Rainy days are the worst when you have an active toddler. By 9:30 a.m., we have already played with all the toys, watched 700 episodes of Sesame Street, and read Brown Bear Brown Bear 52 times.
Toddlers seem to get into more trouble on rainy days. Just the other day, while we were stuck inside on a rainy day, my daughter covered the hardwood floors in crayon in the time it took me to walk into the kitchen to stir a pot on the stove.
For my own sanity, we cannot possibly stay in the house all day long, day-in and day-out during the Iwakuni rainy seasons. My children never want to nap if we have been in the house all day. Sometimes I resort to just driving around base until both kids fall asleep, so we can all get a little rest.
After several months of living in Japan, I have found a few easy spots to take my toddler and infant to on rainy days (some on base and some off), so they can expend some energy.
Here are 5 easy rainy day activities listed from easiest (i.e., walking distance and free) to still-pretty-easy (i.e., driving required and small cost) if stationed on Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Iwakuni, Japan.
New Parent Support Program (NPSP)
Luckily you do not have to be a “new parent” to utilize these services. NPSP offers Free Play in its office every Tuesday and Thursday from 10-11 a.m. It’s located on the second floor of the Library building. The room is filled with all sorts of toys from blocks and puzzles to race cars and a play kitchen. I believe I have even seen a dancing robot in there. It is the perfect spot on rainy days. I can sit and chat with other moms while the little ones discover new activities. NPSP also offers Toddlers & Tunes on Wednesdays from 10:30-11:30 a.m. in the Chapel Nursery. This is an interactive playgroup that includes music and movement for both child and parent.
NPSP is walking distance from all Family Housing on MCAS Iwakuni and is free to military personnel and their families.
The USO is located on the corner of Leatherneck Drive and Lightning Avenue. It is walking distance from most Family Housing and is air conditioned, which is a huge plus during the summer months. The USO is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. during the week and has an indoor children’s play area along with board and table games for the older kids. This is a great place to bring the kids on rainy days or if you just need to get out of the house for a bit to relax and have a snack. They also offer Tot Time once a month, which is a good opportunity to relax, have a cup of coffee, and meet other parents while the tots have fun making crafts and playing games.
Strike Zone Bowling Center
Never in a million years would I think to take my toddler to the bowling alley until a friend invited us to join them one rainy day. The bowling alley has 20 professional lanes, some of which can be converted to bumper lanes for the kids. They also have bowling ramps available to assist the kids. Basically the adult sets the ball on top of the ramp and the child pulls the lever to release the ball. My daughter thought this was the bee’s knees. She squealed with glee every time the ball rolled down the ramp and smashed into a pin. After bowling a few rounds, the kids can burn off even more energy in the indoor play area. Strike Zone also has a pretty decent restaurant/grill inside if you are missing the taste of American style cheeseburgers. Though the bowling alley is located on base, depending on where you live, it may be more convenient to drive. There is also a small fee associated with renting the lanes. (I believe I paid about $7 for four kids to bowl for two hours.)
Kodomokan is a local indoor play facility located a few miles off-base. A friend took us here while we were still living in temporary housing, and it was one of our very first experiences off-base. I was blown away by all the activities available for small children. It is set up much like a Montessori school; every toy has a place (marked by a photo) and is expected to be returned to its place once the child is through playing with it. There also is a gymnasium with space for children to run, tumbling mats, several ride-on toys, and an obstacle course. My daughter could stay here all day, and sometimes that is exactly what we do. They have tables available for eating a packed lunch and a nice baby changing station. This is by far my favorite local rainy day activity. Kodomokan is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day except Tuesday and Japanese Holidays. There is no cost associated with Kodomokan; however, you will have to drive or take a taxi to get there.
Pure Heart Kids Land
Pure Heart is located inside the Alpark shopping mall in Hiroshima, Japan. It is about 45 to 60 minutes away from MCAS Iwakuni depending on the route you drive. If it were not for the drive and cost, I would take my kids there every rainy day! This place is AMAZING! You have to purchase a membership card for 315 yen, but it is good for one year (315 yen is about $3). Once you have a membership card, it costs 500 yen (about $5) per person per hour. One hour was not nearly enough for my 18-month old. I literally had to drag her out of there. She made friends with a Japanese girl a few years older, and they both cried when it was time to go. Pure Heart had a dress-up station, play house and play kitchen, giant Legos, foam blocks, ride on toys, bouncy slides, a sand pit, and so much more. They even had massage chairs lining the wall for adults to sit back and relax in while kids played. They also had plenty of staff watching the bouncy house and slides, making sure the kids didn’t crowd any area. I would totally feel comfortable leaving my husband and kids in there for several hours, so I could go shopping and have a coffee by myself.
Japan has amazing indoor play areas and even better outdoor parks. They are definitely one of the things we will miss most when we move back to the US.