Celebrating Adrian's 3rd Birthday the "Montessori style".
What do children expect from a birthday?
A party with gifts, balloons, a cake, and lots of people – some of whom they might be meeting for the first time, like distant relatives or parent's friends. The birthday child might also have many children attending, despite the slightest chance of being able to devote enough attention to each. So, when you ask a child what does his "birthday" mean, it is rare that he would think that it is the day he parted from the warmth of his Mom's tummy and that turning one would mean that 365 days have passed since then.
To resolve such discrepancy, the Montessori approach aims to introduce a deeper and more meaningful understanding of what a birthday truly means. For a toddler, an abstract concept such as the day of his birthday is explained as a relationship between the Earth and the Sun: a year is the amount of time it takes for the Earth to circle around the Sun once.
Smaller children celebrate Montessori Birthday by "walking the Earth", where a birthday child is given a globe that represents the Earth.
A sun (or a candle) is placed in the middle, and a circle is drawn on the floor either with a ribbon (like what we did), a masking tape, or a 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 planet he lives on – the Earth; 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." You may also talk about seasons and months. Adrian's birthday is in the Fall, and that is where he would start his journey from.
At the beginning of the celebration, I would say: "Adrian is just beginning his journey with the Earth around the Sun. He has not been born yet." Then, while inviting the child to take one step forward, I would say: "Now, Adrian was born: he was this tiny _ , weighing _ , and only _ inches long. Adrian made Mommy and Daddy the happiest people on Earth!" You may want to show a picture of a child as a newborn baby or anything memorable from that period.
Then, invite the child to walk all the way around the Sun: "Adrian is now celebrating his first birthday with his family." Again, you may want to share pictures or anything of sentimental value pertaining to the child's first birthday and prior to that.
A birthday child will "walk around the Sun" as many times, as the years of his/her life so far. "Adrian is now three years old, and today is his birthday! The Earth has gone three times around the Sun. Three years have gone by since Adrian was born."
At the end of a celebration, you may want to sing a birthday song, and let the child make a wish and blow the candle.
To make the celebration personal, I made time capsules for each year, including pictures and sentimental objects such as a favorite toy, some art, a lock of hair, first tooth, or anything that represents a memory during that year. This way, the child can look through these capsules each birthday, reminiscing about the years that have gone by. I do not keep the time capsules accessible all the time since I believe the specialness of them would be lost, but others suggest keeping them accessible should the child decide to look through them whenever he/she wishes.
Newborn till one-year-old: mittens, rattle, socks with a bell inside, the first cup, an egg in a peg …
1 Year Old:
Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party at the Magic Kingdom.
We also looked through a photo album: Adrian was one year old on those pictures.
"This fits better!"
BRIO is his favorite toy still!
3 Years Old:
During the past year, Adrian started to shift away from constantly needing me, to wanting to be with Julia all the time! They do everything together now, and their connection grew stronger and deeper.
Looking through a photo album: "I was a giraffe on Halloween – I was so cute!"
My children also look forward to cuddling under a blanket and looking through a photo book with pictures when they were smaller, re-connecting with much-loved objects and toys, and reminiscing about what was the most memorable experience of each year. So, to us, it is a time to be grateful for what we have by remembering all the good that has happened in prior years. It is a time to learn from our mistakes if any were made. It is a time to appreciate the current moment: we have peace, health, and a loving family, and we feel truly blessed! It is also a time to look forward and plan the future, time to set aspiring goals, and time to pledge to live in love, harmony, and peace.
You brought such meaning to all of our lives! We love you so much!!!
Birthday parties and gifts are a great addition to a child's birthday, but in my opinion, they cannot be the entire focus of the birthday celebration forgetting the true meaning of the day of birth. The Montessori approach helps us make it a day of reflection and appreciation, a moment to make wishes and build dreams, and a time to be together with loved and dear ones and doing what you want most! So, we asked Adrian what would he like to do for his birthday, and he said he would like to go pumpkin picking at the farm. And that is what we did …
At times, pictures speak louder than words – and this was one of those times. We had a wonderful weather, nature, and each other. It was a perfect birthday!
Read here about Julia's 7th Birthday celebration as an elementary student at her Montessori school.