Category Archives: Toddlers

Free Resources for Setsubun

(Written January 2015) February 3rd is Setsubun in Japan, which marks the end of winter. A common tradition associated with this ancient festival is mamemaki or beanthrowing. Most families carry out this fun tradition at home, but you can also visit a temple or shrine to do it with a crowd. In Tokyo, there are temples that have famous people, often sumo wrestlers, throwing the beans from a dias out to the excited crowd. Most preschools and children community centres also mark the day with some fun crafts and activities.

The purpose of the festival is to rid your house of demons and welcome good luck for the coming year. Hence, we chant oni wa soto, fuku ha uchi “demons out, good luck in” as we throw beans out the door or at the head of the household who dresses up as a demon. To this end kids often make oni masks for the ceremony and/or for playing dress up.  If you eat the same number of beans as your age it is believed you will have good health for the year. You can read more about the festival on the KA International Moms website http://kajapan.org/general/setsubun-chasing-the-oni-away/ or on Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Setsubun

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Yesterday, in preparation for the festival next week, the kids and I talked about setsubun. 5 year old remembers it from the last 2 years and (just turned) 4 year old is learning about it in school. They make masks and holders for the roasted beans.  We will make them at home too. We practised some origami to hold the mamemaki roasted beans, there’s a link below to make your own. The beans are easy to come by in Japan at this time of year. Many shops sell commercialised mini-packs of roasted beans or nuts some with flavours. I bought ours from a home delivery shopping service, Coop. We will make demon masks next week. I wanted to share some of the setsubun and mamemaki teaching, craft and activity resources available online. Whether you are living and/or teaching in Japan, or a Japanese living abroad, or just looking for something to do with the kids on February 3rd, you will find something fun among these free setsubun art and craft resources. Most of these ideas are most suitable for toddlers and preschoolers.

Japanese Oni ; devils, demons, trolls or ogres

Japanese demons are depicted with 1 or 2 conical horns on their heads. They are often red in colour. They usually wear tiger skinned pants.

Oni Masks

 You can draw your own, or you can use the free print outs in the links below to make a mask for setsubun. There are a number of ways you can turn the free print outs or a hand drawn oni into masks. First colour (where necessary) the demon and cut it out. If you want to make a mask that covers the face you can stick a rectangular strip of paper to each ear and tape the open ends around an elastic band.  For a “mask” that is worn above the face, as per photo in mamemaki section, you can simply stick the cut out to a head band or even a cap or make your own band out of paper.

Oni Colouring pages

Free print-outs

Huge selection of coloured setsubun print outs: http://putiya.com/html/season/02gatu/season02.html

Oni Origami

An easy origami Oni (Demon) for toddlers and preschoolers
http://www.origami-club.com/season/2/fuku-oni/oni/index.html

Mamemaki holders

Mask that sits on the head and mamemaki holder made out of a milk carton cut in half

Mask that sits on the head and mamemaki holder made out of a milk carton cut in half

Milk carton setsubun mamemaki holders
One of the most popular and easiest kid’s craft for mamemaki holders is cutting a milk carton in half, piercing a hole in each side and using pipe cleaners as a handle. In the right hand (your left!) of my son in the photo to the left.

Paper cup setsubun mamemaki holders
One of the more original mamemaki holders I saw was on Hiragana Mama’s blog; a decorated paper cup.

Origami mamemaki holders
This year we are using origami boxes. This origami box paper craft is one of my favourite practical uses of origami.  You don’t need origami paper as this easy to make box uses rectangle shaped paper such as an A4 sheet of paper.

 

These are just some ideas and resources you can use to enjoy the Japanese February 3rd end of year festival by chasing away demons.  You can read about our setsubun last year, 2014,  here.

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)
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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.

6 easy activities with Valentine’s Origami hearts for preschoolers

Reposting from last year as it has proved very popular both with my own kids and as a blog post. 🙂

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These simple origami hearts, suited to young children and Origami beginners, were a big hit with my toddler and preschooler today. You can find the instructions and a printable version on Origami Club here, a photo of the instructions is also pictured below. The instructions are in Japanese, but each step comes with a visual that is easy to follow. Four year old was able to complete this from the visual instructions with no assistance, three year old needed some help. All you need is Origami paper or symmetrical paper that holds a crease.

Instructions for Origami hearts were taken from http://www.origami-club.com/valentine/easyheart/easyheart/index.html
Instructions for Origami hearts were taken from http://www.origami-club.com/valentine/easyheart/easyheart/index.html

After making some hearts, I came up with a few games using the hearts, that incorporated numbers, letters, reading and writing practice. We used recycled origami paper from other crafts to make 30 hearts.

1. ABC Origami hearts

When you finish folding the heart the front parts open up so you can write on the inside of the heart. We wrote a letter of the alphabet on the left hand side of the inside of 26 hearts.

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2. ABC match

Next, using our large ABC foam mat, we did a physical activity with the hearts. The kids got a heart each, opened it to see what letter they had, then matched it to the letter on the ABC foam mat. Once they correctly placed a letter they took another and raced to place it. They really enjoyed this activity.

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3. Word heart match

On the right hand side of the inside of the hearts I wrote various 3 and 4 letter words. I then put out a picture card with 3 worded hearts, one of which matched the picture. The kids had to match the correct word to the picture.

4. Claiming hidden hearts

Kids love to find hidden things, right? Hide the hearts (with words if you’ve done activity 3 above) around a room and have the kids find them. For older children, have them read the words inside the heart to claim that heart.

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5. Counting hearts on hearts

This one is based on a very easy activity on toddlerapproved.com I (heart) counting with numbers one to ten. For our version I drew 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 and 60 hearts onto 6 origami hearts. Get the kids to count out the hearts and then place the right heart on the right number.

6. Heart Cards

Finally, we turned the hearts that didn’t have too much writing on them into Valentine’s cards, by writing a message on the inside.

This filled up a whole afternoon with fun and number, letter, reading and writing practice to boot! And thanks to these activities I got my first ever Valentine’s card from my four year old, written by himself, unaided and unbeknownst to me IN ENGLISH* “I love you Mammy”. (*English is his 2nd language so usually cards are in Japanese… or squiggles!)

International Book Giving Day – with a bilingual twist! And City Chuo Library Kawagoe

This is a lovely idea I came across, for bilingual families to receive minority language books, thanks to one of my favourite bloggers Free But Fun posting a link to the innovative idea. It is very timely too, as just today I was pondering how difficult it remains to buy English books for children in our part of Japan. For people like me that is, who refuse to buy online for fear of becoming addicted to it! Today, we ventured to a library we hadn’t been to before. It has a much better choice of English books than the library we frequent, but with this great idea from Journal of a Bilingual Family maybe we’ll be receiving more English books in the post! For details of this fun and original idea for International book giving day, please see the blog linked below. For more on City Chuo Library Kawagoe, please scroll down.

The International Book Giving Day – with a bilingual twist!.

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City Chuo Library is situated in Sankubocho, Kawagoe, about a 20 minute walk from Kawagoe station. They have quite a good selection of English books for children, located on the ground floor. They have little tables with chairs for children to read at and “stadium seating” (3 rows! Pictured below) for storytime and kamishibai performances. You can borrow up to 10 books for 2 weeks upon securing membership. To become a member you need proof of your address in Japan in the form of an alien registration card or Japanese license. The card is valid for the 5 principal libraries in Kawagoe. Their system also allows you to return borrowed books to any of the 5 city libraries. These libraries include the one at the Kurasse building beside Kawagoe station and the large Nishi library, which also has a good selection of English children’s books. Like most of the libraries in Japan, the City Chuo Library has an online system where you can check availability of book and reserve them in advance. The system is currently only available in Japanese. If you wish to use the online facilities you need to create a 4 digit pin number when you apply for your membership. Membership is instant upon filling out a form.

The library has plenty of free parking, toilets, a baby changing area and a nursing room (pictured below). It is open 6 days a week, generally closing on Mondays. Tuesday to Friday it opens from 9.30am to 7pm. Saturday, Sunday and public holidays it opens from 9.30am to 6pm. The library will close for a computer system upgrade from the 12th of February to the 25th of February.

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The play area and sakura at Miyoshino Shrine | KAWAGOE

Shinto shrines are plentiful in Japan, almost every village, town or city has one. There are usually amenities available at popular and / or large shrines, including toilets, baby feeding rooms, vending machines and eateries. However, even the smaller shrines usually come with at least one piece of playground equipment. A lot of them have free parking, but in tourist areas it is not uncommon to have to pay. Typically, weekdays it is easy to find a free parking spot, unless it is during a shinto festival time such as the 7-5-3.

Miyoshino Shrine

I really love bringing the children to play on the grounds of a shrine. The surroundings are always pleasant and the grounds are well maintained. The atmosphere is serene and majestic as you enter by a torii onto a stone pavement. The area is usually surrounded by trees, some of which are yorishiro (place inhabited by a kami‘s spirit). There are purification fonts to cleanse your hands, the komainu (lion-dogs) guard the inner shrine, wooden plaques hang with visitor’s prayers and wishes, there is usually at least one minature shrine often with a fox, the diety of rice supposedly. The playground is usually to the side or back of the shrines.

Miyoshino Shrine

Miyoshino Shrine in Kawagoe is one of my favourite shrines to bring toddlers. The playground there is relatively new and the equipment is really suited to children under four. Young kids love the equipment in the shape of a train with climbing and slides. For older children they have a climbing frame, a flying fox, a spring see saw and there is the hill beside the playground that kids love to climb.  There are also swings and a sand pit for children of all ages. The sand pit is enclosed which keeps out the cats and keeps the kids in!

During sakura season this park is ideal for hanami with small children. There are only a few sakura trees, but they are mature and really beautiful in full bloom. It is a popular spot to enjoy a picnic under the cherry blossoms for locals, so do arrive early to secure a spot under a tree. There is plenty of other space on the grounds if you don’t manage to get one of the prime locations. 🙂

Kawagoe Tourist bus passing Honmaru Goten

Miyoshino shrine has free parking (very busy on weekends), toilets, vending machines, a small shop, a pay phone and a yaki-soba counter. There is also a rent-a-bike station nearby. It is right next to the popular tourist attraction Kawagoe Honmaru Goten, the only surviving building of Kawagoe castle.

Address: 2 Chome−25, Kuruwamachi, Kawagoe City, 350-0053

Rocking Christmas Tree

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I love the activity magazines you can buy for kids in Japan. I find them great distraction for the kids when we’ve been confined to home for a few days in a row due to weather or, as in present circumstances, due to sickness. This month I bought the Christmas special for preschoolers. It comes with paper crafts, mazes, writing practise, stories, spot the difference among other puzzles, two games you make from the materials they provide and a DVD. The DVD has “lessons” with Doraemon, Anpanman and Pokemon, cartoons such as Robocar Poli, My Little Pony and Mofi, different types of quizzes and “specials” with current popular characters such as kyoryuger, ania animals and mon colle knights. All for 730 yen, around 7 euro.
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One of the games in the magazine is a Rocking Christmas Tree. The tree and its paraphernalia come flat in the magazine with perforations to mark where to push the shapes out. The instructions for assembly are also in the book. Upon removing all the pieces, they are numbered to show you where to match two pieces. You don’t need tape to make the tree or the game pieces; they are made in such a way that by pushing one end into the other and opening flaps they stay in place easily. Another page presents the pieces of the game, which also needed to be separated at the perforation marks and shaped into triangles. The Christmas Tree when assembled rocks from side to side. The object of the game is to place pieces on the tree without knocking other pieces off by tipping the tree too much to one side.

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It was really fun to make with my 4 year old and 2 year old. 4 year old was able to make the game pieces himself without assistance. He struggled with the shelves of the tree that need to be added as it can be quite tricky to push the edges through and open the flaps at the other side. 2 year old needed a lot of help; she even found pushing out the perforations quite tricky. However, they thoroughly enjoyed playing the game once we had it all assembled. They played the game together for around an hour, longer than I had anticipated. 1 year old was itching to join in the fun, but once she got her hands on the game pieces they went straight in the mouth. What is it with one year olds and paper?!

Meet the pets!

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Our latest addition to a long line of wildlife pets is Kaeru-kun. Kaeru (カエル) is the Japanese for frog, and that’s exactly what he is! It is a popular hobby of young children in rural Japan to find and catch all sorts of wildlife. They keep them in pet tanks which can be bought at home and/or gardening stores.

Kaeru-kun joins 4 pet crickets and 2 pet grasshoppers.

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Thankfully, beetle season is over, but in the height of summer we had 12 beetles at one stage.  This is one of the biggest beetles we had on my husband’s hand.

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I am also grateful that zarigani fishing season is over. Zarigani is similar to a crayfish and they are abundant in rivers in the countryside. Here’s a zarigani the kids caught last summer. At least these monstrous things aren’t brought into the house, they release them back into the river after catching.

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There are other insects and animals kids in Japan like to catch, but at the moment my son is most interested in crickets and grasshoppers. He spends much of his preschool day out in the fields with his teacher catching all sorts of things. Some they let go off, some they keep, some he passes on to his classmates.  They are cheap pets, because the crickets eat cucumber and the grasshoppers eat grass. We have to research what to feed the frog and how to get our hands on it. If you are familiar with frogs a few tips would be most welcome!

Easy paper and wool Halloween wreath for kids

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This one is time-consuming, but it was worth it for the reaction of my kids to the finished product. They were so excited and delighted that I couldn’t get a good photo as they wouldn’t let the wreath out of their hands. I had planned for us to make three, but one was enough as I ended up doing most of the work! They lost interest as it was time-consuming, but they came back to it when it was time to put the finishing touches to the wreath.

We made the mini spider wreath using brown and orange wool, pipe cleaners, goggly eyes and part of a paper plate. I recycled material used for a previous craft, paper plate spider webs and bought both wool and pipe cleaners at the 100 yen store.

I cut a rim out of the discs I had cut out of the paper plates for the spider web craft. I wanted the wreath to be small as I knew the larger size would be too much for my 2-year-old, and has it turns out for my 4-year-old too. Simply wind the wool around the circular ring. It takes longer than I anticipated, even working with a small frame. We used two colours for a bit of fun.
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The kids then added pipe cleaners by wrapping them around the spider, two each side to make 4 legs each side. You could glue or stick them, but I find with young children the easier the better. We added two eyes from a pack of 30 I bought for 100 yen at Meets, a 100 yen shop. 4-year-old cut an elastic band and I weaved it into a piece of wool I had intentionally left hanging around the spider’s bum! The next step would be to stick it to the front door,but be warned your kids might not let you get your hands on it again. Tonight our spider wreath is sleeping with our wildlife pets at the kid’s request!
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