Last week was a very exciting week in our house: BIRTHDAY WEEK!! We make a big deal about birthdays around here. It actually started just because Drama Queen’s birthday is one day before my birthday, so we naturally did several special things together during the week of our birthdays. Now we’ve made it a tradition that whenever we have a birthday in the family, we do something special every day that week.
I’ll share all our fun experiences from this Birthday Week shortly, but first let me describe the “Montessori Style” part of it. Montessori Primary (ages 3-6) classrooms have a really unique way of celebrating a student’s birthday, and I love it! Every Montessori Primary classroom has a large ellipse taped or painted on the floor, which is used for a few different things. One of those is the birthday celebration. The children sit behind the ellipse for the celebration. A lit candle is placed in the middle to represent the sun, and the birthday child, holding a small globe, walks along the ellipse. For each “lap” around the ellipse, the teacher describes what new skills the child developed during each year of his life. It’s a really neat visual representation of how the earth travels around the sun one time each year.
I’ve wanted to do this as part of my own children’s birthday celebrations, but I always get stressed and overwhelmed and don’t get that part organized. This year, I did. Since none of the children at Mr. BANG’s party have been part of a Montessori class or experienced this type of birthday celebration (including my own) I wasn’t sure how it would go, or how Mr. BANG would handle it, but I really felt like it went well!
Before the party, I had used blue packing tape to make a circle on our living room floor. At the appropriate point in the party, I gathered all the children over to the circle and guided them to sit behind the line. (It took a bit of effort to help the younger ones understand that they weren’t supposed to be on the line!) I was also behind the line, and I had Mr. BANG stand in front of me on the line. The Brain lit the candle in the middle as I stated that the candle represented the sun. I handed Mr. BANG the globe and very briefly explained that the globe was a model of the earth and that the earth goes around the sun each year.
I told the group that three years ago, something very exciting happened to Mr. BANG’s Mommy and Daddy. I told about a new baby being born, and how excited Mommy, Daddy, and Big Sis were. I shared the full name that Mommy and Daddy gave the baby boy.
At this point I prompted Mr. BANG to start slowly walking around the circle. He took me very literally at first – he was walking so slowly, you could hardly tell he was moving! As I sped him up slightly, I told about his first year: learning to lift his head, roll over, and smile; loving to sleep against Mommy or Daddy, etc. I had put together a collection of photos for each year, so I showed that as I spoke. When Mr. BANG made it back to me, I said, “And then he was one.” We continued the same process for the next two years. When I said, “And now he is three,” we all sang “Happy Birthday” to him. He was awesome with walking along the circle – he walked slowly and meticulously placed each foot along the way – but when we sang, he just crumpled against me! It was pitifully sweet! The Brain commented later that it was probably the loud sound that he was reacting to. (Loud sounds from others are much different than loud sounds from himself, of course!)
All in all, I was very pleased with how his Montessori birthday celebration went. The other children seemed really engaged and were listening and watching intently, and Mr. BANG seemed to feel very special by it.
Now, as for the rest of the week prior to the party, here are the special activities we did…
We went to a nearby bouncy house that we’ve been to just one time before. Of course, both children had a wonderful time running and bouncing. Drama Queen made friends with another four-year-old girl, so they created a long-lasting game where Mr. BANG was the bear trying to catch them. For probably half the time we were there, he literally was running around the place (and climbing and sliding and all that) waving his arm and yelling, “Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang!” I never realized that bears hunted by yelling “bang” – but now I do!
On Tuesday, God surprised us with a rare November Tennessee snow, so our special activity was playing in the snow! It doesn’t get any better than that! Okay, so it really wasn’t very much snow at all, but to Mr. BANG and Drama Queen, it was the best snow ever! It was enough that we were able to take a nice snowy hike through the woods by our house down to a little stream. They loved it!
Mr. BANG’s request for Wednesday was to make a repeat visit to one of our favorite places – the aquarium. We go all the time, but it never gets old! Mr. BANG is all about the sharks, so we wandered around the ocean area observing the sharks, sea turtles, and the always fascinating jellyfish. We even paused to watch the diver show, which my children normally want to run (literally) right past. It’s partway down a long, zig-zagging ramp, and that ramp is probably 80% of the reason my kids always want to go “see the sharks”!
Thursday was cake-making day. Both of my children started helping make cakes when they were around 14 or 15 months old, so by this point, they’re old pros. Since I was making a two-tiered cake (for the first time!), I set each of them up to make their own cake. I had all the ingredients measured out and lined up in order – and let them go to work. For the first time, I got to be their helper instead of them being my helper! It was awesome letting them have that experience of making their own cake, with just a little help from Mommy! Afterwards, they both had that air of confidence, knowing, “I made that cake!”
We started the day with streamers over his door, an idea I got from my friend Amber. He was really confused at first. He just stood there and asked, “What do I do?” Once he got the hang of it, though, he kept running back and forth through the streamers, getting more and more excited. It culminated in him running circles in his bedroom for about ten minutes singing one particular song he made up.
Friday was probably the most exciting of all because that’s when we got to go have lunch with Daddy at his office! Both children always love going into Daddy’s special world where he spends his days. AND there’s a giant fish tank at Daddy’s office, so having lunch while watching the fish is quite a treat as well!
Friday also was his actual birthday. Instead of sitting and opening all the presents at once, we spread presents throughout the day so the child can take time to enjoy each one. First thing in the morning, he opened one from Mommy and Daddy and the gift from Drama Queen (they always give each other a new book of their choosing). At Daddy’s office, he opened another gift. After nap, he opened the two gifts from extended family members, and after dinner he opened his last gift from us. (That one is a card game that I will have to tell you about later – it’s awesome!!)
Saturday was his birthday party with friends. It turned out to be an absolutely gorgeous day, so we spent much of it outside. I don’t do organized party games at this point. I set out limited toys inside and let them run free outside! Parents get to chat, and the kids have a blast! For months, Mr. BANG has talked (sang, actually; he made up a song that he’s been singing repeatedly. Every day. For about 6 months.) about having a Thomas birthday party with lots of blue cakes. So I did my best to suit. (It was my first time with fondant, so don’t judge! )
It was supposed to look like this, but I did the best I could in the time I had!
I love the fun of birthdays and letting the child get the chance to really feel how special he is – and how much fun he is to spend time with!