What do most children expect from a Birthday Party? Gifts, balloons, party decorations, and a lot of sugar in a form of a dessert :) Montessori approach on the other hand, aims to introduce a deeper and more meaningful understanding of what a birthday truly means. Little children cannot comprehend abstract ideas very well. So, telling them the date of their birthday is as abstract to them as quantum leap to us, the adults. Instead, during a Montessori celebration, a child is offered a first impression of the relationship between the Earth and the Sun, and taught that a year is the amount of time it takes for the Earth to circle around the Sun once. A birthday child will generally tell a story of their life from birth to the present day (or a parent can tell a story if a child is too small).
Smaller children celebrate Montessori Birthday by "walking the Earth" (read Adrian's 3rd Birthday Celebration here), where a birthday child is given a globe representing the Earth, a candle or a lamp is lit in the middle representing the Sun, and a circle is drawn on the floor either with a masking tape, or laid with a long piece of rope representing the orbit the Earth makes around the Sun. A child, while holding the globe, would slowly walk the line on the floor, realizing that the globe stands for the Earth, the planet we live on; and that every time the Earth goes all the way around the Sun, one whole year is passing by. "It takes one year for the Earth to go around the Sun one time – that is when you celebrate your birthday: when the Earth had completed its round."
Julia just started Elementary at a wonderful Montessori school, so at her age level, instead of "walking the Earth", children sit in a circle, and Julia would mark her birth date on a season wheel, and then read her "life-story" year-by-year from a timeline. To prepare, Julia would look back at a year, reminisce, think of the most prominent events that had occurred, and hand-write them into the space provided, choose the pictures which would complement her writing, and I would finally laminate the pages, to prolong their use.
Julia is showing to her classmates the "Before I was born" page from her Timeline.
After Julia have shared her "life-story"until her present birthday, children sang her a Happy Birthday Song.
You may also make a box, where you can collect pictures or sentimental things that represent each year. This way, the child can look through them each birthday. You might also want to consider making a time capsule of objects to help a child to reminisce the years that have gone by. If you have done a scrapbook, you would know what I am talking about: a picture, a ticket, some art or anything memorable your child decides to add.
Just a note: birthday gifts are a big part of our children's birthdays, but they cannot be the entire focus of the birthday celebration forgetting the true meaning of the day of birth. Montessori approach helps us make it the day of reflection, a moment to make wishes, build dreams, a time to appreciate, remember, and gather together with loved and dear ones!
A birthday card from Julia's Grandparents from South Korea.
Thank you, everyone, for your kind wishes, for thinking of us, and for being in our lives.
For more reading, there is a nice overview of Montessori Celebration of Life (Birthday Celebration) and Waldorf inspired Birthday Ring from Montessori Print Shop.