Unforgettable Japan Part 1: Osaka

My three and a half-year old prince is totally hooked on the most enormous and fearsome creatures. He is especially nuts about dinosaurs and sharks. And to him the bigger they are, the better! With him around, even my one year old princess can recognize these creatures and utter the words dinosaur and shark. Last month, our family of four visited Japan. Not only did we meet the friendly whale sharks, had a Jaws Adventure, laid above a fish tank while admiring sharks swimming next to us, we came face to face with dinosaurs and prehistoric fossils!

Osaka

Japan is a great place to travel with kids. If you stay in a minshuku or ryokan, you get to sleep on a futon mattress on the tatami floor. This means you do not need to get a connecting room for kids (which can be costly) and absolutely no worries of them falling off the bed in the middle of the night.

Sweet Dreams

Unlike a hotel, kids usually pay a lower rate when staying in ryokans and for a kid or infant sharing a futon with a parent, there is usually no charge (though some ryokans charge a small fee). Travel on Japan Rail is also free for kids under the age of six!

We stayed at a minshuku 5 minutes away from the Osakako Station. For a big city in Japan, the Osakako area is considered a quiet area to stay. It is also convenient as the Kansai Airport Limo stops at the Tenpozan at Osakako. What’s at the Tenpozan? The enormous tanks of the Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan, IMAX, Suntory Museum, numerous F&B outlets and the Tenpozan Ferris Wheel.

I highly recommend the Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan.

An encounter with the whale sharks (there were two of them!) is an awesome experience and simply unforgettable!

Knowing that he was going to meet these enormous creatures, my prince happily packed his toy whale shark ‘Spot’ so that it could meet its mummy and daddy at the aquarium!  He still talks about them on a regular basis!

While  the two whale sharks are the stars of the Kaiyukan, kids will also love the other exhibits such as dolphins, rays, seals, penguins, crabs, otters, porpoises and not forgetting the magnificent jellyfishes.

Giant Crabs

Magnificent Jellyfishes…


More Jellyfishes…

Hammerhead shark

There is even an area to the front of tanks set aside for young children and people with disability to see the creatures in the enclosure easily.

Happy Feet!

Rays

Nicely tugged in a corner behind the Tenpozan food court is an area housing small but famous restaurants which used to exist in a certain district of Osaka. I highly recommend that you try the omurice (butter rice served in an omelette) with katsu (deep-fried pork) and brown sauce. It was yummy and kids would love it! Food choices at Tenpozan are nothing short of the abundant!

My princess using her toy excavator on my omurice! Oishi!

In the evening, bring the kids for a ride on the Tenpozan Ferris Wheel! The view of the harbour,  Universal Studios Japan in the bay opposite and bridges is breathtaking!

Universal Studios Japan is another fun stop for kids and the kid in us!

With my prince and princess’ interest in sharks, how could we miss the Jaws ride. Kids enjoyed the ride while parents had fun too! I am not sure if there is an age limit for this ride as my princess was only one.

Which little girl can resist the charm of Hello Kitty?

My princess was entertained by her favourite ‘Kitty’ and Sesame Street characters. She kept repeating ‘Elmo! Elmo!’ that I chased after the bus till it entered a private zone! Which bus? Here it is:)

My husband and prince enjoyed the Spiderman amusement ride and my son loved the shop in Jurassic Park! Here’s his treat of the day, a Spinosaurus- the biggest land predator ever!

The famous covered shopping street in Osaka Namba area is a popular tourist hunt.

For any crafter, I reckon that this is the most convenient place to visit for fabric shopping. Afterall, it combines sightseeing and fabric shopping hence less room for husbands to nag:) It is also a stone’s throw from Den Den Town where you get to check out the latest electronic gadgets. Best of all, it is a covered shopping street so your shopping experience is less likely to be affected by weather conditions.

Even though there is only one fabric store at Ebisibashi, The Sew Convert is certain that you will find something you’d love especially if you are a Japanese fabric fan. I did and I only managed to browse through level one of Toraya. If you see any item you like, tell the helpful store attendants how many meters you’d like to buy. They will send instructions upstairs through some air pipe system for your fabric to be cut and give you a receipt. Wait for around 5 minutes and your fabric should be at the cashier.

Don’t miss the remnants section at the side of the store. Most of these are in one meter rolls. Lots of lovely fabric selling at a fraction of the price! Oh..and remember to bring cash as I didn’t see any credit card service at the cashier!

Next Sat: Unforgettable Japan Part 2: Fukui

Vintage Vroom!

Boys will be boys!

My son loves all modes of transportation especially cars, trucks and trains. As he adored the elephant top (below) I made, I’ve been motivated to sew him more clothings. My latest creation is this vintage car outfit. I drew the sewing pattern myself and found this really cute vintage car designer fabric at Spotlight which was on sale for $8 per metre. I used a contrasting fabric for the trimmings and cute little pocket. 3D cars were then sewn on a white tee for the top. Can’t wait to see him in it!

Sewing Pleasure!

Sewing has been a chore for me…until now. Not because I didn’t enjoy creating stuff. I did and I do. But, my creative outlets have always been oil painting, scrapbooking or even baking…never sewing…until now. Somehow, knowing that I was going to have a baby girl changed my perception and I have been so inspired by the talented artisans on etsy that I’ve actually started sewing or hand stitching…I’ve not invested in the sewing machine…yet!

First, I bought Bond baby singlets (6 to 12 months) from Australia and sewn colourful yo-yos and buttons onto them. Here’s an example of the one in Lavendar.

And I’ve just finished stitching a really pretty pair of felt booties (newborn to 3 months size). Adorable aren’t they? The free pattern is available at http://www.heatherbaileydesign.com/Booties.html so you can give it a try as well!

It’s a fabulous feeling creating something from scratch for your princess!

DIY PERSONALISED ONESIES

Iron-ons are really easy to use and absolutely fun for creating unique pieces for your baby. This is especially so if you can’t sew, like me. These are a couple of pieces I personalised for my baby last Friday. All you need is some plain onesies, iron-ons (which you can easily purchase from Art Friend or Spotlight) and some creativity.

Here’s a plain black onesie, now with golden embellishment.

And the common white onesie made unique with colourful letters and details.

My husband actually thought these were new handmade stuff I bought from the US!
I have so many new ideas and have been so inspired by handmade clothes that I shall learn how to sew and get myself a sewing machine one day. Create, create, create. Perhaps, one day I will be giving away some of my happy creations, just like Grosgrain. Spread some happiness around!

FOR THE LOVE OF BOOKS!

Since my son played more independently when he turned 9 months old, I started reading while he played. I suppose children truly love to imitate and within a short period, he started to show an immense interest in books. Kids love repetition and my boy will request for certain books every single day till he knows them inside out 🙂 When it comes to reading, I am definitely an advocate for it to be kids directed. To encourage his interest, I have acquired books on topics which he finds fun.

Below are some of his favourites:

All Around Us by Eric Carle was a gift from my friend Joanne and the first series my two-year old read aloud. While he is still learning to recognise words, the pictures help him with recall. My husband and I sit amused whenever he is going through each page with a serious look on his face and reciting “The sun shines”, “rainbow shimmers”, “bears hibernate”, “miners dig” and so on.

He also enjoys the Mr Croc series and some of the Lucy Cousins titles as they are so creative, imaginative and fun to read! He will sometimes think of the content while he is at play and says them aloud “Mr Croc, are you ready or not?” “Yes and I’m coming to eat you!” is his favourite line of the moment.

Boys will be boys! Books on vehicles have always been his hot favourites. I was impressed when he said “Nee naw, Nee naw, the big red fire engine is on its way. Splish, splash, hiss, fire is out!” when playing with his toy fire engine! These were part of the text from his Fire Engine storybook!

Karen Katz books are often on his request list too as they teaches about relationships, manners and even potty training!

My son adores What’s Wrong with My Hair by Satoshi Kitamura. It’s an immensely interactive book which engages the reader and invites participation as you can see below.

Reading has definitely helped in shaping an imaginative mind. My son made up his first story two weeks ago. He held his toy panda to my husband and said “Panda is sad.” He brought the panda over to his old crib where there’s a picture of another panda and said “Papa panda kisses panda and panda is now happy!”

I feel very blessed that I am living in the East of Singapore. There are often book sales by Times, Borders and Popular at the Singapore Expo where I bought most of these titles from and at a fraction of their original price!

BABY TV?

I have friends who totally banned their children from watching television programmes while others allowed theirs to watch anything on-air.

My son is allowed to watch only the educational videos I’ve specially selected for him. Between 6-12 months, he was allowed half an hour a day of programme viewing. Now 2, he can watch the programmes for an hour, twice a day. I would like to recommend the following videos which I found beneficial for the very young. I’ve also indicated the age group I feel these are suitable for. I must however emphasise that it is important to reinforce and revise the learnings from these programmes for them to be effective. I usually watch them with him and will sing the songs from the programmes to him at meal times. Now that he is older, he actually sings with me 🙂
Baby Signing Time (Suitable for 6-12 months)

The two volume series teach babies to sign with wonderful songs, actions, animation and images of other babies signing. My son signed and said ‘dog’ at 6 months of age and was able to communicate with us words such as ‘more cracker’, ‘more water’, ‘cold’, ‘hot’, ‘hurt’, ‘thank you’, ‘sorry’ and many more, first through sign language and very quickly both signing and saying those words. Off course, parents will need to know the signs too for communication to be effective.

The series is now available at http://www.terrifictikes.com/babysigning.html

Baby Einstein (Suitable for 9 months-2 years)

There are quite a number of titles under Baby Einstein series. In particular, my son enjoyed the following:
1. Baby da Vinci which taught him the various body parts. I also found it useful singing and naming body parts when bathing and changing my son since birth.
2. Baby Noah which taught him about animals in various parts of the world. Off course, our frequent visits to the zoo reinforced his interest and knowledge in this area.
3. Numbers Nursery taught him to count from 1 to 5 and to recognise these numbers. My son can now count to twenty as that’s the number of stairs we have at home and I normally repeat them to him while going upstairs.
4. Baby MacDonalds taught him about animals and produce found in farms.
With his growing interest in animals, my husband and I also read many books on animals to him. I will make some recommendations in my next blog.
These videos are available from most baby departments.

Leap Frog Letter Factory (2 years onwards)

This is probably the best way to teach phonics to your kids. My son only watched this twice and remembered most of the letter sounds. I revise it with him by repeating the songs which he sings with me. Now, he not only knows all the sounds letters make, he is able to tell me ‘The A says /a/, armadillo or airplane’, ‘The B says /b/, bird’, ‘The C says /c/, catepillar’, ‘The H says /h/, horse or hippopotamus’, ‘The M says /m/, mummy’ and so on. It also helps that he has just started his zoo toddler enrichment class at zoophonics. However, at this level, phonics is only a small part in the curriculum as the class also includes other activities such as singing, dancing and drawing. Available from amazon. Alternatively, you can email Tina at twister_1_8@yahoo.com (whom I got mine from) to check if she has any stock available.

A GOOD START FOR EVERY PARENT

I’ve read quite a number of parenting and baby development books. Glenn Doman, “Supernanny” Jo Frost, the ‘What to Expect’ series and many more. In terms of practical application and knowing exactly how to look after a newborn, particularly in the areas of breastfeeding and sleeping, nothing comes close to The New Contented Little Baby Book by Gina Ford ($31.14 at Times).

Ford might not have the PhD nor a TV series but she is UK’s best selling childcare author and her book is based on her own experience with over 300 babies and their families in different parts of the world. I wished I read her book before I had my first baby! With the impending arrival of my second and after reading her book, I feel more confident as a parent. Not only do I recognised what I’ve done right in my first parenting experience, I know what I’ve done incorrectly which has led to sleep association that is difficult to change and which I am still trying to correct this very moment. Her tips on how to increase breastmilk production to cater for the baby’s periodic growth spurts are invaluable and spot on! The only part I don’t really agree with is the use of a pacifier. While Ford feels it is all right to use a pacifier so long as the baby is not allowed to fall asleep with it, I do not see a need for that, have never used it and my son has never asked for it.

Nonetheless, this is a practical, easy to read book on developing a routine from birth. One that will not only benefit the baby but the parents in the long run. Contented & calm baby, contented & confident parents.