Reggio Inspired: Birthday Traditions

In these Reggio inspired classrooms – each room develops its own birthday tradition.  Here is one classroom’s documentation on how the traditions are formed:

 A peek at birthday traditions:

 IDEA 1:  I adore this idea!  Notice in the first photo there are empty hoops hanging.  On the child’s birthday they decorate and fill their hoop.  There is glitter involved as well – love the sparkle!!!  The child’s photo and birthday are attached to the jute holding the hoop.  Love. Totally.
IDEA 2:  Another rocking idea.  Remember the old fashion art project – paste, yarn and a balloon?  Fast forward to Reggio inspired and you have birthday lanterns.  The lanterns hang undecorated until the child’s birthday (child’s photo is attached to plain lantern).  In the second photo you can see the ribbons woven in for the celebration.  The teacher told me that there are little battery operated flames in the lanterns.  On the child’s birthday – their plain lantern is lit.  Everyone knows when they walk in that a birthday is happening! Oh my word!  I love that!
IDEA 3:  The bottom photo shows you an example of the frames hanging on the wall with the child’s name and birthday.  I chose to photography a teacher’s for obvious reasons.  On the child’s birthday they get to create a painting for their frame.  A simple but amazing idea.
 IDEA 4:  Each child has their initial up on the wall plain.  On their birthday they get to decorate their initial.  Isn’t it beautiful?!!  (I know – I put it on day one of this series but it deserves a second showing!!!)
IDEA 5:  This classroom decided to create collages on canvas boards.  I love the diversity of materials.  Love the angle the boards are displayed.
 IDEA 6:  This class choose to use canvas boards and create collages.  I really like how there is a birthday cupcake on the blank canvas before the birthday! (And that they decorated those as well.)
  The wide range of materials used give these such individuality! Love.
IDEA 7:  This class used the gallery canvases.  These have a deep edge.  They decorate their canvas on their birthday.
Oooo – such goodness!
I must praise Rosa Parks again and again for their generosity for sharing their classrooms and for permission to share the beauty.   You are inspiring beyond words.  Big Hugs to you!
Tomorrow’s post is Hanging Art.


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  1. I love this! And not a cupcake in sight! 🙂
    Goes to show that we can make birthdays very special without using sugar.

    • I agree! It is the traditions and rituals that make the day so special.

  2. Lise says:

    I love these ideas. Thanks so much for sharing them!

    • My pleasure and I am super grateful to Rosa Parks for permission to share!

  3. Kat says:

    Sally, I love, love, love these great posts about this amazing school! Thank you for sharing and for inspiring me (as always). I can’t wait to try some of these ideas and to share them with my co-teachers.

    • I am with you! This school is inspiring and I adore the many ideas. I am so happy it inspired you!

  4. Karen says:

    I cannot even begin to choose which one of these I love the most! These are such special ways of making birthdays actually about the child, and not a treat. We are working on moving away from birthday treats at my school, and I believe that replacing them with beauty like this would win everyone over. A previous commenter really said it well – rituals are so powerful. Thanks again for sharing!

    Teaching Ace Blog

    • There is a trend to move away from the birthday treats. I know in my own classroom – the ritual of the birthday celebration is what the children wait for and anticipate. It is the true gift to give our students and families. It is meaningful. S


  5. LJN says:

    I am SO extremely grateful for this post!! I wish I lived near Rosa Parks Preschool to visit and observe all of these wonderful ideas in person! But, since I don’t – THANK YOU for photographing and describing these ideas so vividly! I’m returning to teaching preschool in the fall after a long break from staying at home with my own kids, and I was already dreading the focus placed on cupcakes & treats as our only form of celebrating birthdays! Hopefully as the “new teacher” I can implement some new traditions! I can’t wait!! Also, I think it will be a relief for many parents to not feel pressured to send a special treat! One questions, what is the “Me Book” referred to in the documentation?? That sounds like another great idea, too!

    • Deborah says:

      I totally agree on your Dred of celebrating with all those traditional birthday treats. At the school I’m at the teachers got together and spoke to our director about implementing a healthy choices plan for our parents. We hand out a flyer with the birthday options and now cupcakes and cake is a thing of the past. We are also having workshops for our parents presented by our teachers to educate our families about the dangers of giving to much sugar to children and the long term effects. Maybe this idea can help. Best wishes

  6. Kristin says:

    What do you fill the hoops with ?

    • Melisa says:

      It looked to me to be plain paper, but could also be a coffee filter?

    • Sally says:

      I am not sure but I am thinking muslin or something like rice paper.

      • Chaya says:

        Could also be silk

        • Sally says:

          Oh, yes! Silk is so delicious. The texture and colors. Thanks for sharing that one!

  7. Penny says:

    What a wonderful post. I did such a poor job last year with celebrating birthdays. I am slowly transforming my classroom with the inspiration of Emilia Reggio (slowly is the key word!). I loved this post on birthdays, especially the hoops. How are the hoops made/filled with? also, is the “me book” a special book that goes home for parents and child to fill out?
    thank you for sharing,
    Penny 🙂

  8. Anna says:

    Wonderful ideas. Please tell me a little bit more about the me books. Thanks for sharing.

  9. dorothy says:

    Thanks Sally for this awesome share! I agree with Karen … each is such a great idea; it’s too hard to decide which I want to try this year. I do wonder though …. how do you celebrate the birthdays that fall during the holiday breaks or in the summer?


    • Sally says:

      I work it out with each parent and their preference. I have a master calendar and I note in the calendar. It seems to be the best solution I have found through the years.

    • Melisa says:

      Our school celebrates half-birthdays for summer ones.

  10. Lisa Michael says:

    Can’t wait!! I have my branch waiting to hang those beautiful string lanterns that they weave!! How magical!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! xxxooo

    • Sally says:

      Woohoo! It such a beautiful, magical idea!

  11. Chrissy says:

    Thank you for sharing such wonderful birthday traditions. Last year I did the letters on a tree in our hallway and it was so beautiful. I’m thinking I will do the loops this year, is it just filled with a paper circle? Also what is the Me Book?


  12. Denise Heald says:

    Hi Sally – I’m wondering what part of these ‘activities’ are in anyway related to the pedagogy of Reggio Emilia? What is the purpose and deeper thinking behind them? Have you ever been to Reggio Emilia? If you have you would know that teachers in Reggio Emilia think deeply about what they propose to children.

    • Sally says:

      These photos are from a Reggio-Inspired public school. It is not a Reggio Emilia school but inspired by this amazing educational method. The teachers of this school have been exposed to some of the pedagogy of Reggio Emilia with Lella Gandini, Boulder Journey School and other professional development opportunities.

      I feel it is important to honor all the different levels of embracing the Reggio-Inspired pathway. Many of us can not fully undertake the rich and deep path Reggio Emilia offers in its purity because we do not have the freedom to do so. My colleagues have mandated standards, curriculum and expectations – but this is should not prevent us from bringing even a morsel of this wondrous method.

      Reggio emilia celebrates the child, the whole child in all of their uniqueness. Giving the child a birthday celebration or a unique child celebration enables us to do the same amidst all of the standardized educational practices that are forced upon us. Isn’t a sprinkling better than nothing?

  13. This is simply gorgeous! Birthday celebrations can be so commercialized and this post shows so many ways to make this special day memorable and full of spirit. In the Montessori classroom, we always celebrate the child’s birthday in a special “walk around the sun” and your article here has inspired me with lovely ways to embellish the celebration not only in the classroom but at home as well. Just lovely!

    • Sally says:

      I love the “walk around the sun.” A colleague of mine does this and it is so moving!

      • christine black says:

        We are Montessori and do the walk around the sun to a lovely song, then i sit with the child in circle and read the story”on the night you were born” by Nancy Tillman

        • Deborah says:

          Thanks for the book title and the idea.

  14. Danette Swan says:

    So many lovely, thoughtful ideas! I am especially intrigued by the lanterns. Do you know the process behind them? Step one – all friends use glue, water, and yarn to wrap their ballon? Then, how would the weaving work? On your birthday you choose the materials to weave in? It’s really such a sweet idea. One of our through lines for this year’s Kinder class pertains to celebrations and focuses on the traditions and rituals and reasons why people all around the world celebrate. Byrd Baylor’s book, I’m in Charge of Celebrations is a magical jumping off place!

  15. Mary Brummel says:

    Wowser!!! Never seen this before! I thought the ideas fantastic. If a 10 month program how are the summer birthdays handled? Thanks so much for this idea!!

  16. Laurel says:

    The hoops and letters are my favorites, but it will be great to have different ideas for each year!

  17. Liz walters says:

    Thanks so much for all your posts and comments. I have started the year with letters to celebrate each birthday. But I didn’t realise all the letters were up already and they gradually got decorated. I had my children choosing from a selection of different shaped letters on their birthday and decorating but I might get them to all choose. It will look much better on the wall!
    Thanks liz

  18. mandy falgout says:

    how does the teacher intro the idea at the beginning of the year? this sounds fabulous and a great way to celebrate without all the treats. i’d love to read more. anything suggested?

  19. laura says:

    I love the ideas! I am sure I will use some of them, they are great!!!
    I am form Spain and I saw some mistakes on the Tradition de cumpleaños letter. If you want me to correct them let me know and I will help you 😉
    Laura xx

    • Sally says:

      Yes – that would amazing.

  20. Tammy says:

    GREAT ideas I cant wait to show my staff.

  21. Tammy Waterhouse says:

    When do the children who have birthdays in the summer create their birthday art?

    • Sally says:

      I have done this one of two ways – at the half year mark or a special selected day by the child. I will have the child and their family pick the day to celebrate. This gives the choice and meaning back to the child.

  22. bhaviiii says:

    niceeee very ispiringggg thingss the ideas are wounderfullll

    • Sally says:

      Enjoy implementing them into your class. There is a treasure trove of ideas!

  23. Gayle Forrester says:

    Very inspiring ideas. Thank you for sharing. In our centre we are not allowed to hang things on the wall so hanging things from the ceiling will be fun.

    • Sally says:

      Out of necessity comes beauty and creativity! And the children will LOVE it!

  24. Marianela Rodousakis says:

    I love love love the birthday lanterns! These are all such meaningful ideas and projects for the children to work on and develop a sense of ownership over their bday day planning!

    • Sally says:

      I agree! They are honored and involved! Such an important milestone in a child’s life!

  25. Brenta Clem says:

    I just love all the ideas. I am so impressed with the variety of ways to honor each child. I can only imagine the excitement as the special child walks into the classroom knowing that they are truly valued.

  26. Barbara Ignatius says:

    I just love these great ideas on how children are celebrated on their birthdays. This year I will surely celebrate each child in one of the ways shown and it will be treasure keepsake for the children as well. Thank you so much for sharing this. I’ve learnt so much!

    • Sally says:

      It is one of my favorite things ever! 🙂

  27. Great ideas!!! Thank you for sharing this.

    • Sally says:

      I love Rosa Parks ECE. Such an inspiring school!

  28. Mary Ann says:

    Great ideas! We like celebrating un-birthdays too, for those summer kids!

    • Sally says:

      I love your term – un-birthdays!

    • M. says:

      For the summer birthdays, I normally celebrate them in the last week of the term in June. However, if doing this type of art/lantern that hangs in the class all year, those kids would hardly get a chance to see their work displayed. I think I’d switch it up and celebrate summer birthdays during the first few eeeks back in September.

  29. Sana says:

    These ideas are so wonderful; thanks for sharing! How would you introduce the birthday tradition idea to a grade 2 class? How would you go about brainstorming for traditions?

    • Sally says:

      I love birthday traditions, they honor the children and everyone loves taking part. There are wonderful ideas on Pinterest! I can’t wait to see what you do for your students!

  30. Zoja says:

    Great Ideas! As you mentioned, each class has their own way how to celebrate birthdays. In our class each child and a teacher draws a heart to the birthday child. Then all hearts we paste together and create a Birthday – Heart Book the Birthday child takes home. Everyone is involved and gives a little part of “his/her heart” as a present! The children love these books!

    • Sally says:

      What a meaningful tradition. I love all of the ideas that are being shared.

    • Kim Beaumont says:

      This is a great idea, Zora.
      Your heart book encourages literacy.
      For art, maybe the hearts could be made into a garland for the birthday student to take home?

      • Zoja says:

        Thank you for the comment! Garland from hearts is another great idea, however the heart book where each page is created by one child and then pasted together in a book works better for us. We have a Birthday Ceremony for the Birthday child and this book is big part of it. Each child can tell and explain his/her drawing while giving a hug and a kiss to the Birthday child!

  31. Kim Beaumont says:

    Hi Sally,
    After reading your post about birthday ideas, I just got a wave of ideas myself that I would like to share as well as implement with my class next year: stepping stones for the garden! So, each child has a stepping stone that they have made with the class at the beginning of the year. Then, on the birthday celebration day, the student could decorate with natural pieces or anything meaningful. Would be sweet if classmate friends and family were to also get involved. (Summer birthday kids could have this done, wrapped and opened at birthday). Stepping stones could be added to the school garden or home garden. If parent wanted to, a new stepping stone could be created for the child each year as part of personal birthday celebrations. Your thoughts and input?

    Thank you for all you do. I really get a lot out of your offerings online to us.

    ~ Kim

    • Sally says:

      I love that idea! I would do a test run between now and the start of school and play with your ideas. I think it is so lovely. And thank you so much for your kind words!

  32. Deborah says:

    Sally I love these ideas. I too have a tradition for birthdays. I put a piece of butcher paper on the table. I write the words happy birthday and the child’s name. Then I draw a balloon and write the age of the child inside of the balloon. The child chooses paint color or colors to make two hand prints on the paper. The child can choose to paint each of their friends hand so they can make a print or they help call their friends over to make a hand print. Each of the children write their name under their hand print. The birthday banner is hung up to dry and after snack we sing happy birthday to the child. At the end of the day the child takes the banner home. I have had several siblings come through my classroom and the parents have asked if I still make the birthday banner with the children. I have been wanting the do something different and the Reggio Inspired Birthday Traditions are so wonderful I think I might try something similar. Thank You for sharing.


  1. […] gallery, to show their artistic expression.  I borrowed this idea from Fairy Dust Teaching’s wonderful article about Reggio Emilia inspired birthday celebrations. There are some other fantastic ideas on this […]

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