Each ward in Tokyo has a place called the Children's Hall. Entrance is free and is an activity based centre where children of all ages can join in various activities. For example, there is a music room where children can experiment with all kinds of instruments; a few arts and crafts areas where a different project is available on a daily basis. These are wonderful places. And, as I say FREE!
As an aside, entrance fees to all attractions, museums and so on here are extremely cheap if not free. When we go back to the UK during the summer we are astounded at the outrageous prices charged to gain entry to theme parks etc.
Although the areas are supervised, the children are encouraged and expected to just get on with it rather than be hovered over by their parents. Parent who hover and fuss over their kids are viewed as a bit odd, to be honest!
I highly approve of this. The first time Rhiannon went there she made something from wood (I can't recall what) but she was expected to use a hammer and saw – at the age of five. And this wasn't considered a problem for the health and safety brigade. This is the way kids should learn. I really think, in general, we pamper "our" (ie British) children too much these days.
Children's Castle is pretty much the same set up. It's called Kodomo-no-Shiro. As well as the activities on separate floors there is a large climbing gym, a computer playroom and a teen corner with table tennis. There's also a swimming pool. Children's Hall is more geared to younger children.
When we go now (2010), I sit in the rather sparse canteen and drink tins of coffee and do some research, study or read while Rhiannon runs all over the 6 floors partaking in whatever activity takes her fancy and making friends on the way.
The school had a little trip to the Children's Hall this month and learned a bit about another culture. I admit, my memory is not working this far on, and I can't recall which culture was being taught then. Anyway, she had a great time.
We still like going there.
Although I do get a bit bored after more than three hours sitting on uncomfortable chairs.
But it's free! Did I already say that?