CONTRIBUTED BY JOELLE YAMADA
It’s like stepping into a wonderland. Green “grass” covers the floor, beautiful blue sky with fluffy clouds and beaming sun cover the walls and even ribbons in rainbow colors hang from the ceiling. And there in the center of the room is the adorable alligator, filled with nobbly balls and other fun things to play with.
And no, this isn’t a new kid’s playground or fancy off-base play area — it’s the home of one of our very own mom’s. Larissa teaches Mommy & Me “Edutainment” classes, called Alligator Steps, for children birth through 3.5 years from the extra bedroom in her Kadena house. *See update below
Class starts with lots of music and movement and giggles and energy. My 10 month old was entralled with Larissa and all the fun. We had time to play with various toys (Quinn’s favorite was the tunnel), time for dancing, time for chatting, time for ever favorite bubbles and one-on-one time together — the most important part.
I admit that I assumed this was some sort of franchise Larissa had bought into. The music was so perfectly designed and the toys so gorgeous (most from super cool Lakeshore) I was just sure it was a package deal she had been “handed.” But no. She designed the whole thing HERSELF!!!
(I just have to interject here how constantly impressed I have been with all of you! There are so many spouses (of military or SOFA status workers) on island who USED to have a REAL job in their past-U.S.-life who somehow manage to get here and find or create or stumble into some new niche for themselves (like Melody from yesterday’s post). I know doctors, lawyers, nurses, designers, teachers and administrators who can’t easily find work here in their usual field, who ingeniously end up with some sort of really cool gig anyway. Kudos to all of you!)
In Larissa’s “other life” she was director of a local My Gym Children’s Fitness Center and co-created an edutainment center in Tampa. She was also a nanny for several years and so knows lots of tricks for entertaining and engaging little bodies and minds.
When she got here, she was struggling to find activities for her infant son — finding most classes to start at 18 months (see this discussion on the Hai Society for more thoughts) — so figured she’d start something herself. Classes last for one hour and are divided into small increments of age/development, so if you have a kiddo under 3.5, there will be a perfect one just for you.
For more info, contact Larissa at firstname.lastname@example.org or call her at 633-5118.
An update: Larissa’s program has expanded exponentially since this post was written. She has moved her classes off base to the AU building on the 23 (directions here) and is also offering Baby Signs, Japanese & Spanish classes, afternoon playtimes and Mom’s Afternoon Out. See her website for more information.
My understanding is that there is a “family class” for those with mulitple kids who would like to participate in a class. Check out the website or email Larissa for more info!
I’m just wondering what those with other young children do with them while they’re at the class? I have an Incher and a Stomper 🙂 (10 months and 2.5 years) Should I find a sitter for that hour or so? Or is there a place within Alligator Steps that will watch my other child?
Just wanted to say Hi.Well I love all you guys!! Give kisses&Hugs to Landon!!
I had so much fun today with my three month old, Penelope. It’s amazing how much a baby can interact at such a young age! Great program! Thanks, Larissa! 🙂
Hey Larissa, I just wanted to say hi and thank you so much for the cool gifts (even though we can’t understand it, hehe). And your program looks awesome.I wish I could join you.I miss you guys! Hope you’re having fun out in Japan. Well give lots of hugs&kisses to Landon and my dad is telling me to say hi to Matt for him. I love you guys!
see you later alligator!
I just added some updated info to the bottom of this post…
My daughter and I just started taking classes from Larissa and we love them. I wasn’t sure what to expect the first day but I was pleasently surpised. It was exactly the Mommy and Me class I had been hoping for. Larissa is an amazing teacher and the class is more than worth the money!
Wow! Just to think 6 months ago this class didn’t even exist and now someone is complaining about what a great thing Larissa has brought to this island. My child (and I know I can speak for many others) is thrilled to go to these classes. He has learned so much, it is definetly worth the money. For $50 dollars we get 4 or 5 classes (1 hour long) PLUS one hour of FREE play each month. Larissa is highly educated, a great mom, friend, and loves children. She opened and created this program for this reason. So it is really shocking to hear that she is taking advantage of stay at home moms. I guarantee her waiting list is screaming with children who would love to come play. Oh, and I take my child to another baby class and if I miss one I don’t get a make-up. She will fit you in when slots are available, I haven’t had a problem yet. We think you are doing a great job here.
Alligator Steps use to cost $10-$12 per class depending on how many you purchased (5 weeks or 10 weeks). Classes now cost $10-$12.50 depending on how many days are in the month. Tuition runs similar to the Youth Center – on a monthly basis – so depending on which day you attend class there could be 4 or 5 classes that month. I’m not sure how anyone could complain about the 50 cent increase (and this is only sometimes).
In response to the above post, I find the exact opposite to be true – we love the new policies and think that she is more accommodating. My son has been sick twice this month and we have been able to make-up both classes. No other children’s program allows us to make-up missed classes. Thanks Larissa!
Larissa is AWESOME! My daughter,Layla, loves coming to her class. I would recommend this class to every parent. It is educational and fun all mixed up in one wonderful class. We love Alligator Steps!
I found out about Alligator Steps through this blog and my daughter and I went to our first class last week! It is wonderful! Larissa has a wonderful energy about her and the other parents and kiddos in the class all seemed to have a good time (I know we sure did!) We need more great classes like these on the island!
I’ve heard great things about this class. Can’t wait to go there with my son.
Also, I want to second Joelle on the kudos to all the spouses out there finding creative ways to find a niche for themselves. I’ve met so many creative people over here who, plopped over here on this island away from their “real jobs”, tap into other talents. Thanks for sharing them with the rest of us. Y’all rock.
Larissa rocks! Alligator Steps is awesome. My son loves going to class. We use lots of the singing and signing at home. I hope more people become aware of this class because Larissa is doing wonderful things with these children. I love mommie/daddy and me classes.