Many moms in Japan, especially stay-at-home-moms and moms on a maternal leave, have a hard time deciding how to spend the day with her baby/kids. I am no exception. So I wanted to share my experience on how to spend an ordinary weekday in Japan with kids.
Common places Japanese moms take their kids on a weekday
Here are some of the places I usually take my kids:
1. Park: Of course. It’s the easiest to go to, it’s free, and safe. The downside is that you can’t go there on rainy days or days with extreme temperature (eg. over 37 degrees Celsius). I would like to take my kids to the park on rainy days too, but with two kids at once, I cannot handle it by myself. So I gave up trying. Another downside is that when schools are off, like on the weekends or a holiday, the big kids (elementary kids) are using the play area. Japanese elementary kids love playing dodgeball and tag, and so sometimes I feel it is dangerous to take two toddlers close to them.
2. Library: Some libraries have very good collection of children books. Some has a lot of English picture books too! In the city I live, up to 10 books can be borrowed per person. I often borrow more using my kids’ library cards too. Some libraries have nice carpet areas that can be used for families. Children books can be expensive, so I usually borrow them from the library first, see how the kids react, and if they seem to like it I will buy it at the bookstore. There are usually kids story telling events, sometimes even for babies, held at public libraries so I recommend you to check out the schedule!
3. Jidoukan: Jidoukan is also a very common place for moms to go to. Jidoukan （児童館）means “children house” or “child welfare center”. There is no exact translation for it, but for me it’s like a “children’s community center”. Basically it is a place for kids to play. Jidoukan has different regulations according to the local government, so it is a good idea to check the website before you go. In my city, jidoukan are open everyday except Sunday, from 9:30 to 17:00. Anyone under age 18 (and their parents) are allowed to come here. There are toys and children’s books that anyone can use for free. On different weekdays there are special programs for kids. In the afternoon, elementary kids who are members of the jidoukan club (mostly kids whose parents are both working and cannot be at home after school) gather here to play or finish their homework.
I have been to the jidoukan so many times! It is a great place to let your kids play safely. Also, it is a nice place to get to know other moms.
4. Shopping mall: Another great place to spend time with kids. Many shopping malls, like AEON, are family friendly. They have restaurants that have kids menus, kids toilets, nursing rooms, and kids play rooms. Sometimes they have kids events, like character shows or chance to play with special toys.
And the best thing is that I can have a bit of relax time at a cafe if my baby falls asleep!
5. Kids play space: Although I try to spend as less money as possible on a weekday, I occasionally take my kids to kids play rooms that costs admission fees. These are nice because the toys are much cleaner, there are more staffs on watch, bigger rooms, and toys are better quality. These places are nice to go on the weekday when it is not so crowded.
6. Grocery: If I don’t feel like going anywhere for activities, I simply take the kids and go grocery shopping. It’s not too interesting, but I can just put my kids in the cart and walk around, which is easier than having to constantly watch them run around. I can teach my kids new vocabularies, like name of vegetables, talk about what to have for dinner, and occasionally have them choose a snack they want. It’s a nice opportunity for kids to learn about the “real” world like how to buy things, how to behave in public, and so on. I try to avoid the evening because that is when grocery stores get busy. Morning time is best.
Other times when I’m just too tired to go anywhere, we just stay at home, play indoor games, watch TV, listen to music, eat snacks, and read books. These are nice days too 🙂