Birthdays are wonderful. Even if you don’t love the number you’re celebrating, it’s very fun to have a day of your own to enjoy. To celebrate this occasion we do a “Sun Celebration” or as my kids call it, a “Birthday Walk”. The Sun Celebration isn’t a Montessori concept, but I see that it does get used in many other Montessori classrooms. I suppose that is because it seems to have more of a representation of what age actually means to a child. In preparation for this article I intended to use more pictures, but it is difficult to do so when there are so many faces around the Line, so you’ll have to manage with the few I have.
Before a child’s birthday I ask the parents to bring in whatever healthy snack is the child’s favorite and one picture for each year of the child’s life. We’ve had a large streak of birthdays this month, celebrating about 6 so far and February isn’t even over! I set up our snack table at 8:30 am each day, and the children know if it’s not out right at 8:30 that must mean there is a Sun Celebration to do for the day! (There isn’t yet one child in my room who can read a clock either, but the daily classroom rhythm is the indicator to them I believe.) On days that we have a Sun Celebration, the children come to sit on the line very excitedly knowing we’re about to celebrate someone’s life.
I ask an older child to retrieve our globe from the Geography shelf as the child sets up the months on the sun. As I pass the months to the child one at a time we recite the months in order as a group. A lit candle is then placed in the center of the wooden sun that lies in the center of the gr0up, and the child holds the globe. I use very specific language when discussing the child – we use the mother’s, father’s, and siblings’ names as we discuss who all was expecting the child on their birthday. I usually start off with “On this day, (date) (mom’s name, dad’s name) rushed to the hospital (or stayed at home, as I’ve had to say before!) and welcomed a beautiful baby into the world who they named ______!” (When we get to the child’s name, the entire group of children shout the name with joy.) From this point on we discuss one year at a time of the child’s life. Questions are asked for what the child was capable of doing at that point, and the corresponding picture is shown for that age. We discuss abilities, friendships, siblings, and work-related milestones as well. When we complete talking about milestones in that year of life, we walk around the sun one time, coming back to the current month. When we arrive at the current day and current age, we sing Happy Birthday. The child then blows out the candle, and gets to share with their friends what they brought for everyone to enjoy as a snack.
The Sun Celebration is so riveting to the children, that even the ones that don’t join us for Line Time because they keep working want to be a part of it. The children are very respectful and make sure to maintain the quietness of their peers. We’ve also used this sun for so many lessons in our current topic, The Universe. I spent several lessons discussing why we walk all the way around the sun to signify a year in the Sun Celebration. When doing lessons on why the Moon has phases, I used the Sun on the floor with a flashlight on it to show how the Earth casts shadows on our Moon, and vice versa.
I’d love to hear how your classroom celebrates birthdays! I know everyone has slightly different traditions, or special songs to sing while doing a Sun Celebration. Please share!