages and cultures. And if your children are already speaking and starting to acquire a second or third language, these toys can help reinforce their wider world view.  Here are a few of my faves for this holiday season. Amuse-toi bien! (have fun)


Why should your baby just build with blocks when she can create a Spanish city?

Your child will love these brightly colored blocks from Haba (if you don’t fancy Seville, they also have Cordoba!). With 45 pieces, this set will keep your little architect  busy for hours. Brighten up your baby’s nursery and be the only one on the block (pun intended) to have a Spanish city under construction… Buy it here

A teether giraffe with je ne sais quoi

Made in the French Alps with natural rubber and non toxic paint, Sophie has been safely cuddled and chewed by thousands of babies. She is soft light and easy to grasp and fits perfectly into little hands. She makes a happy sound when squeezed… Babies especially love her bumpy head to soothe their teething gums. But if you speak French to her, don’t expect her to talk back, she’ll just look at you in her “coquette” way. Also comes in Vanilla! Buy it here


Learn about Endangered Animals in Asia

Introduce your children to beautifully made wooden toys and to how some of our most endangered species live!  Your kids will discover an Elephant, Tiger and Panda (our favorite, of course) in the “Asia Series” from Plan Toys.  They are made of natural, chemical free recycled bamboo and can sit and stand just like real animals. They are finished with non-toxic dye and recommended for 3+, but could be played with by toddlers as well. Make sure to show your wee ones where China is on the globe! ($34) Buy it here

Make Meal Time a Learning Time!

These adorable plates teach words in French – choose from delightful farm animals or Pirates and Princess themes for your little swarthy crew and precious princess (make that “une princesse”). My son Emmett is 7 ½ and I still haven’t managed to give away his animals plate from this series (little brother Adrian is enjoying it now). Buy it here


Children of the World Floor Puzzle

What better way to get familiar with kids of different countries than with this oversized floor puzzle featuring kids from around the world? At only $10.75 it’s a great gift that will keep your child busy and expose him or her to not only to kids’ native costumes as well as the flags associated with the countries where they live. Buy it here

Geo Bingo

From our friends at GeoToys, this bingo game includes 50 country cards, representing the world’s most populous nations. Each card lists that country’s capital, land area, population, and geographic location. The goal of GeoBingo™ World is to get 5 countries in a row on one of the 8 GeoBingo™ Boards. ($18.99) Buy it here

Little Pim Books

Last but not least, what gift guide would be complete without our very own trilingual books? Featuring French, Spanish and English, these board books are perfect for budding linguists and chock full of lift the flaps, pull tabs and Little Pim antics. Books are in English with Spanish and French words taught throughout and phonetics for parents who don't speak the language. COLORS and FEELINGS, $8.95 each. Buy it here


Growing up Global

This excellent book by Homa Sabet Tavangar has practical suggestions for raising children with a global perspective. I got several ideas from this book of fun things to do with my kids, I am sure you'll find new cool new activities too! Makes a great gift for parents who are travelers and want to share their love of other cultures and countries with their little ones. Buy it here

7 Steps to Raising a Bilingual Child

This is one of the most practical, well-written books I have found about raising a bilingual child. Dr. Naomi Steiner is a developmental-behavoir pediatrician at Tufts Medical Center in Botson and an expert in the methods used to teach children more than one language. 7 Easy Steps... includes worksheets that help you map out your family's bilingual action plan, ways to involve parents who don't speak the language being taught, and tips for keeping your child motivated and excited about language learning. A terrific resource and road map! Buy it here

Seven ways to keep your kids excited about language learning

I haven’t written about my children’s language learning progress in a while, but with Thanksgiving coming I know it’s one of the things I’ll be grateful for this holiday. Being able to introduce Emmett and Adrian to French is one of my greatest joys and privileges (and sometimes one of the biggest challenges). When I last blogged about language learning, I was ecstatic that my son had just read his first sentence in French.

We have actually have had a lot to celebrate since then – when we went to France this summer, Emmett spoke French to shopkeepers and kids his age, and he recently started working with his French tutor again and actually ENJOYS his French homework. Here he is doing a page of drawing sports activities while learning the difference between “à la” and “au”:

Emmett turned seven in September and I am proud to say he can speak full French sentences, hold up his end of simple conversations and is curious about new words and expressions. He is also an avid reader (in English) which has opened up new teaching opportunities. I have been trying to keep it fun by getting him series he likes in French (Scooby Doo is a favorite right now).

My younger son Adrian, now 3 ½, started attending a French Immersion School this fall and has already made huge strides in just a few months. He and his best friend, Paul Camille (I just love saying that name, it’s so French), love to sing French nursery rhymes and Adrian now greets me in the mornings with a “Bonjour maman!” and thanks me with “Merci maman!”  which makes my day every time.


While my children are not yet bilingual in French, I am so thrilled to see them with good accents (thanks to starting young with Little Pim and other resources) and a solid foundation to work from. I always tell parents that learning a second language is a life long journey and each child will move forward at his or her own pace. The important thing is to keep showing your child that language learning can be fun and that the rewards will be great if they can stick with it (not unlike playing a musical instrument).

Here are a few things that have worked with my boys to keep them interested and “on the journey” over the past few years:

    1. keep speaking French to them, even if it’s only a little here and there. Never let it disappear from their daily lives entirely even if they are “rebelling”. It’s not all or nothing with language learning….
    1. mix in one French book to the 2-3 books I read them at night. right now it’s Little Pim Colors or Feelings for Adrian and Asterix comics for Emmett
    1. make extra efforts to experience the fun parts of French culture with them (go to a French bakery for breakfast, attend a chocolate making workshop with a French chef, make crèpes with friends, etc.)
    1. play the “flash card game” with Little Pim flash cards (you get a treat for identifying 10 right in a row – this is a subway, car ride and restaurant waiting favorite!)
    1. always encourage, never nag or tell them they “said it wrong”
    1. bring in help in the form of tutors to supplement when needed
    1. find other families teaching their children the same second language so our kids can speak together and also just see they are not unique in learning two languages.

What will you be grateful for this Thanksgiving about your child’s language journey?  Write in with your successes and challenges and I’d be happy to answer any questions about raising kids with two languages.

Why Google Translate wouldn't be possible without Harry Potter

Anyone who’s ever used an online translation tool knows that it’s a rather imperfect art.  Take a given sentence, run it through the translator, and then translate it back to English.  The result will be at best a little garbled, but will usually be pretty much incomprehensible. Here is what happens, for example, when you run a sentence through Google Translate:

Spanish: Esto es lo que sucede, por ejemplo, cuando se ejecuta una sentencia a través de Traductor Google.

And back to English: This is the case, for example when the statement is executed through Google translator.

Clearly, professional translators don’t have much to worry about.  What is so interesting about Google Translate however, is that unlike other translation tools, it doesn’t actually deal with the meanings of words at all. Google translate doesn’t care about word meanings, syntax, or vocabulary. It turns out that there are only two things that Google Translate really cares about: Harry Potter, and the United Nations.

Rather than try and do any actual translating itself, Google Translate figures that someone else has probably already done the hard work for you.  Google uses its incredible computing power to trawl through the vast swathes of human translation work, and pairs your English sentence with a human-translated equivalent.

Google’s database for doing this is huge. Whenever you ask Google to translate a sentence, it draws on vast archives of translated text, including everything the UN and its agencies have ever done in writing in six official languages.

Essentially Google Translate is only as good as the human translation that has gone before it. It is built upon the millions and millions of human translators who first produced the texts that Google uses as its reference points.

This is why books like Harry Potter are so useful.  With translations in 67 languages, Harry Potter provides an excellent frame of reference for Google Translate to draw upon.  While there may be no recorded history of direct translation between Hebrew and Welsh, by running both translations through the hub of the original English text, Google can attempt a direct translation.

Because Google uses context rather than meaning, this can often result in some rather amusing translations.  As you can see, there’s still a fairly long way to go.


For more fascinating information about translation (and the source of this blog post) check out 'Is That A Fish In Your Ear: Translation and the Meaning of Everything' by David Bellos


Full Stomach, Happy Heart

If you’re anything like me, you are delighted if you can find a cute new book that will:1) stimulate your child’s mind

2) teach a few new words in another language

3) introduce different cultures

I recently discovered the adorable and beautifully illustrated, “A Mango in the Hand” that delivers on all three! This new title from Abrams Books is about a little boy named Francisco, who goes on a mission to pick some mangos and has adventures along the way that are both entertaining and teach valuable life lessons. The book is written in English, but is full of Spanish sayings like “no hay mal que por bien no venga” (every cloud has a silver lining) and all the Spanish expressions are listed in a glossary at the end.

I had fun doggy-paddling my way through the Spanish phrases (neither Emmett nor I actually speak Spanish, but we both like the way it sounds!). The book offers a lot of chances to ask your child “what do you think that saying means?” and have an interesting talk about the challenges of growing up, making mistakes, and sometimes misreading people. I actually got a little teary at the part where the “crabby aunt” turns out to be the hero and teaches her nephew “amor con amor se paga” (love is repaid with love). I’m also a big fan of expression ”barriga llena, corazón contento” (full stomach, happy heart). I can’t believe they don’t have the equivalent in French!

Make sure to have some mangos on hand when you read the book, you’ll be craving one after you’re done!

If you like books that teach, look out for Little Pim books, coming out this summer! Your children will have fun learning words and phrases with their favorite panda in these colorful board books. There will be four books in all, starting with COLORS and FEELINGS, in English with Spanish and French lift the flaps and pull-tabs. Check back on our website or sign up for our newsletter to be the first to know when the books are released!

Little Pim Books – Colors and Feelings in English, Spanish, French.

Japanese Moms Come Together to Stand With Japan

Here at Little Pim, we’ve been keeping a close watch on the recent disaster in Japan. Our hearts are with everyone who has been affected by the recent earthquakes and tsunami. The magnitude of the tragedy may be obvious to us as parents, but it’s difficult to know what to say to your children, and how to explain it. We don't want to scare them, but we do want them to understand how we are all part of one interconnected world. This weekend, my family went to a festival organized by Stand With Japan, a new association of New York moms who set out to raise money for Save the Children's Japan fund. We took Emmett (six) and Adrian (three), to this family event that included a Japanese bake sale, origami making, and a koto recital (a beautiful Japanese string instrument that you can check out on YouTube).


Emmett had heard about the tsunami at school, and had also seen the wonderful movie Ponyo, about a boy and a half-fish half-girl who weather a tsunami in a small Japanese town. We had talked about the Japanese disaster a bit (one of his classmates is half Japanese and has family there), but I felt I hadn't done enough to help him understand how we could help our Japanese friends from right here in New York.

I think that an important part of raising “global citizens,” is helping our kids make connections between seemingly distant people and places and their own lives, which tend to be filled with very local preoccupations. In addition to giving kids the advantages of being able to communicate with people through speaking another language, it’s important to try and give them access and exposure to other cultures in any way you can. As adults, we sometimes forget that the interconnectedness of the world is not that obvious to children. We hear about Japan on a daily basis and understand both the human tragedy and its global implications, but young children need a helping hand to connect those dots. A cultural event like the one organized by Stand With Japan was great not only because we got to help raise money for relief efforts, but because it showed our boys several important things:

1. There are many Japanese people in our community – people directly connected to the same Japan that Emmett was told about in school.

2. Japan, and Japanese people, have a rich tradition they hadn’t seen before, from the costumes, to the food, tea rituals and music.

3. Most importantly, my kids were able to see how we can help people in the rest of the world though local efforts.

Although my boys aren’t quite ready for the delectable sushi that was on offer, through the sweet goodness of Sticky Buns and Red Bean cakes, they were transported for an hour or two into another culture, something I hope they will grow a taste for.

Q: Are there any local efforts for Japan that you can get involved in, or take your kids to? Have you gone to any already?

Take Action: Donate to the Save the Children Japan Earthquake Tsunami Relief

L'âne a diné: Watching My Son Learn French

Yesterday Emmett read his first sentence in French. It was “l’âne a diné.” Ok so “the donkey ate dinner” may not mean much to you, but it was a huge moment for me. I was proud and excited that he’s reading in a second language and reminded how important is to keep the teaching fun (he picked that sentence to read because it was silly!). This was part of Emmett’s French homework, which we do together every Sunday night before he has French class after school on Mondays.

If you have followed my blog, you know that it hasn’t always been easy to keep Emmett’s interest in French. I created Little Pim for him when he was a baby and we had a few good years of learning the words in the DVDs, naming animals and numbers, referring to apples as “les pommes” and singing French songs. Then around age four, Emmett, like so many kids of parents who speak a second language to them, started seriously objecting when I spoke French (as in, “don’t speak French!! “ and covering his ears) and it’s been pretty much an uphill battle ever since (he’s now six). So that I could let Emmett continue what struck me as an otherwise healthy separation/differentiation from his mom (rejecting what he saw as “my language”) but not letting his French slide, I brought in a wonderful kids’ French tutor (he loves her! saved!) and the French continued, despite occasional assertions that he’d rather play more soccer, see his friends or do just about anything else (I was unphased…Tiger Mom, move over).

In case you have a child who is not always 100% grateful for the foreign language gift you are giving them, you may share my moment of relief when I heard “l’âne a diné.” It was like suddenly years of reading him French books, playing French DVDs and insisting he continue French, just paid off. He can read in French! He has a good accent! He was actually pretty pleased with himself. This sentence means Emmett is just small steps away from accessing the French language, culture, films, music and so many other delights I wanted him to be able to experience as a dual speaker. So if your children are in one of the phases of “I don’t want to learn French/Spanish/Chinese/German…”, don’t give up! Your donkey will come.

This summer we are going to France as a family. I can’t wait to hear Emmett read the signs at the airport. Then, on to Proust.