As an educational philosophy focused on collaborative play, hands-on learning, and self-directed activity, Montessori classrooms have a simple and unique way of celebrating children’s birthdays. In fact, the Montessori celebration of life is far from the birthday traditions we’re used to see or do each year.
Below you can learn more about the Montessori birthday celebration and see what makes it so special.
Montessori birthday walk
The central point of birthday celebrations in Montessori classrooms is a birthday walk. Montessori birthday walk is all about the child celebrating their birthday and sharing it with their classmates.
Not only does the birthday walk celebrate the birthday student, but it also provides a learning opportunity, like many other Montessori activities.
During the birthday walk, students rely on physical props to represent the journey and growth. It’s a great way for a child to feel special and connect with their place in this world.
The birthday walk also proves to be a practical brain game. The birthday student talks about his life through play.
This means they get to practice their cognitive abilities while having fun and celebrating their life. Plus, a birthday walk helps children understand the concept of time and the basics of astronomy.
How does the birthday walk work?
Before the birthday walk, it’s necessary to prepare everything for this special event. First, it is necessary to lay out the mat in the center of the classroom.
Then, a candle in the holder is placed in the center of the mat. The candle has the role of the sun here. Along the edges of the mat, it is necessary to place paper strips containing the names of each month.
Of course, strips of paper should be arranged in the correct order from January to December.
Students then sit around the perimeter of the room. The easiest way to achieve this is to make sure there’s a lot of room between the children and the mat you laid out.
In the center of the room, between the mat and classmates, the birthday-student stands. Once all children are at their places, it’s time to light the candle.
The birthday student, holding a globe (usual sandpaper), approaches the part of the mat that corresponds to their birthday month.
Then, the birthday walk can begin as the child starts rotation around the sun, to the next month and then the next, in the correct order.
The number of rotations depends on the child’s age, e.g., three years equal to three rotations.
Each trip around the Sun is accompanied by the song that everyone signs. The song goes:
The Earth goes around the Sun (3 times)
And (name of the student) is one (then, two, three, etc.)
The end, as well as the beginning of each rotation, is at the beginning of the birthday month. Once all rotations are over, e.g., five rotations for the fifth birthday, the student blows out the candle.
Each time a rotation is complete from age one, the birthday student makes a pause. Then, a teacher shows artifacts, photos, and other facts from that specific age. Or a child can share some info, as well.
As the child’s walk around the sun is complete, the whole class can sing the Happy Birthday song, but it’s not obligatory.
Below is a video of a Montessori birthday celebration, modified for the home setting.
Are sweets and treats necessary?
Traditional birthday celebrations put a major focus on sweets and desserts, but they are not such a big deal in Montessori birthday celebrations. Treats are not obligatory.
But if parents want their child to mark birthday celebration this way, it’s wise to point out sugary desserts are not the best option.
Sugar doesn’t prepare the body and mind properly for learning. Healthy treats are a far better choice. Some teachers don’t allow treats at all, but others do only on the way out of school.
Preparing for celebration
Before the child’s birthday arrives, it’s useful for a teacher to have photos of each year of a child’s life. The teacher also needs interesting facts about the child, important milestones, and other info that will make the Montessori celebration of life more complete.
Anything parents find relevant can work, e.g., getting a new sibling, adopting a puppy, moving into a new house, learning to ride a bike, options are endless.
How have you modified the Montessori birthday celebration to work in your home?