It’s been a little over a year since I updated my post, An Inside Look At Kindergarten in Japan. I originally wrote that post based on my own experiences as a teacher at Japanese kindergartens. Eventually, I made updates to reflect my own journey of preparing my daughter for kindergarten. Among the revisions were useful items based on my experience in the classroom. However, as I added to the list, the post became a TL;DR mess. That’s why I created this post, Getting Your Child Ready For Japanese Daycare or Kindergarten, to clear out the clutter. I hope you’ll find this list useful as you prepare your child for Japanese daycare or kindergarten!
Getting Your Child Ready For Japanese Daycare or Kindergarten
This post contains affiliate links. All items link to Amazon Japan.
NOTE: Before you buy any of the following, please confirm the specifics with your child’s facility. There may be a rule against character-branded items, or request a certain style of indoor shoe (i.e. velcro straps versus slip-on) etc.
Getting Your Child Ready For Japanese Daycare or Kindergarten: A Shopping List
Name Stamps & Stickers
The very first thing I recommend is buying a name stamp kit along, sticker labels, permanent markers & personalized iron-transfers. You will need to label EVERYTHING that goes to daycare or kindergarten, even if it’s only for one day! As a teacher, I was constantly going around my classroom, holding up stuff and going, “Whose X is this??”
Make things easy on yourself (and your child’s teacher!) and invest in the following:!
Comes with 10 stamps of various sizes, your choice of blue, red, or black ink pad, “image” stamp* of your choice, white ink pad, and storage box. I purchased this kit off in Winter 2018 for my daughter when she was going to daycare 2-3 times a week with me. 3 years later it’s still holding up. Since then I’ve only had to buy ink refills twice. These name stamps were an absolute timesaver when I needed to label each and every one of my daughter’s diapers!
*The image stamp is especially useful for kids who haven’t learned how to recognize their name. Choose a symbol that they will instantly be able to recognize as their own.
This is a set of 295 colorful name labels. These are SO useful for labeling utensils, textbooks, bento boxes, and even small things like crayons and pencils! Though I like to go over the stickers with cellophane tape to make sure they don’t come off.) You can also customize these with an “image character” so your child can easily identify his or her belongings.
These iron-on patches are great for labeling large cloth items like art smocks, the large tote bag, indoor shoes bag, and so on. This particular item is a set of 3 patches available in different characters and your child’s name can be written in hiragana or romaji.
These twin tip oil-based permanent markers have quick-drying ink that is both fade and water resistant. They are ideal for labeling clothing, shoes, and rain gear.
This package consists of 2 different widths of iron-on strips that you can cut to any length. They are great for labeling uniforms and school bags and are best used with permanent markers.
Let me explain this one in a bit of detail. You may heard the following horror story: “My child’s school wants parents to literally make our child’s bags from scratch!”
If you don’t have a sewing machine or are team #aintnobodygottimeforthat, click on “入園 5点のセット” (nyuu en go ten setto) and find a set of cloth bags that your child likes. (Just be sure to confirm the measurements of what your child’s kindergarten requires.)
The brand I’ve linked to is COLORFUL CANDY STYLE, a Japanese store based in Minami-Aoyama, Tokyo that specializes in stylish kids’ & baby clothes, bags, school items & more.
In case you’re wondering, here’s the role of each of those 5 bags:
- Indoor shoes (the rectangle one)
- Cup (the mini drawstring bag)
- Bento box (the medium sized drawstring bag)
- Spare clothing/PE clothing (the larger drawstring bag)
- A matching bag large enough to fit the above (the tote bag, also used to send home books, artwork, etc.)
Japanese daycares and kindergartens schedule plenty of indoor/outdoor playtime. You’ll want to dress your child in comfortable clothing that promotes independence. Choosing soft, stretchy fabrics make it easy for kids to dress themselves and go to the toilet by themselves, too. It also makes it easier for teachers when dealing with diaper changes or accidents!
Uniqlo is one of my favorite places to shop for my daughter’s clothes. My favorite pieces from Uniqlo are their leggings, Airism undergarments, Heattech, and puffy jackets.
Your child likely won’t need indoor shoes (uebaki) until they’re in the 2 year old daycare class or entering 3 year old kindergarten. Note that while uebaki are indoor shoes, kids go outside wearing uebaki when they are doing emergency evacuation drills (because in a real emergency no one’s gonna have time to change their shoes!)
Because of this (and regular school life), your child’s indoor shoes will come home at the end of every week for washing.
Choose a pair with a sturdy bottom to keep their feet protected from broken glass and debris in the event of an emergency.
There are two types of uebaki:
Younger kids will have an easier time putting on velcro while children who are more independent will be able to wear their slip-ons with ease.
Uebaki with animated characters are no doubt cute, but the artwork will fade away with repeated washes. Personally, I’ve given up on them and simply choose plain white ones with colorful rubber soles. I customize my daughter’s uebaki with insole stickers and charms:
These customizable charms and elastics attach to the tiny loop on the back of the shoes so your child can wear their shoes without help. They also help your child identify their own shoes!
Basically these are cloth stickers with the words “left” (hidari) and “right”(migi) written in hiragana. Affix the halves to the inside of your child’s shoes, and they’ll be less likely to mix up their left and right! Even if your child can’t read hiragana yet, they can distinguish their left and right by simply looking at the picture.
As for outdoor shoes, invest in a pair of sturdy walking shoes that will hold up during outdoor and indoor play. IFME is one of my favorite brands of kids’ shoes. Asics, New Balance, Puma, and Shunsoku are other brands that hold up very well.
These clip-on pouches go by several names in Japanese: “tsuke poketto” (付けポケット); “idou poketto” ( 移動ポケット), and “odekake poketto” (おでかけポケット). Going to kindergarten is your child’s first taste of big kid life by being responsible for one’s own items! The clip-on pouches are essentially a large attachable cargo pocket that holds a packet of facial tissues and a hand towel.
If you’re buying a plastic water bottle for your child, chances are it’s made by a company called Slater. Their push-to-open 480 ml water bottles are very popular as they are made in Japan and often feature animated characters. As a teacher, I prefer these over the ones with the complicated latch or the ones with a cup. I’ve seen plenty of injuries involving stainless steel Thermos water bottles, so I’d recommend holding off on the bigger bottles until your child is older.
However, as a parent, I have to let you know that the plastic Skater water bottles aren’t very durable and will crack when dropped repeatedly. We’ve gone through at least 4 since Miss M started 2 year old daycare!
On that note, Thermos water bottles like the one above will last for at least an entire school year. However, the exterior paint will fade away as a result of repeated washings. With that said, the “Hydration” series from Thermos (pictured above) holds 1L of liquid, comes with a strap & carry bag.
Tip: the o-ring should be taken out and cleaned daily!
As with water bottles, Skater is a brand that you’ll come across when shopping for character bento boxes. I recommend that you avoid the ones that close with a band or the two tier ones. Instead, choose a bento box with flip tabs, like this one because your child can open and close it by themselves. As with the water bottle, the o-ring on a bento box needs to be removed and cleaned daily! You won’t believe how easily mold grows on it!
These come with a kid-sized fork, spoon, and chopsticks. Depending on your child’s age, your child’s daycare or kindergarten may request that you leave the chopsticks at home.
It’s always a good idea to invest in a pair of practice chopsticks. Be sure to check with your child’s kindergarten before sending them to school, though. In my case as a teacher and a parent, chopstick practice began in the second half nenchu, or 3 year old kindergarten.
These are used for drinking during lunch time and brushing teeth after lunch. Opt for something with a handle to make holding easier for your child.
This is essentially a placemat to keep your child’s area at the lunch table clean. Cloth ones are better than vinyl/slip resistant ones because they tend to not collect mold as easily. (I’m telling you, I’ve seen a lot of moldy stuff in my teaching years!)
Your child will have at least three of these at school on any given day. One on their person for drying their hands after going to the toilet, another in their lunch bag, and another as a backup. Note that some kindergartens may prefer hand towels which have a loop on them.
Learning about hygiene is a big part of kindergarten and daycare life, and oral health is a part of that. Kids “brush” their teeth after lunch, mainly to help them get into the habit of body autonomy and independence. While you won’t need to send in toothpaste, kids 3 years or older are asked to bring in a toothbrush with their lunch sets every day. This rainbow set of 12 toothbrushes is made in Japan and each brush has a space for easy labeling.
A one hour block for nap time is usually scheduled between 2 pm and 3 pm (though infants might have have their nap time earlier in the day). It is common for children who attend daycare full-time to have nap time. On the other hand, kindergarten students have nap time if they are enrolled in an after school daycare program. Whether they sleep or not is an entirely different question!
With that said, your child’s daycare/kindergarten may ask you to send in 2 “taoruketto” (タオルケット), a terry cloth blanket. Gauze blankets, on the other hand, are lightweight, breathable fabrics that have a fresh, dry feel. Please keep in mind that toilet accidents are perfectly normal at any daycare/kindergarten age, so you’ll want to have a few extra ones hand in case your child comes home with soiled ones.
Getting Your Child Ready For Japanese Daycare or Kindergarten
This post will be updated throughout the course of my child’s kindergarten journey.
For more on Japanese daycares and kindergartens, please read the following posts