Home / Why Montessori Education / Elementary Birthday Celebrations: Parents, we’re not in Primary anymore!


By: Cass Aitken (11/7/13)

We are thrilled to have so many new families in the Elementary class this year!  Along with a new building and teacher, the new elementary children and parents have a whole new set of “procedures” to learn about as well.  I thought I would take this opportunity to share a little about Elementary birthday celebrations with you.  Even if you’re not an elementary parent now, we hope that you will be someday or, at the very least, that you find this interesting.

Birthday celebrations are done differently in the Elementary than in the Primary.  Like so many other things in the Elementary it is about a series of choices, becoming independent and acting as responsible contributors to society.

So, what does a birthday celebration in the Elementary classroom look like?

  • The child will come to Ms. Anna and talk to her about how they would like to celebrate their birthday.  They first must choose a day to celebrate that works well with the classroom schedule (one with no other conflicts, for example Fridays are not a good day because of weekly conferences).

  • Then she asks the child what they would like to do to celebrate their special day.  They can choose a game, an activity (usually they choose something art related, such as design work, one time the celebration included gesture drawing, another time Ms. Anna taught them hatching and cross-hatching), or to bake with two or three of their friends.  They are not obligated to choose a game or activity-but Ms. Anna has never had a child not want to.

  • If the child chooses not to bake, they may bring something from home to share with the children at lunch.  This is a good time to remind you of our guidelines for treats – please don’t bring things that are too sugary or contain artificial colors.  Good things to bring are quick bread, muffins, a simple pound cake, fruit or fruit kabobs.  Cookies, rich cake and anything with excessive icing is not appropriate.  Even if the baking is not done in the classroom, the children will have lots of ideas and suggestions for their treat and will want to be included in the choices, shopping and baking.

  • The child may also bring in pictures about the years of their life.  Usually before lunch we will sit down in a circle and share the pictures.

  • The only thing we ALWAYS do is to go around the circle and let everyone say something they like or appreciate about the person who is celebrating his/her birthday.  We do this whether he/she brings in pictures or not.

  • If the birthday boy/girl has brought in a treat, it is shared at lunch.  If the child is baking a treat at school we share it either at lunch or at the end of the day.  The other activity the birthday child chooses might be done either in the morning or the afternoon.

Do parents attend?

No.  The celebration is focused on the birthday child and his/her relationship to the other children and the community of the classroom.  Because the celebration is usually a collection of moments throughout the day, it is hard for us to let the parents know when to come in.  Additionally, because your child has entered the second plane (and as hard as this is for you to hear), he/she wants this extra fun time with their friends.  It really does not make sense for the parents to come in (boo!).

An important characteristic of the second plane is that the child is starting to move away from his family and wants and needs more independent moments with his friends. The celebration is a great way for her to experience this phenomenon in a safe environment.  I know this may be a hard thing for us to hear as parents (don’t worry, we have lots of tissues if you need one).  For parents, I would suggest that you find new ways to be involved in your child’s celebration (helping him come up with suggestions for baking at school or baking the treat at home).  It also helps to just take a deep breath, step back and realize that your “baby” is growing up into that independent and responsible child you always hoped and dreamed they would become.  Way to go Mom and Dad!  This day you get to celebrate too!