Why I love Japanese Kindergartens

mel-chanR has been at her kindy for nearly 6 months. She was the youngest there at one stage and now in only just half a year, she has grown by leaps and bounds! We are extremely glad we chose this kindergarten even though it was actually my third choice, believe it or not.

There are so many reasons why I love her kindy:

Life Skills– they learn to unpack their bags daily (and gosh, Japanese schools have many bags for different purposes) onto their own shelves, set their own table and cutlery for lunch, and greet everyone respectfully. When they get older, they will be assigned cleaning duties and lunch serving duties everyday. I look forward to her learning these skills early on to encourage a level of independence.

The importance of Play and Outdoors– Japanese curriculum focuses a lot on play in the early years (look here!) and this is important for me over academic learning. Each classroom has a piano and the teachers play the piano and sing together with the children. They also spend a lot of time outdoors before lunch.

Lunch– 給食 or kyūshoku is a big deal. They serve and eat lunch together with their teachers and each meal is balanced — rice or pasta/ meat/ soup/ salad/ fruit and checks off all the different colours of nutrition. We get a detailed sheet of whatever they eat, checked against the different food colour categories. I see that they expose them to different foods everyday and I appreciate that a lot. (Ref: Japanese School Lunches) Every term, the parents are invited to trial lunches where we eat the same thing the kids do.

Simplicity – this might come across weird or even a bit restrictive but we are happy with it. I often see social feeds on how parents are packing insane amounts of mini goody bags for their kids parties, teachers’ day gifts and R’s school doesn’t allow this as not every child comes from the same economic background. By not throwing excessive birthday celebrations, refraining on giving teachers gifts reduces and prevents children from feeling left out or privileged. So once a month, all kids whose birthday falls in that month celebrates it at a Birthday event where they go up on stage (ok , this is so Japanese) and  get interviewed and then parents are invited to sit with them to say something encouraging to their kids. They also receive a handmade card from their teachers and a photo of them they have taken together. Then there is a mini puppet performance and they all go back to their classrooms and eat cake that has been ordered for the school. As much as possible, the school encourages parents to sew items such as lunch placemats, aprons and such for use and to buy non-character goods bags. This is quite impossible though to find plain bags.

There are so many other things I love about the school, such as the celebration of different traditions and customs, book days, health checks, dental checks, pool days, playing with mud days and disaster preparedness drill days. We get to see how they go about their days at school through photos the teachers take. It’s a smart system though–the photos get uploaded onto a photo site which you can purchase to download or print or even get them sent to grandparents in different parts of Japan.


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