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.