Sunday, December 12, 2010

Learning a Million Japanese Kids' Songs

A few of my favorite Japanese kids songs are posted here.

In my daughter's backpack each week is a summary of what the children did, learned, and enjoyed that week. There are always lyrics of two or three new songs they learned that week. Since school started, that's added up to about 35 songs so far! I thought I would learn all of them, too, by looking them up on youtube or whatever, but it's just overwhelming. All preschool teachers in Japan can play the piano, and every preschool has a piano or organ used frequently throughout each day. Songs are sung throughout the day, and the kids practice special songs for special events that parents attend, like the Autumn Festival, Halloween Party, and the upcoming Christmas Party (Tuesday). My daughter is constantly singing songs like the ones used in your Japanese course. Her favorite is "ookina kuri no ki no shita de," which she pronounces completely wrong after the first line. Very cute!


Thursday, December 9, 2010

Happy Birthday!

Tanjoukai - it's a birthday celebration! Once per month, the preschool celebrates that month's birthdays. And just like many American schools, it's the birthday boy or girl who brings in treats for their classmates. However, you won't find any cupcakes. Rather, the parents send along goodie bags with little toys and treats all wrapped up real cute-like. The contents of one of said goodie bags this month: a tiny Spongebob puzzle, a pack of princess playing cards, a Hershey miniature (hey, I want that), a cute pencil, three supertiny hard candies in wrappers (one was a lemon star, and two were panda shapes), and a miniature kendama (ball and cup game). Love it. As a teacher, I have received more than my fair share of giant cupcakes with two inches of frosting at the elementary schools I work at, and I'm always amazed that these tiny kids can scarf them down.. Sure, for a 16-year old 100+ pounder, it may be fine, but a first grader is like 40 pounds. That much sugar makes them crazy, Crazy, I tell you.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Big Cleanup

JAPANESE PRESCHOOL: Ahh, December, time for the first snow, fun and parties, right? Yes, but in Japan it's also time for おそうじ, the year-end "Big Cleanup." My daughter's preschool asked parents to send their child with a rag for their big cleanup day this month. The children and teachers will wipe all the surfaces, toys, etc. to get the school extra clean. Japanese people also clean their houses from top to bottom, wash the car, replace the family toothbrushes with new ones, etc. Companies have these cleanups, too, and everyone participates. That way everyone can start the new year fresh and clean and with a good feeling. Let's all try this Japanese おそうじ tradition by cleaning at least one room in our house from top to bottom (including the junk drawer). Throw away expired coupons. Maybe you can turn your keyboard upside down to dump out all the Cheetos crumbs. Remove unused icons from your desktop. Delete old emails. Remove apps you don't use from your iPhone. I could go on and on.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sweet Potatoes

My daughter came home with a balled up piece of newspaper painted purple and with her name stapled onto it. This craft, as it turns out, is a さつまいも, or Japanese sweet potato. The sweet potatoes in my pantry are orange, but the ones in Japan are purple on the outside and white on the inside. In the fall, sweet potato vendors can be found in neighborhoods in Japan ringing a bell and selling roasted Japanese satsuma-imo, and people come-a-runnin. Kind of like the ice cream man.

Friday, November 12, 2010

What's gonna work? Teamwork!

One of this month's goals in preschool is to "be thankful for the work of others that benefits all of us." The children are learning an important tenet of Japanese culture - teamwork and reliance on one's "group." Children are transitioning from relying on their parents to working their peers and within a group to solve problems. According to an article in the journal Association for Childhood Education International, "the Japanese consider overreliance on the teacher and refusal to participate in group activities to be much more serious behavioral problems than hyperactivity or fighting." That's right, hyperactivity and fighting is OK (up to a point), but refusal to help clean up, sing songs, or decorate for the festival is NOT OK. I love getting emails about your reactions to these things, so tell me ... What do you think?

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween Haunted House

Happy Halloween! The haunted house at the school's Halloween party made me laugh because there were Japanese gravestones in it. Japanese gravestones are totally different than typical American ones. For one thing, there's Japanese kanji characters on them, written vertically. Entire families are buried under one headstone after being cremated. Then a few feet away in each direction are other families' headstones. They're very close together, due to Japan's small amount of usable land. Interestingly, Japanese don't associate cemeteries with being scary or spooky, just peaceful.


Sunday, October 24, 2010

Halloween Obentou

This week in Japanese preschool, I'm trying to come up with a cute obento for her lunch on Halloween. For preschool, Japanese moms ALWAYS pack a nutritious and cute obento (packed lunch) for their kiddies, as well as for anyone else who wants one (teenagers, husband, etc). They are supposed to be five colors (aka, kiiro, midori, kuro, shiro) and heavy on the rice. Super moms make きゃらべんとう (character bento) with cutouts and shapes to resemble cute characters from TV anime. Try making your own cute Halloween obento this week and put a sticker on it saying what time you will eat it in Japanese to add to your anticipation (いちじに おべんとうを たべます!)
> > >

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Akimatsuri - Fall Festival

This week in Japanese Preschool, my daughter enjoyed the あきまつり "akimatsuri", or Fall Festival. Almost every child had a parent in attendance, too. Lots of kids wore ゆかた "yukata" (summer cotton kimono) or はっぴ "happi" (little festival coat) with headbands. To start out the festivities, the children carried a cute, preschool-y おみこし "omikoshi" (explanation) through the hallways, shouting "wasshoi, wasshoi" (heave-ho, heave-ho). Here is a typical picture (not mine) of the activity below:


Then, they did an おどり "odori" (dance) to some crazy festival music, holding hands in a big circle. Finally, they went around the gym to several set up game stations, like fishing with a magnet, bowling, putting an acorn through a maze, catching waterballoons with a paperclip, making masks, etc. Oh yeah, and there was yummy festival food! If you have an Anime Club or Japan Club at your school, consider holding a "Natsu Matsuri" (Summer Festival) at the end of the school year to celebrate your club. Keep it simple your first time, though. You can do it!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Switch to Winter

It's October, time for schoolkids in Japan to switch to their winter uniforms. Preschool kids don't have uniforms, so our Japanese preschool just told us to switch to pants and long sleeves. "But still dress lightly," they said, so the kids can (抵抗力 ていこうりょくを つけ) "build up their tolerance" for cold weather. Wow! Unlike the "bundle up" message from American teachers, Japanese teachers tell parents NOT to bundle up kids too much. The thinking is that they will be more able to tolerate the cold and illnesses if they are "robust." Sugoi ne!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Chat Circle

I went to my first Chat Circle (おしゃべり さあくる) for parents (ok, for moms) at my daughter's preschool. The other moms were happy to speak to me in Japanese, so it was great practice for me. It made sitting in those tiny kindergarten chairs worthwhile. A good way to start a one-on-one conversation with someone is to act like you forgot their name (everyone introduced themselves at the beginning) and ask their name (すみません、おなまえは?). If they have a child with them, tell them their child is cute (かわいい ですね) and ask them how old their child is (なんさい ですか). You can use even very basic Japanese in daily life situations. As you get more advanced, you can say more interesting things, of course. So if you get the chance to, please use your Japanese with a native speaker! If you can't, then stop your friend in the hallway and use it on them. Good luck!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Apple Orchard and Library day

Tuesday (かようび), my daughter's Japanese preschool is going to an apple orchard for apple picking (りんごがり), cider (アップルサイダー), donuts (ドーナツ), to go on a hay ride (トラクターにのります), and to pet little farm animals (しょうどうぶつ). Japanese preschools are very into seasonal things and do field trips, crafts, songs, and origami related to whatever the current season is. Last week they gathered acorns (どんぐり) outside and made spinning tops (こま) out of them with toothpicks.

Library day twice a week at the school has motivated me to once again read her Japanese books on a daily basis, usually at bedtime. I have a ton of Japanese toddler-age books. Last night, after I read a particularly long book, my daughter said, "Mommy, you read really good Japanese." :) That made me laugh. Even though my daughter is 3 and can neither read Japanese nor English, making her have no idea how well or terribly I read, I still like that she has a positive view of being able to read Japanese. If you have access to any Japanese kids' books, especially toddler books, I highly recommend them for some fun, stress-free enrichment reading.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

I'm learning, too!

Although my husband and I are both American, I enrolled my 3-year-old daughter in a Japanese preschool this fall, so I am learning lots of interesting things about how the Japanese operate a preschool. First, despite the "academic" reputation Japan has, there is no math or flashcards or even alphabet learning! The goals for September are learning to make new friends, see the nature of fall (collecting acorns, etc), do crafts, try "cooking" onigiri, learn how to properly wash hands, enjoy eating a variety of foods, etc. I'm jealous because as a tiny tot, she gets to learn to communicate in Japanese in a fun way because she's playing kitchen and dressup and Thomas the Train with her new Japanese friends. If only we could recreate that in a high school classroom!!