Komaba International Playgroup

By on January 30, 2010

It started off as a motley crew of friends and casual acquaintances from the park across the road. We had a Japanese dentist, a nurse, a Sri Lankan banker, a Gabonese diplomat, a Guatemalan actor, an Austrian professor and an Irish teacher. What we had in common was children of the same age. Bringing together a range of kids, from the cutest sleeping infant in their mother’s pouch to the bounciest, loudest, most terrible of toddlers, along with the willingness of parents to be involved in this earliest phase of our children’s education and socialization, we formed the most original, unique and creative playgroup in the city. And so Komaba International Playgroup was born!


What is a playgroup?

Playgroups, unlike other childcare options such as creche, are where the children are accompanied by either their mums, dads, grannies or babysitters. It involves organised activities on a regular basis for kids with their minders. It is not a drop-off venue. This is the “roll-up-your-sleeves and get stuck in” option.


Playgroup with a difference

Komaba International Playgroup has taken this concept a step further. This group flourishes to an ‘international’ theme. Language learning and early exposure to a multitude of cultures is the aim here. On an average morning, the children sing songs in English, French, Japanese, Spanish and German. 


Since its beginnings in September 2008, Komaba International Playgroup has welcomed over 50 families. We’ve had monthly birthday parties, Christmas parties, Halloween fancy-dress parties, St. Patrick’s day fun, Easter egg fun, paper-craft days, painting sessions – and in general, lots of fun.  


And although I can’t promise that the little munchkins return to their families’ homes to greet their dads in English after one session, Playgroup mums assure me that their kids do go home and sing the songs and shake their stuff to the music of playgroup. What more could we ask for when the average age of our members is two?!


Komaba International Playgroup’s Golden Rules

1. Have fun, and 2. don’t be shy

If the mums and dads aren’t having fun, then the children won’t enjoy themselves either. Learning at any age should be fun, but especially so for our little tots aged between zero and four. Given the playgroup programme involves singing, dancing, action songs and poems, it is essential that all shyness is left at the front door. Here, we dangle and flap about to Dingle Dangle Scarecrow, we salsa to the Vaca Lola, we jump and jump and then jump some more to a class favourite, rather suitably called Jump Jump Jump, we swoon and sway to Petit Escargot and we shake our bums to Alle Meine Entchen like little ducks schwimmen in the sea! There is no room for being shy. I’m sure we all look rather silly but the kids love it: They laugh, they dance and they are learning.


Benefits of playgroup

Komaba International Playgroup offers a forum not just for the kids to learn English. It is just as important for the mums/dads who come. For them, it is a social outlet. Becoming a mother, as well as being wonderful and amazing, can also be an isolating experience. Most Japanese women have to quit work and then find it is difficult to keep in touch with old friends. But many mums in Playgroup find a whole new network of women with similar interests and, of course, with children the same age. 


Snack time!

After such energetic beginnings to the morning, everyone deserves a little refreshment. During breaktime, while the kids devour slices of apple and senbei by the bucket load, the parent’s coffee break has become English conversation time. Mums and dads get to sample the recipe of the month – a culinary surprise served up by the hostess, we exchange ideas, tell stories of weekend adventures and share ideas for family outings in and around Tokyo. Our Playgroup Notice Board is now chock a block with flyers for kid-friendly places in the city, notices of upcoming events for families, as well as essential sales. 


Meet the teacher

Komaba International Playgroup was founded in September 2008 by the author, Dana Killalea, an Irish mother of five. She has lived in Tokyo for three years and, many moons ago, spent two years in a little-known snowy village in Hokkaido. Among other talents which can’t really be fitted onto her resume, (such as changing twenty nappies a day, breast-feeding multiple twins, juggling the emotional and educational needs of five young kids and dealing with the paperwork involved in Japanese yochiens) she has taught English for many years in Namibia, France, Japan and Ireland. 


Come and join the fun!

Some fun things to look forward to Komaba International Playgroup’s calendar for 2010 include a Springtime Teddy Bear’s Picnic, a special surprise for St. Patricks’s Day which will involve lots of little leprechauns and to celebrate Children’s Day, a craft day making our very own koinobori.


For more information, photos of the group’s activities since September 2008, details on how to join, trial classes and fees, please visit the blogspot http://komabainternationalplaygroup.blogspot.com or e-mail Dana directly at danakillalea@hotmail.com

About Dana Killalea