Birthdays as History Lessons

baby picture

A student admires his friend’s baby picture.

Like many Montessori Schools, we go out of our way to celebrate birthdays. We do so in a way that emphasizes the passage of time a child’s life. The children discuss how the Earth goes around the sun each year, getting an idea of their place in time. Essentially these are among the first History and Science lessons a child will receive.

In the celebration, the children enter the room to see a special mat with a sun in the center, and the four seasons represented on each side.  To begin the Science Lesson, the teacher points out the sun, and we sing together our favorite, fun They Might Be Giants song. Next, the seasons are discussed, becoming clear which season we are now in. Then, we invite the Birthday Boy or Girl to stand on the side of the mat representing this season, and the teacher says “There was once a time when the Earth went around the sun without her!” (Invariably, the watching children gasp at this point.) Then we look at a baby picture of the child that the parents have brought for us to see.

Walk Around the Sun

The Earth travels around the sun!

Next, the child holds on to our little globe (right) and walks around the sun one time. “Now she turned one year old!” announces the teacher, and we look at the picture of the child at 1.

This process is repeated for each year of the child’s life: pictures, walk around the sun, saying the names of the seasons, repeat.

Celebrating a birthday is a short history of that child. Discussing what has happened over these few years of her life helps to give all of the children a sense of time, both past and present. Later, when a child might create a timeline of their own life, they have this experience to fall back on.

First Birthday Pic

A 5-year old showing off her own first-birthday picture