Leprechaun Traps and a Tale of No Candy. . .

Is there is any value to celebrating St. Patrick’s Day with young children?  It is certainly a popular celebration in classrooms across America and in my own school.   It seems a bit silly to me but I have been amused by the many classrooms that I have seen “leprechauns” leave a mess and a special treat of gold coins or candy.  Having read the lore of Leprechauns – this was not in keeping with the true legend.  Last year,  with the other kindergartens celebrating this holiday, I decided to celebrate it  mindful of the original lore.  I began the day before having the children construct leprechaun traps from collected empty food packaging and such.  After they created their trap, each child explained why they thought their trap would work.  It was so interesting.  We had paper leprechauns to test the trap. Here are a few of the traps:

This child wanted candy to “lure” the leprechaun into her trap!

We set our traps around the room on March 16.  The morning of the 17th, the children arrived to a classroom that had been torn a part and not a treat or piece of gold to be seen anywhere!  Some of the children were dismayed when they saw that other classes had candy left behind and we did not.  So we discussed the legend of Leprechauns and read books on this Irish lore.  We discovered no leprechaun would ever leave gold coins or candy so willingly.  The legend was clear – you had to catch the leprechaun first!  The children quickly discerned that the candy was obviously from the teachers.  Interestingly, they were so excited by the fact nothing was left behind.

“Do you think we had real leprechauns?”  one child inquired.   Another child responded, “No.  There is no such thing as a leprechaun, remember?”  Yet another child searched the room for the trap they had built.   Picking up their squished trap under the dollhouse, this little girl asked me, “I liked making a trap.  Can we pretend to be catching leprechauns again?  I want to build a trap with jewels this time. ” A group of children built traps again that afternoon.   At free choice, several children pretended to be “leprechauns” and the housekeeping was “messed-up.”  One child, a leprechaun, was caught by the trap another child built in blocks.  It had “teeth” like a bear trap made with the triangular blocks.

I think it was so much more fun for the children to keep to the original legend.  It provided a rich conversation and the value of research to find out what is the truth.  It reminded me of how powerful it is to bring the truth of something.  Perhaps there is nothing wrong with how other classrooms celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with Leprechauns leaving treasures.  Yet, I can’t help but wonder – what is the point of it?  What are we teaching our children in this?

There is a true education in bringing the truth of something.  I love the fables and lore of countries around our globe.  I want to share an taste of these cultures and their lore!  We should trust the children to appreciate the real deal.  And in my experience – they absolutely loved it!

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  1. Miss Night says:

    Is it weird for me to say that this post makes me suspect we are soulmates? I was JUST ranting about how the whole leprechaun trap thing completely misconstrues the “real “nature of leprechauns, and how little value i see in the gold coin/candy thing… I love love love the way you dealt with this, and how the children were still completely engaged. I am unsure when St Pat’s started being a holiday on par with Halloween in so many kinder classes… Anyway, thank you. Also, I love your blog and am often inspired by your ideas and thoughtfulness about your classroom environment.

  2. I am so glad I am not alone! This year I did not celebrate St. Patrick’s Day as we were on Spring Break on March 17. I saw other classes spend an entire week on it even tho we would not be in school on the 17th. I felt there were more important things to focus on such as it is time to plant early garden seeds! I will only discuss this holiday if we are together on that day. Thank you for your comment!

  3. Havalah says:

    My friend Miss Night directed me here as this is a conversation we’ve been having all week. My reasons for not looking for/trapping leprechauns etc., are many but at the core is the fact that it’s SAINT Patrick’s Day and well, a holiday with Saint in the name is attached to a particular religion and I teach in public school. I think it’s therefore a “home” holiday. That’s the core reason and there are many other reasons on top of that. I am so into your way of leprechaun trapping as antidote to your candy leaving colleagues. Kudos! And as a side note, I was looking around your blog and realized that earlier this year I’d found and loved your “safe keeper” idea as well. Fantastic! =) Thanks for the good stuff.

  4. Wow, that is such an excellent point. We can get so lost in the trappings and forget the inner meaning of a special day. You have given me another level of reflection. Thank you for that reminder.

  5. I was always wondering in general why St Patrick’s Day celebrations are so widespread here in US. You would think that everyone has some Irish blood. I am glad my daughter’s school didn’t celebrate this year, and we just focused on original legends at home as a cultural study.

  6. Debbie says:

    Thank you for your post! This year we did have the leprechaun come to our classroom and “mess it up”… however, for many of my students it was something scary – not fun. It made me thinking that maybe this is something that I should not be doing with my students. It made me sad, because one of my most imaginative students said to me “I don’t like my imagination”. When he said that it seemed as though he put a stake through my heart! What a horrible thing to say – especially since this student can recreate a whole episode of Transformers just using thistle blocks! I do not want to be the teacher who squashes this child’s imagination.

    Next year – no leprechaun is coming to our classroom.

    Thanks again for making me think and know that I am not alone in deciding not to celebrate this one with my students.

  7. herbwifemama says:

    St P day is just a tiny blip in our holidays. We made a leprechaun following the directions at Wee Folk Art, and went on a walk. When we came back, that mischievous leprechaun had gotten into my baking supplies and spilled my decorating sugar (green, natch) everywhere! We decided he must want us to put it on the brownies we were baking that night for dessert, and we did. He hasn’t bothered us since. 🙂

  8. Jennifer says:

    I love your take on the leprechaun traps. For St. Patrick’s Day this year we opted to actually learn about the culture of the Irish people and forgo the chocolate coins for more traditional cooking. Next year we might go with this fun project as well. I also wanted to tell you that I love seeing so many Girl Scout cookie boxes in your leprechaun traps, I’m going to share your photos with our girls this week. (c:

  9. Now you know my weakness! Love cookies! I was a girl scout leader back when my eldest daughter was in elementary school as well!

  10. Michelle Dellosa says:

    I’m new at my school this year and have been told that it is a school tradition to go all out for this holiday. We just finished Halloween, 100th day, Valentine’s Day, and before that Christmas…I feel like I’m having a party every other week at this point. Each one is a big deal and I keep saying to myself that I just don’t know that point. I appreciate your post. I’m not going to make this an educational experience.

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