Category Archives: Play a day

Play-a-day is the term I coined for the challenge I set myself, for the kids and I, after the triple disaster in March 2011. Every day for a year, I either brought the children to a different play area or I did a new play activity with them. In October 2012 I started the project again, this time with less “new” places and/or activities, but still with the objective of doing something / going somewhere DIFFERENT every day of the year. I have shared some of our adventures in this blog;

New equipment at Isanuma Park, Kawagoe

Isanuma Park has a lovely adventure playground suitable for primary school age children, but younger children can also enjoy much of the equipment. Last year they removed a piece of playground equipment at Kawagoe Isanuma Park and started work on replacing it. The new athletic playground equipment is now finished and available for play. It is in keeping with the other wooden playground equipment in the park.

You can find this balancing challenge beside the climbing wall.

New playground equipment at Isanuma Park. A balancing challenge
New playground equipment at Isanuma Park. A balancing challenge

They also renewed a piece of the balancing equipment behind the flying foxes.

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Renewed piece of athletic playground equipment at Isanuma park

The net tunnel, which was closed for repair last summer and autumn, is now fixed and open to the public again.

Net tunnel at Isanuma Park
Net tunnel at Isanuma Park

Information

Address: 584 Numata, Isanuma, Kawagoe 〒350-0855 埼玉県川越市 大字伊佐沼字沼田町584

TEL: +81 49-222-1301

Parking: Parking is available on two sides of the park. The most convenient and largest is the parking lot opposite the lake.  There is also parking along the west side industrial area and by the small hotel and tennis courts on the North West side of the park.

By Bus: Take a bus for Kawagoe Green Park and alight at Isanuma Bouken no Mori, approximately 5 minutes walk from bus stop.

URL: http://www.city.kawagoe.saitama.jp/kurashi/sports_koen/koen/isanuma.html

NEARBY PARKS

More photos and/or information on Isanuma Park:
Autumn leaves at Isanuma Park

Splash pools in Saitama

New Ice-cream Shop at Enomoto Farm on Popular Cycle course

New ice-cream shop
New Ice-cream Shop at Enomoto Farm

Enomoto Farm in Ageo is frequently mentioned in guide books to Saitama with small children, due to the selection of bikes and push along toys kids can play with for free.  In more recent years, it also features in cycling magazines as a suitable place to rest and refresh on the Arakawa cycle course route.  Its most famous acclaim is its delicious ice-cream, which has been featured on TV. Some say its the best south of Hokkaido!

Last March the Enomoto’s built a new ice-cream shop on their premises. They tore down the old shop and replaced it, so the shop does not take away space from the play and rest area. The new shop has more seating than the previous shop.  At a guess it sits about 20 people. The picnic tables and toilets remain the same, as does the play area out by the BBQ pits.  They have added a cycle course map and information spot in the rest area. I don’t which came first, the information or the cyclists, but nowadays there are more cyclists than kids!

Enomoto Farm https://goo.gl/maps/URMH94sbvuR2

More articles about this farm;

http://insaitama.com/2-hanami-spot-with-toddlers-enomoto-farm-ageo/

http://insaitama.com/ageo-city-outdoors/

Cherry blossoms at Enomoto Farm
Bikes, Trikes, Scooters, Push along rides – all free to use
Information for cyclists
Information for cyclists provided in the rest area of Enomoto Farm
cycle route map
Cycle route map
Enomoto farm bbq area
BBQ Area with old tractor, swing tyres and flying fox to play on

New Year adventures. Kumagaya Sports Bunka park

There is a belief in Japan that how you spend your New Year’s is reflective of how your year will be. The New Year period lasts until the 7th of January. With that in mind, we spent those 7 days, the last of the kid’s holidays, out and about enjoying all this wonderful prefecture has to offer young kids.  It is representative of the variety of this prefecture, that even after 5 years of trying a different play location at least once a month, we can still find somewhere new to hang out near our home.

Playground equipment at Kumagaya sports bunka park
Playground equipment at Kumagaya sports bunka park

Kumagaya sports park is massive. It has all sort of pitches and sports areas, as well as a stadium and a dome arena. My guess is that the stadium and the dome arena will be used for the 2020 Tokyo olympics.  Near both the stadium and the dome is a playground, particularly suited to kindergarten and primary school age.  The park and its facilities are hosts to many events throughout the year.

Circular climbing frame
Circular climbing frame

Climbing frames
Climbing frames

The playground is located near the dome. Parking areas 4 and 6 are the closest, but they are still a fair distance away. We parallel parked along the small public road that runs along the side of the playground area. 5 year old and (then) 3 year old loved the circular climbing frame as well as the other climbing equipment. 2 year old was able for some of the climbing equipment, but she wasn’t able for the circular climbing frame. She enjoyed the sandbox.

Kumagaya is commutable from Tokyo. It is easily accessible by a direct train line from areas of Tokyo, such as Ueno on the Takasaki Line or Shinjuku on the Shonan Shinjuku Line. The park is an approximate 12 minute taxi ride from Kumagaya station.
ADDRESS: 300 Kamigawakami, Kumagaya-shi, Saitama-ken 360-0004
TEL: +81 48-526-2004

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Cardboard Art Exhibition / Play attractions at Sayama Municipal Museum

Sayama Municipal Museum, Saitama, is currently holding a “Cardboard Art” 「ダンボールアート] exhibition, until the end of August 2014. Children under 15 years old are free in. High school and university students cost 100 yen and all other adults cost 150 yen. There is a flyer in the lobby with a discount ticket: 60 yen for students over 15 / 100 yen for adults.

Address:

      23-1 Inariyama, Sayama, Saitama

Access:

      The museum is a 3 minute walk from the Inariyama kouen station on the Seibu Ikebukuro Line or you can get a bus from the west exit of the Seibu Shinjuku Line Sayama City Station to Inariyama koen.

 

      15 minutes from Hidaka Interchange. Free Parking.

Phone:

      04-2955-3804

URL:

      http://www.city.sayama.saitama.jp/manabu/museum/

There is a cafe on the grounds. It is buggy / pushchair friendly.

 

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)
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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.

 

 

Kawagoe Sports Park | KAWAGOE

Written in 2013, updated in 2017.

The first time I visited Kawagoe Sports park (川越運動公園)I wasn’t all that enamored with it.  From the point of view of a parent, there is little to entertain older children and it is most suited to a small child.  However, they have recently upgraded the playground and so I have upgraded the park from a 2 star rating to a 3 star rating! Toddlers and preschoolers will enjoy this colourful playground.

The main combination unit of the playground has three slides. One is a tunnel windy one and two are bumpy ones.  There is also a climbing net, a climbing wall and stairs.  There is a smaller combination unit for toddlers. It has some small climbing activities and two colourful slides. There is a giraffe statue in the centre. There is climbing net activity for all ages beside it with fish statues on the top of the poles that support the nets. On the right of the playground is a flying fox type activity.  There is another play area right beside this playground, but they are separated by fencing. It is where the sandpit and spring rides are. There are also some fun audio aural play equipment in the sand pit area.

The park is officially a sports park. It is home to a sports hall with a number of facilities. There is also an athletic track in the park. There are plenty of benches and seats in the park and some picnic tables too. The park boasts a mini bell tower, a symbol of Kawagoe. There are some cherry blossom trees in the park. In the summer they have a very small wading river.

The official hours of the park are 9 am to 9 pm. Parking is free and abundant. However, when there is a big sports event on you may have to use one of the overflow car parks which are a bit of a walk away. There is a bus terminus there, one of the buses goes to Kawagoe station. There are toilets and vending machines.

 

Nearby Attractions

 

Cherry Blossoms at Isanuma Park | Kawagoe

Isanuma park in Kawagoe is a popular spot to enjoy Hanami for locals. There are cherry blossoms along the river at the playground as well as cherry blossoms lining the street that separates the lak…

Source: insaitama.com/cherry-blossoms-at-isanuma-park-kawagoe/

 

Play areas at Shinto Shrines

Shinto shrines are plentiful in Japan, almost every village, town or city has one. There are usually amenities available at popular shrines, including toilets, baby feeding rooms, vending machines …

Source: insaitama.com/play-areas-at-shinto-shrines/

 

Best of Saitama | Maruyama Park, AGEO

Maruyama park is frequently listed in Saitama’s top 3 list of parks. It is personally one of my favourites.  I love that although the park isn’t massive, there is so much to do and see …

Source: insaitama.com/maruyama-park-ageo-city/

New Ice-cream Shop at Enomoto Farm on Popular Cycle course

Enomoto Farm in Ageo is frequently mentioned in guide books to Saitama with small children, due to the selection of bikes and push along toys kids can play with for free.  In more recent years, it …

Source: insaitama.com/new-ice-cream-shop-at-enomoto-farm-on-popular-cycle-course/

 

紅葉 Autumn leaves at Mizohata Park, Sakado

I tried a new park today. It’s a bit of a hobby of mine to find new places to bring the kids, can you tell!? The park is Mizohata Park in Sakado, only a 2 minute walk from Kitasakado station and quite close to the Sakado Jidokan (free children’s community centre).  It’s a small park; basically a playground and green open space cum baseball field. It has toilets, but what park in Japan doesn’t? It also has free parking, about 20 spaces.

The playground has a unique piece of playground equipment; a flying-fox-coaster. That’s my made up name for it, not sure if it has an official name. It’s a flying fox that goes around and up and down, reminded me of a rollercoaster… take a look at the photo “flying fox” in the gallery! It also has a very basic little maze, visible in the first and second photo in the gallery, with fun play areas in it such as a tunnel, a little house and a slide. There are lots of speaking tube toys; where tubing connects sound horns and other speaking boxes to allow voices to travel to separate points. There are 3 slides, two built like animals and one is a roller slide, 4 swings, a sandpit and 4 spring animals/ vehicles.

Most of the leaves have fallen as you can tell in the photos, but as you can see there was some nice foliage left in parts.

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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