Catching up

I had to forego blogging for the past few weeks due to travel, unexpected visitors and general hecticness in our lives. I have missed it! This is just a quick post to thank everyone who has followed my blog and posted comments in the last few weeks. I will spend the next few days reading and responding to the comments and then reading my favourite blogs – I am genuinely really looking forward to catching up on all the blogs I follow and love to read. :-) Hopefully, I’ll find some time to post too. :-)

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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.

Posted in Babies, Crafts, Spring Festivals, Toddlers | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments

Harold and the Purple Crayon activity

X and the Purple Crayon ActivityHarold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson is my children’s current favourite book. It was introduced to me by Isis Ixworth, a very creative, artistic and talented writer, currently working on her own children’s books. It really captures my 4 year old and 3 year old’s attention. It also engages my 1 year old, who normally potters around during story time. After researching it a little, it seems to be a “classic” in parts of America, but I had never heard of it until I read Isis’ post. Thankfully, although not available in our own library, it is available in Kawagoe City Chuo Library.(note on library collections below).

Harold and the Purple Crayon is the story of a young boy who goes for a walk in a world he draws for himself with a purple crayon. He gets tired and wants to go home to his bed, but first he has to find his window which he does when he remembers how to draw it. Crockett Johnson presents this imaginative story in a beautifully simplistic and an easily comprehensible style. Given that my children truly immerse themselves in Harold’s adventures, I wanted to do an activity that would interest them just as much. My 4 year old is very interested in writing at the moment, so I thought it would be fitting to make our own books and write our own imaginative stories with a purple crayon. I also had the advice of Expat Since Birth fresh in my mind; to encourage 4 year old to read English by having him read to his younger sisters.

My children are bilingual, with Japanese being their main language, although I speak English to them. My 4 year old developed an interest in writing Japanese, off his own bat, shortly after turning four. So I have been trying to support and expand his interest, while gently sparking the same passion in English. Today, he really enjoyed making his own booklet and then filling it with his own story. He was very interested how to write the words in English, he needed for his story. 3 year old enjoyed making the book too and then drawing for a short time, but she lost interest after drawing three pages. I thought this would be of more interest to her than him, as she is a visual learner and he is an auditory learner. Their little wonderful minds never cease to amaze me!

The materialsThe materials for making your own “book”;
purple crayon, paper, puncher, wool (or string or pipe cleaner or thread), scissors if you need to cut wool or thread

Using recycled paper, we folded the paper picture side in. The fold part is to the right of the page, the open part to the left. We initially put 3 pieces of folded paper, so 6 pages, in the booklet and punched holes on the open part. We then used recycled wool to tie the papers together. On the front page I wrote “and the purple crayon” and they entered their name above it. Then they drew their own stories. 4 year old ran out of pages, so I made a 2nd bigger booklet for him while he wrote key words on each of his pages drawn so far. He finished the 2nd booklet with thunder (as you do as an imaginative 4 year old) and wanted to know how to spell it, his first 7 letter word. Success! I think I will be keeping this book in the memory box. He really enjoyed regaling his story too and his little sisters thrilled in his performance.

Thunder and Lightning  Telling the story


English books at libraries in Japan

I have found that, of the libraries I have visited and researched, there is a good selection of “classic” English stories for children, especially those that were popular in the United States during Japan’s boom. I have found that newer titles of children’s books are not available in English, in this part of Saitama. However, between fairy tales and best-selling authors, such as Eric Carle, Leo Lionni, Beatrix Potter, Dr. Seuss and Maurice Sendak, there are plenty to choose from.


Other activities I have seen online for Harold and the Purple Crayon

Posted in Blog buddies, Crafts, Montessori / Kindergarten, Toddlers | Tagged , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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.

Posted in Babies, Blog buddies, Other, Toddlers, Travel | Tagged , , , | 16 Comments

6 easy activities with Valentine’s Origami hearts for preschoolers

DSCF2242

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.

P1000219

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.

P1000221

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!)

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Easy Hina Matsuri Origami Dolls

Origami dolls

This is a really easy origami craft that preschoolers and origami beginners can enjoy. All you need is the free A4 printables available on HappyLilac.net.  You don’t need to be able to read Japanese. The blue Dairi-sama printable can be found here. The pink Hina-sama printable can be found here.  My 4 year old was able to complete his origami dolls without assistance, using the easy to follow visual guide here on HappyLilac.net  . Again Japanese reading ability not required as the method is shown step-by-step in photos, as pictured below. Three old was also able to do most of the folding herself, she just need a little help for the last fold. They really enjoyed this easy craft and were very proud of their origami dolls!
Origami instructions for hina dolls

More easy Hina Matsuri crafts to follow during the week!

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Hina Matsuri Paper Cup Craft for Toddlers and Preschoolers

s-hinaningyokamikoppu

Photo and craft from happylilac.net

Hina Matsuri is the Doll’s festival celebrated annually for Girl’s Day on March the 3rd in Japan. Families display their Imperial dolls on tiered platforms or in a case from early February until Girl’s Day. Superstition has it, the longer the dolls are displayed past girl’s day, the longer it will take daughters to marry. You can find out more about Doll’s Festival in English on the following sites;

We have been enjoying Hina Matsuri crafts since chasing the demons away last Monday. Most of the activities I found online and in magazines are mainly paper craft and ideal for my scissors happy children.  The one I am blogging about today I found through Hiragana Mama’s unbelievably generous sharing of links and resources on her awesome blog.

This craft from Happylilac.net is easy and fun for preschool children. HappyLilac is a Japanese website, but even without reading Japanese a lot of their crafts are easy to follow from the visuals. This activity contains free printables of an Emperor and Empress; there is a coloured version and a blank version that you can use for colouring and then crafting. All you need with the printables is a paper cup, a scissor and either glue or tape.

The directions can be found at http://happylilac.net/hinaningyo-kamikoppu.html#tukurikata, they are also pictured below.

How to make the paper cup dolls

The materials can be printed out from the page linked above, or URL http://happylilac.net/hinaningyo-kamikoppu.html#tukurikata
dairi sama ohina sama

dan for paper cup dollsBackdrop for paper cup dolls Blank version of paper cup dolls for colouring

My 4-year-old and 3-year-old are accustomed to using a scissors as is the culture here in Japan. They enjoyed cutting out the figures and their accessories and sticking them to the paper cup. The paper cups I had to hand were a little big, but they still worked out okay. We used tape instead of nori (glue) to stick the figures to the cup and to make the “dan” (platform or tier) for the paper cup hinasama.  I quite like how they turned out, even without the cut-outs being cut to perfection, the platform being askew and forgetting to stick the lanterns on.

Paper Cup Dairi SamaPaper cup Hina Sama Paper cup on dan

Looking for more Hina Matsuri activities?

 EASY HINA MATSURI ORIGAMI DOLLS HERE.

Posted in Crafts, Festivals, Other, Spring Festivals | Tagged , , , , , | 13 Comments