The other day, I attended sankanbi (参観日) at my daughter’s preschool, which is a day for parents to observe what goes on at their child’s daycare or school.
I found that the experience was quite different when compared to the sankanbi I attended at her daycare almost three years ago, which is why I thought I would share what a sankanbi at a Japanese preschool is like.
Kicking the Day Off in the Auditorium
Unlike my daughter’s daycare, where only two parents attended on a scheduled day, the sankanbi at the preschool had all the parents of the first-year students (年少, nenshou) attend at once. There were mostly moms there and a few families where both parents attended. Some moms also came with their other children, so if you have another small child, it’s likely you can bring them and don’t have to worry about missing your older child’s sankanbi or arranging childcare.
I had attended a sankanbi at my daughter’s preschool before when she was in the early-entry class and we were in the auditorium the entire time. The reason I didn’t write about it was that it lasted about an hour and consisted of the kids singing their morning greeting song, doing a craft with us, and then playing a few games together. It was like pre-yochien all over again.
I would have preferred to see my daughter in her actual classroom and I wanted to see her interact with other kids, so I wasn’t sure what to expect from this one. Would this one be the same?
We were told to arrive before 10 AM and head straight to the auditorium after changing into our slippers (I made sure to bring my indoor slippers and a plastic bag to put my outdoor shoes into). Many of the parents had arrived already and were standing at the back or to the sides of the room while all three classes of kids sat in a row in the middle.
When it was time to start, one of the teachers explained to the kids that their parents were here to see what a typical day at their preschool was like and then instructed the kids to do a little song and dance together. Afterward, the teacher explained that the kids would head back to the classroom and once they were all out of the auditorium, the parents could follow.
My daughter was so excited to see me and was all smiles when she left the room, but naturally, some kids started crying and wanted to go straight to their parent(s). After all, most of them had only been attending preschool for less than two months and perhaps hadn’t been separated much from their caregiver before that. (My daughter and a few others started attending a little earlier.)
Heading to the Classroom
When I arrived at the classroom, the kids were all sitting on chairs in a half-circle. I wasn’t exactly sure where to go so I stood behind my daughter and the other parents did the same.
Once everyone had arrived, the teacher explained that the kids would show us some of the songs they usually sang. These consisted of:
- Bun bun bun (ぶんぶんぶん)
- Kotori no Uta
- Morning Greeting song
In between the first and second songs, I followed what another mom did and moved to another spot so that I could probably take a better video of my daughter as I was only getting the back of her head while standing behind her!
After the morning song, the teacher took attendance. Most of the kids happily said “Hai!” when their names were called, and some even said it in a funny voice, which made the other kids laugh. A few kids were understandably too shy with all the parents around and turned away from the teacher when it was their turn.
Next, the kids moved from their chairs to the middle of the classroom. After making sure they had enough space around them, they sang and danced to the following song:
My daughter seemed to really enjoy it and I loved seeing her sing and execute all the movements to the song.
Following this, the teacher asked them to find a friend and ask, “Issho ni asobou?” (Would you like to play with me?). I thought my daughter would ask someone close to her but instead, she went out of her way to another kid who had briefly attended pre-yōchien with her (before my daughter was accepted into the early yōchien class). The kids then sang to the same song while facing their partner and my daughter looked like she was having a lot of fun with her friend. I noticed that when they were together, the two girls were probably the most hyper and outgoing out of the bunch, which made me happy.
The teacher then asked all of the kids to sit down and they sang a song called Hittsuki Mottsuki (ひっつきもっつき):
Once again, they were asked to find a partner but this time, someone new and repeat the song and actions. It was really cute to see them getting things like their butts “stuck together” (kuttuita). This was actually something I did with her at her pre-yochien as well!
In between some of the songs, the kids had toilet time as well as barley tea time (mugicha). My daughter did a great job doing everything on her own, like washing her hands, knowing where her towel was to dry her hands, and getting her own cup as well as putting it away. It’s hard to believe she’s only three sometimes!
In total, we spent about an hour watching our kids sing, dance, and interact with other kids.
Parent-Teacher Time (懇談会, Kondankai)
Next was the kondankai, a time for the teacher to talk to the parents and for us to get to know each other a little bit. The kids headed back to the auditorium to watch a movie while the parents took over their little chairs.
First, the teacher gave a self-introduction (jikoushoukai) and then asked us to do the same, making sure to include our hobby and how we came up with our kid’s name (yurai). The moms on each end of the half-circle did rock-paper-scissors and the winner had to start, and that happened to be the mom right next to me, which meant I would be second.
I had never explained how I came up with my daughter’s name in Japanese before but I did my best and I think it made sense, judging from the reaction of the other moms. It was interesting to hear about the hobbies of the other moms and the thought process behind their child’s name. Later on, I thought I should have mentioned a different hobby, like watching Japanese dramas and then ask for suggestions. Next time!
After this, the teacher talked about how things were going with our kids. I don’t remember every single thing we talked about because there was a lot but here is a rough overview:
- Socializing with other kids
Some kids were having trouble sharing with others, but it’s all a learning process.
- Eating lunch
The kids are learning how to use utensils properly. They’re trying not to be picky and the kids especially like bread and ask for seconds or thirds. The teacher asked us if we have any concerns about our child’s eating habits or if they say they were hungry after preschool but it seemed like there were no problems. One mom brought up that her child has been less picky about meals since starting preschool. (In general, my daughter is less picky as well but she has her days, like all toddlers do.)
- Changing clothes
The kids are generally good at changing from one uniform to another but the buttons on the blouse are challenging because they’re so small. The kids are doing their best but the teacher recommended we practice at home.
- Pool time
The kids would have pool time starting from June, so the teacher went over everything we need to prepare, such as a swim cap, bathing suits, face towels, and simple croc-like sandals. Children who weren’t fully potty-trained by this time wouldn’t be able to go into the pool, only play beside it, so the teacher encouraged everyone to try their best.
Since the pool would be cold, she also recommended that we use cooler water during bath time so they get used to the temperature. (I did turn down the temperature of the shower a bit, but honestly, I don’t think I am going to give my daughter a shower using cold water. If it’s really hot outside, I don’t think she’ll mind about the temperature of the pool since she has been in a cold pool before in the summer but we’ll see!)
The time passed by pretty fast despite being an hour long.
After it was over and we were waiting for the kids to come back, a mom sitting next to me asked if she could see my blog (as I had mentioned that was my hobby). I showed it to her and she brought up that her son and my daughter had been in the previous class together. I didn’t realize it, likely because this was the first time I had seen her without her mask on. It took me a few minutes before her name clicked and I remembered she had been a PTA member! I felt so bad and apologized. (If you’re reading this, A-san, I’m so sorry!)
It was really nice to chat with her because this was the first time I had properly talked to another parent at my daughter’s preschool. I’m not great at starting conversations in any language (I’m far better at writing than speaking) and by the time I think of something to say, there’s no time to talk. So I’m really grateful she talked to me! Especially as my daughter is friends with her son and mentions frequently that she played with him at preschool.
Time to Go Home!
When the kids came back into the room, they packed away their towels and cups (I was impressed by how nicely my daughter folded her towel!) and then changed out of their sports uniform into their formal one, which they’re required to wear when coming to preschool and leaving. My daughter did a good job buttoning up most of her shirt but she was tired and hungry (it was almost 12:30 after all at this point) so I finished the buttoning for her. She also folded her sports uniform nicely before putting it into her bag.
Once she was changed and all packed up, it was time to go!
I would have liked to see my daughter have lunch like I did at her daycare’s sankanbi. But other than that, this was a better experience than the previous sankanbi I had attended at this preschool where we were in the auditorium the entire time.
This time, I got to see my daughter interact with other kids, had the chance to learn about the other parents (and speak to one!), and also hear from the teacher about how all the kids are doing as a whole. As a parent, you worry about your child, especially if you don’t have many chances to see them interact with children the same age, so it was nice to feel reassured.
Did you go to a sankanbi at your child’s preschool? What was it like? Please let me know by leaving a comment, I would love to hear from you!