Category Archives: Babies

Family friendly Japan 

Nursing room

A comment by the lovely And Three To Go on my “These are brilliant” post , made me realize that Japan is not synonymous with being “family friendly “. Here in the Kanto plain* it definitely deserves that accolade.  I have found living and travelling in Japan with young children to be very easy and efficient. Due to the number and standard of services and utilities provided for free in both public and private places, it is very easy to spend time out and about as a family, even with a newborn.

Pictured is one of many Baby rooms you can find in many locations throughout Japan.  You can see the taps for washing your hands. Paper towels are provided for free. This particular room has two nursing booths, where you can feed your baby in private, if you wish to do so, by drawing over the curtain. If you are bottle feeding the note on the wall says that you can receive boiled water from the staff. Often these rooms have instant boiled water taps or a burco in them. I have found that the rooms are always spotless and well maintained. 

I like that when we go out the door we know that wherever we end up there will, most likely, be some convenient family facilities available to us in our family friendly Japan. ????

*Kanto plain is the area around and including Tokyo. It is made up of the prefectures of Tokyo, Kanagawa (Yokohama), Chiba, Tochigi, Ibaraki, Gunma and Saitama.

These are brilliant!

We go out to eat a lot as a family, but with a newborn it can be challenging. Most of the aisles in restaurants in our part of Japan are too narrow for our Out and About buggy or our Graco double buggy, meaning we have to carry the baby.  There are restaurants with tatami floors where you can lie a baby beside you, as we have done in the past, but these come with other issues and concerns. We have eaten in some hotels that actually provide Moses baskets or some form of day bed, but for a casual meal out we prefer to go to a family restaurant. Therefore, dinner often involved hubby or I either taking turns holding the baby, or one of us wearing them in a baby carrier trying to coordinate hand to mouth without spilling too much food on the baby.  That is until serendipity led us to a family restaurant with bassinets for newborns or babies who are not yet mobile. It only took to our fourth child to discover these convenient gems, but better late than never. This particular bassinet was enjoyed in the Bamiyan on route 406 in Higashi Matsuyama. Unfortunately, not every Bamiyan has them, as we discovered at the weekend when the kawagoe branch staff had no idea what we were talking about!

If there is a place you like to go to while dining with a small baby, please do share in the comments. ????



Koala class, breastfeeding and Christmas decorations at my maternity hospital

PIC_3747LO#4 had “koala class” this past Thursday. Koala class is conducted for the newborn at my maternity hospital 2 weeks postpartum. Basically, the midwives check Mammy and babies progress. They physically check on baby too. Mom’s physical isn’t until 4 weeks postpartum. At the class they address any concerns you have and check how breastfeeding is going. If the staff feel that your LO needs further examination you get called to see the Doctor who comes to the room half an hour after the class starts and sees people in turn. This check up is free. 🙂

Baby chilling at the koala class. You can see the baby weighing scale in the background, for checking how much baby is getting each feed and for also checking their general weight.
Baby chilling at the koala class. You can see the baby weighing scale in the background, for checking how much baby is getting each feed and for also checking their general weight.

I could tell from the newly found double chin that LO was putting on enough weight, but it was great to get it confirmed. She’s already 4 kilos (approx. 8lbs8oz), that’s up 600 grams since the day she was born. I am delighted as often 2 weeks in, the baby is just returning to their birth weight. She is breastfed and I don’t have a baby weighing scales, but I could check on Thursday and she’s getting about 100 grams from me in one feed. It is easy to breastfeed in Japan as it is widely supported  and encouraged with many free facilities and services for breastfeeding Moms in public spaces.  The midwives at the koala class offer great guidance for new Moms and provide useful tips for veteran Moms on breastfeeding (among other) issues. They also check that the baby is latching on correctly and getting enough milk each feed.  Koala class lasts about 2 hours. There is no present with this class, but sometimes you get a free sample of something. This past week we got a  3 pack sample of Merries nappies. 🙂

Free sample of nappies and a booklet about newborns.
Free sample of nappies and a booklet about newborns.

I met two of my friends at the koala class, but in keeping with the Japanese tradition of postpartum confinement for a month, they headed home straight after the class.  My husband and my 3rd child met me in the foyer and we took some photos at the lovely Christmas tree on display, before we too headed home.

PIC_3744 PIC_3745

Day 0 of postpartum hospital stay; presents galore

Maternity goods for the birthing mother plus baby wipes

Day 0 is the day you give birth. Regardless of what time of the day you give birth, day 0 ends at midnight on that day. On day 0 the presents start before you even give birth. On being admitted to the hospital you get a huge bag full of essentials for the birthing mother. It also includes baby wipes.  You get two packs of Pampers newborn nappies for the baby too, which you will find at the bottom of the baby cart.

Big bag of goodies

After giving birth you have a rest period of 2 hours for a natural birth (3 hours for an epidural) in the LDR room (labour delivery room). After that you have sometime with your newborn outside the nurse’s office. If you have family waiting to meet the new arrival it is at this stage they will get to first meet the baby. After this period you are brought to your room. The room is full of goodies. 🙂

The contents of the big bag of goodies

My favourite within the big bag of treats is the toiletry bag. I got one for each of my children and used them until they were worn to threads. They have great pockets and compartments so rather than using them as toiletry bags, I actually used mine as an organiser within my baby bags, for holding wipes, cotton, food sachets, gauze, vaseline etc etc.

Toiletry bag

Also, within the big bag of goodies you will find a bag full of toiletries.

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Beautifully wrapped bag of toiletries provided by the maternity hospital for each patient

It includes beautiful soft cotton face towel and hand towel.

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It also has everything you need for your 5 day stay. Such as a toothbrush, toothpaste and cup for rinsing. A hair brush, a hair clip, a hair bobbin, ear buds, face wash, face toner, face cream, cotton pads, a body sponge, a cup and drinks (herbal tea, green tea, black tea and soup).

Cup and herbal tea, black tea, green tea and soups.

Within the room you will find a nursing cushion, also yours to take home. I got one on each child and found them to be really high quality. They come with a detachable cover for washing and you can wash the cushion in the washing machine on a gentle cycle and it will keep its shape.

Nursing cushion

Depending on what time of day you gave birth, a member of the “room staff” may call with your “congratulations on the birth of your baby” present. The present has been different for each of the kids. This time it was a beautiful “memorial box” (memory box), a hand sewn piece of gauze, parchment paper to write your baby’s name on for the naming celebration and some Keiai cookies! This was my first time to get a memory box. It is used to house the piece of the umbilical cord you receive shortly after giving birth (for more information please read my article on this unique Japanese custom), which comes in a matching little wooden box (I do have one of these for each child). It also contains a case for storing your child’s baby teeth and the set comes with all you need to print your child’s hand and foot impressions.  It is one of my favourite pieces from all the presents we’ve ever gotten from keiai. 🙂

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The dinner I received in my room after giving birth.

Dinner in room day 0
Dinner in room day 0

Keiai Hospital official website: http://www.keiaihospital.or.jp/

 

DISCLAIMER: I had the most wonderful pregnancy and birthing experiences at Keiai Maternity Hospital, but before choosing any maternity hospital I recommend that you check it meets your personal requirements.

Day 4 in a maternity hotel

“Day 4” was the fifth and final day of my postpartum hospital stay for a vaginal birth on baby #4 (as the day you give birth is day zero). On the day you get released the hospital treats you to a hairdo in the hair salon on the 3rd floor. It involves a wash, head massage, hot towel treatment and blow dry. My appointment was at 9.30am giving me time to have an hour long sleep before it. It was much needed as I was up more than normal with little girl during the night. At least I remembered to take a photo of the garden illuminated by night, it just didn’t turn out well enough to post!

Part of the room
Part of the room

After my hair appointment I collected baby from the baby room and went to the last “nursing class”. Each day you are asked to join at least one session of group nursing, so the nurses can monitor your progress with breastfeeding. There are two main sessions each day at 1pm and 4pm, but on day 1 and day 4 for natural births, (day 3 and day 8 for caesarean) there is a session at 10am. You don’t have to arrive exactly on time, sometime in the hour is fine and up to 15 minutes early is also okay. We got some free samples on our last session. It was back to the room after, to put on make up and get changed and to gather all the presents and bags to come home with us.  Above the sleeping and sitting area of the room after the clean out. The sofa doubles as a bed, which you can pay to have made up for your spouse or family member to stay. If they do stay there is a family shower room separate to the shower rooms for patients. Each patient is also entitled to three “present dishes”; 3 free meals for a person of their choice, during your stay. You can use them or pay for meals for guests.

Fuji View where meals are served
Fuji View where meals are served

I used my “present dishes” on the lunch on day 4 with my husband and our 2 year old. MIL was supposed to use the 3rd present meal, but in the end she couldn’t come for the meal. I opted for a “children’s plate” for my 2 year old. There are 5 choices including an onigiri plate, curry or spaghetti. I opted for the latter. The portion size was very decent. A child of up to 10 would be happy with the size I think. It came with soup, salad and a dessert. Her table mat was a colouring page with colouring pencils available on lend. She also received a special treat of sweets in a plastic shaped pumpkin container as day 4 was Halloween.

Japanese noodles, lunch on day 4
Japanese noodles, lunch on day 4
Kids plate
Kids plate

She wasn’t the only one to receive a present; as luck would have it, every table in the Fuji View Lounge had a parcel at it. Inside was a lovely Halloween babygrow for newborns. That wasn’t the last present either. When you get discharged you receive a beautiful “birthday” cake, the professional photo taken of the baby on day 1 or 2 with a CD copy, and baby is wrapped in Keiai’s famous baby towel. We said emotional goodbyes and there ended a wonderful five day stay in a maternity “hotel”.

Halloween present
Halloween present
2 year old insisted on looking after the cake, so it got a little battered on the journey home! It still tasted delicious though :-)
2 year old insisted on looking after the cake, so it got a little battered on the journey home! It still tasted delicious though 🙂

The official website of Keiai hospital is http://www.keiaihospital.or.jp/

DISCLAIMER: I had the most wonderful pregnancy and birthing experiences at Keiai Maternity Hospital, but before choosing any maternity hospital I recommend that you check it meets your personal requirements.

Day 3 of a maternity hospital stay in Japan

Day 3 of a 5 day stay for a normal natural birth in Japan, the last full day (“birth”day is counted as day 0). The day of the facial and foot massage. Also, the last physical check-up for Mama, before discharge.

Buffet breakfast day 3
Buffet breakfast day 3

I took a selection of tastes for breakfast again on day 3. After breakfast I took a nap, waking in time for my 9.30 appointment in the beauticians, where I had a foot massage and facial complements of the hospital. The facial included a chest and head massage. It was wonderful.

Waiting area for the beauticians and hairdressers.
Waiting area for the beauticians and hairdressers.

Lunch today was my 2nd favourite meal throughout my 5 day postpartum stay in the hospital (standard for a natural birth). It was Italian cuisine and included bite size tastes of various Italian cuisine. I didn’t get a photo of the soup.

La zuppa di oggi. (Not pictured). Boeuf au vin rouge braise en sauce pour quelques heures, servi avec des legumes de saison. Il mio piatoo di asagne in una piccola speciali. Frutti de mare, samonkisshu. Insalata di stagione
La zuppa di oggi. (Not pictured). Boeuf au vin rouge braise en sauce pour quelques heures, servi avec des legumes de saison. Il mio piatoo di asagne in una piccola speciali. Frutti de mare, samonkisshu. Insalata di stagione
Italian lunch dessert. Dolci Misto Caffe Pane
Italian lunch dessert. Dolci Misto Caffe Pane

On day 3 you are requested to hand in the outfit that you want your baby to wear home on discharge on day 4. You can bring something from home or you can use the vest and one of the two outfits that are gifted on day 2 (in the goodie bag pictured in day 2 account). Keeping in line with her older brother and sisters, I chose one of the gifted outfits. The designer is one of my favourite for newborns; “Helianthus“.

Outfit for baby on her release from hospital, gifted from the hospital
Outfit for baby on her release from hospital, gifted from the hospital

In the afternoon, those of us who were getting discharged the next day had our last physical examination before leaving the hospital. This includes bloods, urine samples, weight and blood pressure check and an internal exam.

Dinner that evening was my 3rd favourite of the stay. Named “Creative Japanese cuisine”. It was as artistic as it was delicious.

創作日本料理 Creative Japanese Cuisine
創作日本料理 Creative Japanese Cuisine
Creative Japanese cuisine
Creative Japanese cuisine
“Creative Japanese cuisine”

The dessert, Japanese wagashi, was from a famous wagashi store in Kawagoe.

Dessert of dinner on day 3 from a famous store in Kawagoe
Dessert of dinner on day 3 from a famous store in Kawagoe

After dinner, I had my last shower and last use of the massage chair in the refresh salon. Once again I fell asleep before the nurse made her rounds and I was thankful that she didn’t disturb me as I knew from the following day, it would be a long time before I’d be so rested again!

Halloween Ornament
Halloween Ornament

THE OFFICIAL WEBSITE FOR KEIAI HOSPITAL IS: http://www.keiaihospital.or.jp/

FOR INFORMATION IN ENGLISH, WRITTEN ON THIS WORDPRESS BLOG IN 2012:

Keiai Ladies “Hotel!”, Saitama. General Information

Disclaimer: I had four wonderful birthing and pregnancy experiences at Keiai Hospital because it suited my needs. I always recommend you check that a maternity hospital meets your needs and requirements before you sign up to it.

Day two of maternity hospital stay

Day two brought more delicious food and even more amazing presents. It was also the day I got a professional massage in my room.

Breakfast everyday is buffet style. They have a great selection of Western and Japanese breakfast foods. The breads are particularly delicious and varied.  The breakfast I chose on day two;

A mix of Japanese, Europeanand Irish breakfasts
A mix of Japanese, Europeanand Irish breakfasts
This illustration indicates where to find Mt Fuji on a clear day.
This illustration indicates where to find Mt Fuji on a clear day.

I mentioned yesterday that meals are served in the Fuji View restaurant. It is so named, because on a clear day you can see Mt Fuji, which is about 160kms away from the hospital! The photo above shows you where in the window to look for Mt Fuji. I couldn’t see it in the afternoon on day one, but I sat with it in view on day 2, photo below.

View of Mt Fuji 160km away from maternity hospital
View of Mt Fuji 160km away from maternity hospital

After breakfast I got to choose a present from a selection displayed on the 4th floor. I chose the Summer Soft Bath Chair and a “baby’s 1st year” album.

More presents from the hospital.
More presents from the hospital. “Summer” Soft bath chair and album

Lunch on day 2 was sushi.

More sushi was brought throughout the mealtime.
More sushi was brought throughout the mealtime.

After lunch we had a meeting about getting discharged on day 4.

Hospital discharge meeting on the 5th floor
Hospital discharge meeting on the 5th floor

We received a light snack during the meeting.

Snack served at the
Snack served at the “hospital discharge” meeting

We were presented with a bag of goodies.

Bags of presents lined up for patients
Bags of presents lined up for patients

The contents of the bag of goodies!

Even more presents and free samples
Even more presents and free samples

The very delicious dinner on day 2 was Contemporary French cuisine served with cranberry juice. This was my personal favourite out of all the meals, not least because the dessert was an explosion of sweet delights. I didn’t get a photo of the 3rd course “Parfumee au Herbes avec Coquille Saint-Jacques Deux Sauce avec Petits Légume!

Contemporary French cuisine. Hors d'oeuvres.
Contemporary French cuisine. Hors d’oeuvres.
Contemporary French cuisine. Filet de Poisson fraisen Poeler
Contemporary French cuisine. Filet de Poisson fraisen Poeler
Contemporary French cuisine. Filet De Boeuf en cro te a la wellington
Contemporary French cuisine. Filet De Boeuf en cro te a la wellington
Contemporary French cuisine. Corbeillede Fruits de Saison, Cafe pain
Contemporary French cuisine. Corbeillede Fruits de Saison, Cafe pain

After dinner, having thoroughly enjoyed my massage in my room in the morning, I decided to leave LO#4 in the baby room to try out the electric massage chairs. These are housed in the “Refresh Salon” on the 3rd floor where you have your shower. They have had this facility since I had my first child 5 years ago, but I never made use of it until this stay.

Electric massage chairs in the refresh salon
Electric massage chairs in the refresh salon

After “refreshing” I picked baby up from the baby room and we went back to our room for the night. A nurse pops in every night at 9pm to see if you are alright. I must have drifted off after feeding little one as when I woke next it was close to midnight! The end of a very enjoyable day. 🙂

THE OFFICIAL WEBSITE FOR KEIAI HOSPITAL IS: http://www.keiaihospital.or.jp/

FOR INFORMATION IN ENGLISH, WRITTEN ON THIS WORDPRESS BLOG IN 2012:

Keiai Ladies “Hotel!”, Saitama. General Information

Disclaimer 2015: I had the most wonderful birthing and pregnancy experiences on all four of my children at Keiai Hospital between 2009 and 2014.  However, I always recommend that you check that a hospital matches your personal needs and wants for pregnancy and birth before signing up to it.

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.

**This post contains affiliate links to Amazon.jp** Insaitama.com as of June 9th 2017 is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.co.jp

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

To purchase on Amazon.jp (affiliate link):

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

To purchase on Amazon.jp (affiliate link):

 

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.

 

 

Hina Matsuri Activity – make your own jigsaw

Our hina matsuri puzzle after 1 year old's colouring was "amended"!
Our homemade hina matsuri puzzle after 1 year old’s colouring was “amended”!

My hits this week from the search terms “Hina Matsuri Crafts” has encouraged me to showcase some more of our Hina Matsuri activities. This activity can actually be used for any occasion and thanks to the Daiso 100 yen store (dollar / euro store), it is easy to prepare and the materials are quite cheap. I reinforced body parts and colours with my 3 year old and 1 year old while teaching them more about the hina matsuri display and it’s contents.  For more information on Hina Matsuri, Japan’s Doll’s Festival celebrated March 3rd, please visit japanniversary.com

The materials:

"Drawable Puzzle" from Daiso 100 yen store
“Drawable Puzzle” from Daiso 100 yen store
  •  “Drawable puzzle” from Daiso (other 100 yen shops may carry them too). Or paper, cardboard and scissors if you want to make your own puzzle board.
  • A pencil, pen and colours. Washable markers – see explanation below.

Method:

Hina matsuri image copied freehand from nurie.ciao.jp
Hina matsuri image copied freehand from nurie.ciao.jp

On the drawable puzzle use a pencil to outline a picture representing Hina Matsuri. I copied an image from a colouring page on http://nurie.ciao.jp/ a website introduced on Hiragana Mama’s blog.  It is quite difficult to draw accurately over the lines where the puzzle pieces meet, so I was glad that I outlined in pencil first. I then went over in a thin pen, so the girls could see the lines when they were colouring it in. It is useful to either draw on to the frame of the jigsaw or write which end is up.

With washable markers
With washable markers

They were sharing a puzzle, that is why I suggest washable markers. I used a wet wipe over 1 year olds colouring to fix it up after so 3 year old would be happy with the finished jigsaw. It doesn’t get rid of it completely, but it fades the colour and it also worked out as a nice touch for the platforms rather than having to colour them in perfectly.  Upon completion, the kids can enjoy making the puzzle or it makes a nice homemade present for the grandparents!


Just on a side note, those 100 yen drawable puzzles are a handy souvenir from Japan for children. We don’t have them at home in Ireland, that my friends or I am aware of, and the younger kids in the family and among friends really love receiving them. You can buy them in a pack of two 25 piece puzzles or a pack of one 40 piece puzzle; each pack only costs 100 yen.

Flying with small children; the hand luggage

{For THEE most impressive and detailed advice for travelling with kids, there are two blogs I can’t recommend enough. Please see Tips for travelling with kids (journeysofthefabulist.wordpress.com) and Travel (freebutfun.wordpress.com)}

As I struggled up the aisle behind a dawdling 4 year old, a clumsy 2 year old and with a 1 year old strapped to my back, my arms weighted by 4 winter coats, a big sports bag and a cloth shopping bag, I thought to myself am I mad to bring so much hand luggage. When I landed in Dublin having stopped over in Amsterdam with most of the sports bag contents untouched, I concluded I was. However, on the return journey, with woes of foregone journeys taunting me, I decided to be “mad” again and I was glad by the end of it all that I was. By the time I landed in Tokyo I had used all and ran out of some of the contents of my hand luggage.

What I have learnt about flying with young children over the past 4 years of flying solo (without my husband) with first one, then two and now three children under five is;

  • Anticipate the worst; and prepare for it
  • Distraction is the key

And what I have learnt to pack;

*Spare clothes for everyone, especially yourself. Having been thrown up on three times on one flight (turned out it was a tummy bug), I not only dress in old clothes that can be binned, I also bring at least 2 spare upper wear for everyone and trousers for the kids. Leggings are great, because they fold up small. This past flight 1 year old did a “code red” nappy, it was just everywhere. 3 year old spilled orange juice all over her. 4 year old got saturated by a gush of water from the bathroom tap. It can and does happen.

*Food, food and more food. On a long haul flight food is provided, but sometimes it is not to the taste of a young child (I recommend ordering the children’s meals, which you often have to do in advance). And sometimes it’s not to the child’s schedule. I bring at least one instant meal for each child, sometimes a spare, lots of healthy snacks and one or two not so healthy ones for when emergency distractions are needed. Don’t pack drinks in advance, because they will take them off you at security unless it is milk for a baby. They usually have ample supply of drinks on the flight.

*For smaller children; a nappy (diaper) an hour. Seriously, Murphy’s Law is the only law of the airs when flying with babies. Babies can be sensitive to the change and have upset tummies. Plus, if you are giving them more to drink to settle them and keep them hydrated it only makes sense they’ll go through more nappies. Every single time I have flown I have used at least 12 nappies and sometimes I’ve even given some to other Mothers whom have been caught out. Sometimes an airline will have some, sometimes they won’t and sometimes somebody else will use up their supply before you need them.

*Tissues and wet tissues.

*DISTRACTIONS. A lot of, if not all, airlines provide inflight entertainment on long haul flights. However, for young children they often can’t hear it very well, or they may not be in the mood for TV, or (as has happened me twice) the inflight entertainment system may not be working. It is really useful to have some things packed to keep them entertained. The list of possibilities is endless, depending on what your child likes. Having something they’ve never seen before in the goody bag usually goes a long way. If you want to pack light, what worked really well on one flight was buying the kids a new toy in the airport. It kept them entertained for a few hours. I like light things such as Origami paper and finger puppets. However, here are the 3 things I have found to be useful each time for children between one and five.

Activity Book

  • Activity books for their age group. Coming from Japan the “baby books” are brilliant as they are loaded with crafts (necessary supplies provided), stickers, stories, games and other activities. (The one pictured also came with a DVD, all for 700 yen). I always carry a small scissors and tape in the hand luggage, but these aren’t even necessary for some of the crafts. On our last outbound flight, 4 year old and 3 year old spent most of the time playing with these activity books. On the inbound flight they had activity magazines (Peppa pig and Thomas the Tank Engine), which weren’t as effective, but did keep them entertained for about an hour.

Sticker puzzles

  • Sticker puzzles. I brought both jigsaw and sticker puzzles on our outbound flight. The jigsaw puzzles were a bad idea. 1 year old got her hands on them and the pieces went everywhere. 4 year old and 3 year old enjoyed the sticker puzzles, where each sticker is numbered and you stick it to a corresponding numbered grid to make a picture.
  • WASHABLE markers and paper. This kept 1 year old happy on and off during the flight. She did draw on the seat and bulkhead while I was distracted with the others, hence I stress “washable”! On the inbound long haul flight 4 year old enjoyed writing in a notepad with just a pen for about an hour.

There you have it, the bones of the hand luggage I cannot be without. Don’t forget to visit Tips for travelling with kids (journeysofthefabulist.wordpress.com) and Travel (freebutfun.wordpress.com) for even more great tips.