Holiday celebrations are an ideal opportunity to teach children about cultures, traditions and values. Montessori offers meaningful activities to celebrate special days.
Holiday celebrations offer an ideal opportunity to teach children about cultures, traditions and values. In a Montessori classroom, meaningful special day activities engage a child’s interest, appeal to his senses, offer active participation and encourage exploration and discovery.
Which holidays to celebrate in a classroom is a decision that needs to be made every year by teachers, parents and children collectively. The holidays chosen need to be meaningful to the children and families, be developmentally appropriate, and represent the teacher, children and families of the class. By placing a limit on the total number of holidays celebrated in a school year, a special significance will be associated with each individual festivity.
Holiday celebrations in a Montessori environment incorporate hands-on active experiences through cooking, dramatic play and the exploration of authentic objects.
Exploring Holiday Traditions with Authentic Objects
In every early childhood Montessori environment, a set of authentic objects and photographs from each continent is always available for a child to explore and become interested about a community of people other than his own. A collection of authentic objects that reflect a specific holiday offers a similar opportunity to touch and feel and learn about a special tradition.
Authentic objects are not toys or plastic representations. A child should be offered real items associated with the holiday to experience. Objects could include traditional costumes to try on, natural decorations to touch and feel, real photos to look at, traditional music to listen to, and any other objects that are meaningful to the culture and values of the holiday. Ideally, these authentic objects should be available for the child to explore at will both before and after the holiday celebration.
Holiday celebrations are a wonderful opportunity for a child to learn about the traditions of others. Special day activities need to be meaningful, interesting and actively engaging to each child and really offer a hands-on experience of a holiday.
A large part of many holiday celebrations involves the preparation and enjoyment of traditional foods. Young children love to help cook, but finding the right tasks that are safe and not too difficult, yet still allow hands-on participation can be a challenge. In a Montessori classroom, each child is actively involved in preparing his own snack and participating in food preparation activities daily. Montessori food preparation activities that are easy to implement with a young child involve washing, peeling and slicing whole fruits and vegetables using child sized tools. Additionally, every young child can help to measure, pour, stir, whisk and mix with any recipe.
Choose traditional foods to prepare that have meaning to the holiday and represent the culture being celebrated. Families are encouraged to share any expert holiday knowledge with the class and be a part of the preparations. This is the ideal time for a child to try a new food that he has helped to prepare. Tasting and sharing a meal with friends is a meaningful way to celebrate a holiday.
From the Chicago Montessori Learning Examiner--Jocelyn Scotty