Web Resources for Planning a Family Holiday to Japan

Are you planning a trip to Japan? One of my favourite bloggers wrote a fantastic list of web resources she used for her last trip earlier this year. Please click on the link;

Web Resources we used when Planning our Family Holiday to Japan.

Tabletop learning games for preschoolers -reviewed and ISO suggestions

I grew up in a family that sat down together every Saturday night to play board / dice / tile / card games. It was a lovely tradition and I have very fond memories of that family time. Naturally, I wanted to introduce this family tradition to my own children. When my son had just turned three a very generous friend passed down some English language and universal games suitable for small children, that her own children had outgrown. We started playing as a family every Saturday night. They enjoyed it so much that I have since found time to slot it into our daily routine. After dinner, one of the kid’s chores is to clear and clean the table, before I sit down with them to play a game. On evenings my husband is home early, he joins in to.

Below is some of the learning games my 4, 3 and 1 year old enjoy courtesy of afore mentioned extremely kind and generous friend, or that I have bought online. I would like to add to the collection.  English language and Western style games for toddlers and preschoolers are not that readily available here in Japan, but the Japanese Amazon website has some (at a much higher price than in Ireland!). Amazon.jp has a particularly good choice of Orchard Toys toys and games, which happen to be our favourite to date. My Mom has also volunteered to pick me up a couple, that I can’t get here…. if I could only figure out which ones to get!  I’d love to hear what board or card games you like to play with your kids, please share your suggestions.

What tabletop games do/did you play with preschool age children? 

 

Here are some of the ones my preschoolers and toddler enjoy:
(disclaimer each of these games have small parts; toddlers, babies and children with oral fixation will need strict supervision).

Greedy Gorilla from Orchard Toys

Photo from http://www.orchardtoys.com/products/greedy-gorilla/
Photo from http://www.orchardtoys.com/products/greedy-gorilla/

The game comes with 1 greedy gorilla, 4 playing boards like menus with 24 matching healthy food cards and 8 junk food cards. If you place batteries in the gorilla it burps as you feed the gorilla the unhealthy food cards.  The recommended age for this is from 4 years old, but I can tell you my children have been enjoying this from much younger.  My 20 month old delights in feeding the gorilla, which due to its frequent use is slightly broken and burps for every food card you give it! Apart from playing the standard way, as a bilingual family, I like to use this game and its pieces for additional English learning activities. We use the food cards for naming and identifying, grouping and counting, and the menus for vocabulary reinforcement and reading practise.

The game helps develop 

  • Hand / eye co-ordination
  • Fine motor skills
  • Vocabulary
  • Reading
  • Matching
  • Memory skills
  • Observation
  • Following instructions
  • Taking turns
  • Positive perceptions of healthy eating

Shopping List by Orchard Toys

Photo from http://www.orchardtoys.com/products/shopping-list/
Photo from http://www.orchardtoys.com/products/shopping-list/

The Shopping List game comes with four shopping lists, four shopping trolleys and food cards. The object of the game is to match the cards to your shopping list and place them in your trolley. Just like with the Greedy Gorilla game, I have found this game very useful for additional learning activities. For example, in an alternative version I get the children to fill the cart with food they like by asking me, the shopkeeper, “Can I have X please?”.

The game helps develop skills in

  • Hand / eye co-ordination
  • Fine motor skills
  • Vocabulary
  • Reading
  • Matching
  • Memory skills
  • Observation
  • Following instructions
  • Taking turns
  • Winning and losing

Farm Dominoes by Tobar

Farm Animal Dominoes by Tobar

The classic game of dominoes needs no introduction, but these wooden farm animal dominoes are a great version for young learners.

The game helps develop skills in

  • Hand/ Eye Co-ordination
  • Fine Motor Skills
  • Recognition
  • Concentration
  • Observation
  • Taking turns
  • Winning and Losing

Honey Bee Tree Game by Early Learning Centre (ELC)
honey_bee_tree1

The recommended age for this game is from 3 years, but again my toddler has enjoyed this even from 6 months old. The object of the game is to remove the leaves on the tree, without letting the bees fall. The player with the most bees at the end, loses.

The game is GREAT for

  • Hand/eye co-ordination
  • Fine motor skills
  • Problem Solving

It also develops core skills such as

  • Concentration
  • Following instructions
  • Taking turns
  • Winning and losing

Zingo by Thinkfun

There are many versions of Zingo. The one we are enjoying now is the Sight Words version.

From the website http://www.thinkfun.com/zingosightwords
From the website http://www.thinkfun.com/zingosightwords

This really fun version of the classic game bingo is a big hit with all three of my kids. The game comes with 72 sight word cards, 6 double sided bingo cards and a zinger. One year old loves the Zinger which dispenses the cards and has a slot to re-insert them. It keeps her entertained for longer than any other toy in the house. Like the Orchard Toys above, this game has many different uses, for example, I use the sight word cards to make sentences with my 4 year old.

The game helps develop skills in

  • Sight word recognition
  • Hand / eye co-ordination
  • Fine motor skills
  • Vocabulary
  • Reading
  • Matching
  • Memory skills
  • Observation
  • Following instructions
  • Taking turns
  • Winning and losing

Phew! That took much longer than expected. They are the main learning games we are enjoying right now.  Other games we enjoy together include

  • Card games such as snap,
  • Memory card games such as Thomas Memory Match Game,
  • Peppa Pig Jumbolina,
  • Classic board games such as ludo,
  • Pavillion’s Farm Bingo,
  • Spotty Dogs by Orchard Toys
  • and some Japanese tabletop games too.

 

PLEASE SHARE TABLETOP GAMES THAT THE WHOLE FAMILY CAN ENJOY WITH  YOUNG CHILDREN. THANK YOU.

 

 

Kidzoona, Fantasy indoor play centre | OMIYA

Aeon Fantasy Kidzoona is an indoor play centre for children under twelve. Adults must accompany children. In my opinion it is best suited to younger children, such as toddlers and preschoolers up to the age of 6. The centre has a variety of toys, equipment and make-believe play areas, with dress up costumes, for children to engage in creative play. There is one area restricted to babies and small toddlers, who are not yet walking.  There is a convenience store located within the play centre. There is a baby room with a nursing area and changing facilities, but no toilets. To use a toilet you must leave the play area and need to obtain a re-entry pass first. Further information including address, access and price is below the photos.

Dress-up and Make Believe Exhibits

Young children will be creatively inspired by the great selection of pretend shops, restaurants and work places on offer.  Each come with outfits for them to dress-up in.  They can try, for example, a nurses outfit, a baker’s outfit, a fireman’s outfit, to name but a few.

Dress up Make believe exhibits

The post office area allows children to deliver post at a number of little post boxes within the creative play area. They can also collect the post from these boxes and then sort them in the “sorting office”!

Kidzoona Post Office Make believe

There is also an area with push along rides and construction site costumes and mini diggers.

Construction Site

Bouncy Exhibits

As you come in the entrance there is a flat bouncing castle without walls, which is safe even for toddlers. There are a few zorbs close by. The exhibits on the lower part of this collage both have ball pools within the bouncing castle.
Bouncy Exhibits

Areas for babies / toddlers

During busy periods the area below is restricted to babies and toddlers who are not yet walking.

Area for babies

The below area is for all ages, but it is a hit with toddlers as they can draw on anything and everything in this exhibit designated to free drawing.

Free drawing room

Toys and Sandpit

Below is just a sample of the toys. There are many not pictured, including some musical instruments and building blocks.

Toys and Sandpit

Amusement Area

All of the video games and rides in the amusement area are included in the price. For some you need to insert a special coin, which are readily available in big storage bins within the area.

Amusement area

Dining

There is a MiniStop shop on the premises, with seating areas beside it, one of which is Japanese style with zabutons for sitting at on low tables. These areas are dedicated eating areas; there are other seats throughout the play centre.

Ministop in Kidzoona

Further information:

URL: http://www.fantasy.co.jp/brand/kidzooona.html
Address: Aeon 3rd floor, 2-574-1 Kushihikicho, Kita Ward, Saitama
Train access: 12 minutes on foot from JR Nisshin station, 10 minutes walk from Tetsudo hakubutsukan (Railway Museum) station
Opening hours: 10am to 7pm
Price:
Please check the website for up to date details.
One hour: (oosted in 2014) 600 yen for children, 300 yen for accompanying adult
Monday to Friday (excluding public holidays): 1 day pack 990 yen for children over one; 490 yen for accompanying adult
Weekends and public holidays: 3 hour pack 990 yen for children; 5 hour pack 1,290 yen for children (includes a small drink), 1,490 yen for adult

Other indoor play centres in Saitama featured on this blog:

Saitama’s #1 free children’s centre? Ageo Kodomo-no-Shiro

Team Lab Islands | Lalaport Fujimi

Cats Eye Play and Sports Centre | SAYAMA

【Spo-cha】|Ageo

Mama Smile Making Mama Smile

The girls zorb! | Sakado Jidokan

Soyu Himitsu No Mori, “Secret Forest”; at Mallage, Kuki City

 

 

Teepees at Tokinosumika, Gotemba, Shizuoka

2015 – 2016 THE TEEPEES ARE NOT CURRENTLY AVAILABLE FOR PRIVATE HIRE

Tokinosumika Teepees
Tokinosumika Teepees

Are you looking for unique accommodation in Japan? Ever thought of staying in a teepee (tipi / tepee / wigwam)? If you like the outdoors and want to try something different, the tepee site in Gotemba is a cheap, fun and alternative place to rest your head, in beautiful natural surroundings. The teepees even come with a view of Mt. Fuji.

Inside the teepee
Inside the teepee

You can rent a tipi (teepee) from (2014 figures) 1,000 yen per person per night at the Tokinosumika resort, also known as Gotemba Kogen, in Shizuoka. The tent costs (2014 figures) 6,000 to rent, but it sleeps upto 6 people. The teepees are very basic. There are no toilets or baths in them, but you can use the toilets and the “ringo no yu” onsen (hot spring) on site for free. You can avail of the other onsens on site for a price. Sleeping mats are provided in the teepee and you get sheets and one face towel at check in. You can buy towels or rent other necessities, including a lamp and insect repellant, from reception. There is parking right beside the tent / teepee area, but only one carspot is dedicated to each tent. The tepees are located beside a free playground and air trampoline. There is a “pet hotel” beside the onsen with facilities for dogs. There are plenty of other activities and services available within the Tominosumika resort. Most of them are listed in the post http://daysofourlivesjapan.wordpress.com/2012/07/30/shizuoka-gotemba-tokinosumika-family-resort/

The Ringo no yu onsen available for free to patrons of the Tepees
The Ringo no yu onsen available for free to patrons of the Tepees

Check in is from 3pm and check out is 11am. The address is 719 Koyama, Gotemba, Shizuoka. The telephone number for teepee reservations is 0550-87-3700. For more information you can visit the official website of Tokinosumika (Japanese only).

The Pet Hotel
The Pet Hotel

Do you know of any other different / unique type of accommodation in Japan? Please share in comments so I can add to my wishlist of places to go! Thank you.

The playground at Tokinosumika, Gotemba, Shizuoka

Updated in summer 2015: The playground at Tokinosumika has undergone some changes and is no longer free for everyone, but they have added lots of attractions including bouncing castles and other equipment.

The playground remains free for children under 7.  It costs 800 yen for adults and 500 yen for children 7 and over, but guests of the resort get a half price discount. You can come and go as you please all day for that price.  At night part of the playground is used for the water, illumination and projection mapping show to music. Guests of the hotel also receive a half price discount for this show. Children under 7 are free for this attraction too.

Carousel and Mt Fuji

There is something for everyone in the “Big Bang” playground.  They have an area for smaller children which is on sand. It has slides and climbing and some spring rides. There is a choice of bouncy castles for older children, which have slides in them as well as other features. There is a giant inflated slide for over fives and it is quite steep and fast making it one of the most popular attractions. My favourite is the merry-go-round, pictured with Mt Fuji above. The featured photo at the top of this article is of the obstacle course, which is also inflated like the bouncy castles. There are see saws and wooden equipment too, including stepping stones, and in the summer there is a splash pool. There is an inflated jumping mountain for over threes. They also have events in the area some weekends and over Golden Week. A bonus is there is an amazing view of Mt Fuji (on a clear day) from all of the playground. (A lot of the equipment is pictured in the gallery below).

For information on the Tokinosumika resort in Gotemba, Shizuoka please see the post Shizuoka, Gotemba. Family Resort with accommodation, Hot Springs, Dining, Shopping, Sports & much much more.

Hotel Tokinosumika, Gotemba, Shizuoka

Hotel Tokinosumika of the Tokinosumika Resort

Written July 30, 2012, briefly updated August 2016

View of Mt. Fuji from our hotel room
View of Mt. Fuji from our hotel room

Our first visit to Hotel Tokinosumika with kids was May 2012. At the time my son was 2 and my daughter 15 months old. The room was ideal for them. It was a 10 tatami room with built in bunk beds, AND a Western type area of the room with two semi double beds, toilet, bathroom and sink. Futons are provided, which you take out at night to sleep on. It had a beautiful view of Mount Fuji from a bay window with two seats built in. The room was air conditioned.

The rooms are very reasonable (please see the link to the hotel below for up-to-date rates) and are charged per person. You can opt to have dinner included or not. You can use the hot spring in the hotel for free and for a reduced rate you can gain access to any of the other hot springs on the resort. You also get a reduced price for a lot of the attractions in the Tokinosumika resort, for example the impressive Big Bang Playground and Art Museum.

From the Hotel Tokinosumika's website, URL below
From the Hotel Tokinosumika’s website, URL below

(Photo take from http://www.tokinosumika.com/stay/tokinosumika/rooms.php)

The two down sides to the accommodation; there was a very faint smell of smoke in the room, but my sense of smell was heightened with pregnancy and DH couldn’t actually smell it all. The room wasn’t particularly sound proof and until about midnight we could hear a group of young lads having a great time. We were awake ourselves and that sort of sound doesn’t disturb our children when they are asleep so it didn’t particularly bother us. Added in 2016: On our last visit in summer 2016 we noted how much the hotel has aged and suffered from wear and tear in the last 4 years. The bathroom and toilet had some mold and dust. The place is in need of a lick of paint.

If you choose to have breakfast included it is buffet style in a large breakfast hall. Its not the best buffet I’ve ever been to, but its not the worst either. They also have dinner available, but with the choice of restaurants available within the resort you might prefer to venture out. The restaurants in the hotel have high chairs for babies and toddlers. Accommodation and breakfast is free for toddlers and they will provide you with toddler plates and cutlery to use. FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THE TOKINOSUMIKA RESORT IN ENGLISH CLICK HERE.

Up-to-date room charges and more information (in Japanese) on the Official website of Tokinosumika (linked).

Peter Rabbit Lodgings in Japan

There are lots of themed museums, parks, restaurants and hotels throughout Japan. Some are more famous than others, such as Disney Land and Sea in Chiba or Universal Studios in Osaka. However, it is not unusual to discover that an unexpected character has a place and a following somewhere in Japan. Previously, I have written about the Moomin themed park in Hanno, Saitama and the Moomin cafe and Bakery in Tokyo Dome City. Another surprising find a few years ago was a Peter Rabbit area (Beatrix Potter Reading Library, Peter Rabbit Gift shop and playground) in Saitama Children’s Zoo (Takasaka). Shortly after that discovery I stayed in a resort with Peter Rabbit lodgings in it. I recently revisited that resort and got a few quick photos of the lodgings while playing with the kids in the playground beside the lodgings.

Peter Rabbit Houses, Tokinosumika Resort, Gotemba, Shizuoka
Tokinosumika have a number of different lodgings including the Peter Rabbit houses in their “Slow House Villa” section, with great views of Mt. Fuji.

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Do you know of any other Peter Rabbit themed locations in Japan?