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.
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.
planning on doing the birthday hoops. i need the 2 piece embroidery hoop per child? or just a single round hoop?
They are silk hoops. You can order them from Dharma Trading
Please edit that comment I just made. I meant to say
You need the 2 piece embroidery hoop to hold the fabric in place. Or you can order silk hoops already mounted from Dharma Trading Co.
Hi Sally. I love your ideas! They are amazing. I was trying to download the free ebook but couldn’t. For some reasons, once I hit the download button it doesn’t direct me to anything. Please help me. I would really want to get a copy of your Loose Parts ebook. Thanks heaps!
Hey Tarra! Please send email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll send it to you!
Lovely. Thank u so much Sally I am going to try this for the new year
I love these ideas. Thanks so much for sharing them!
My pleasure and I am super grateful to Rosa Parks for permission to share!
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!
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
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!
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
On Parents’ Night (Meet Your Teachers), we asked each family to draw and decorate their child’s first initial and glued it on a background of their choice (corrugated board was the popular one.) These are displayed as Family Art. The birthday child will further decorate their board. We cannot wait to see this happen! Thanks for the tip!
What do you fill the hoops with ?
It looked to me to be plain paper, but could also be a coffee filter?
I am not sure but I am thinking muslin or something like rice paper.
Could also be silk
Oh, yes! Silk is so delicious. The texture and colors. Thanks for sharing that one!
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,
Wonderful ideas. Please tell me a little bit more about the me books. Thanks for sharing.
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?
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.
Our school celebrates half-birthdays for summer ones.
Can’t wait!! I have my branch waiting to hang those beautiful string lanterns that they weave!! How magical!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! xxxooo
Woohoo! It such a beautiful, magical idea!
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?
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.
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?
Yes! I love your response Sally! Thank you!
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!
I love the “walk around the sun.” A colleague of mine does this and it is so moving!
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
Thanks for the book title and the idea.
I love this idea.
I would love some ideas for the actual celebration as well…special songs that teachers sing or things they do with the class. We have the parents join us to celebrate…
Great idea! I am adding it to my list!
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!
Great seeing diversity, focusing on traditions and rituals around the world.
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!!
The hoops and letters are my favorites, but it will be great to have different ideas for each year!
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!
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?
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 😉
Yes – that would amazing.
GREAT ideas I cant wait to show my staff.
When do the children who have birthdays in the summer create their birthday art?
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.
niceeee very ispiringggg thingss the ideas are wounderfullll
Enjoy implementing them into your class. There is a treasure trove of ideas!
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.
Out of necessity comes beauty and creativity! And the children will LOVE it!
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!
I agree! They are honored and involved! Such an important milestone in a child’s life!
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.
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!
It is one of my favorite things ever! 🙂
Great ideas!!! Thank you for sharing this.
I love Rosa Parks ECE. Such an inspiring school!
Great ideas! We like celebrating un-birthdays too, for those summer kids!
I love your term – un-birthdays!
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.
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?
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!
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!
What a meaningful tradition. I love all of the ideas that are being shared.
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?
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!
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.
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!
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.
Those are brilliant ideas! Absolutely love them. A couple questions. While the birthday child is doing the special birthday activity, what are other children doing? Is there a special corner and/or time dedicated for the birthday one to do that ? Thank you
Each teacher has their own method. What I did was have the birthday child select a Birthday Committee of 3-4 friends and they would work during Centers at a table. So the other children are engaged in play at that time. I, personally, never told the children where to go or how many children could go to a center – so this worked well for me.
Sally what does the Birthday letter say please or can you tell me where you found? I think this is adorable. Unfortunately here we can not hang anything from our ceilings it is considered a fire hazard so will have to figure out a way to display the lanterns. Thank you for sharing.
Loved going through the ideas of birthday celebration.
In my class we have a traditional way of going about it. In India where I am based we have a lot of cultural & traditional aspects interwoven in our educational practices.On the birthday day class is decorated with our typical decorations,the child whose birthday is there is made to sit in centre of circle with class mates.We then perform our traditional ceremony of applying a mixture of red powder/vermillion paste on the fore head as a blessing for long healthy life & with our traditional candle diya perform a ritual to bless the child. Then each class mate says something special about the birthday child.This makes the child feel special,blessed,
strengthens his bond with friends.
What a beautiful way to honor a child on a birthday! Love it!
Hi Sally. These are inspirational posts! I love them. I Love the idea of the birthday hoops. Do you know what the material decorated is? Would love any insight on it. I think it would fit perfectly in my little class room. thank you!
Thin material, such a cotton or silk, is perfect for these hoops!
I love these ideas specially hoops. How these hoops are filled?
Great thanks for sharing.
The hoops have a fine thin material (cotton or silk work wonderfully) which children can make beautiful creations! Are they magical?
I can see #1 working very well with the children I teach. It is so eye – catching. can’t wait to try it.
I have a birthday chart in my class too. But Sally, your post inspired me that I can let my students to make it by themselves!!!
Great ideas can’t wait to show the other teachers!
Having a display with the children’s birthdates helps me remember when a birthday is coming up. Last year, the student’s took down and decorated their displayed birthday photo using beads on (or close to) the day of their birthday. They can choose to wear a teacher or self made birthday hat to let others know its their birthday. If parents want to celebrate their child’s birthday at school, we encourage them to donate a book to our library and paste a commemorative certificate inside the cover acknowledging the child’s name, age and birthdate. Eliminates the sugar highs!
Really gives children their sense of belonging
What do you do for summer birthdays?
Great question Teresa! When I was in the classroom I spent the last month of school celebrating summer birthdays. But my neighboring teacher celebrated half birthdays.
I do home daycare and I have a age group ranging from 1-7. Ranging from winter to summer birthdays. Can the 1 year old do this too?
They definitely would LOVE exploring the weaving materials and would love to see how they would react. I personally suggest more of a free form art expression for that young for birthdays such as paint, coloring canvases, etc. Exploring fabrics though is a necessity for 1 year olds! Haven’t seen a one-year-old do this so if you have any experience please let us know!
Great idea ! Loved them all, mostly the picture frame because it will remain and kids can hang it on the wall in their room.
“And still, the kids whose birthdays didnt come yet can see their names on the reserved frames.”
These are great ideas, much better than cupcakes and juice! The children and their families can keep them for years and remember the wonderful years of their childhoods. I love arts and crafts, it’s my passion.
Thank you for this, great ideas! I love your emails with these freebies.
Awesome ideas for their special day.
I will share this awesome idea with my team. We will try to employ in our classroom!
Thank you for sharing these amazing ideas, practices and means of celebrating creatively individuals. I wonder why birthdays take precedence in celebrating an individuals life and why we assume that this fits all. I came across this on a workplace visit where a child’s family did not celebrate birthdays, so the child was excluded. In some cultures they do not celebrate birthdays or place such importance on the day one was born but do celebrate other days. As professionals could we perhaps reflect this in our practices and state ” Niko celebrates his name day on 06/12/2019′ Honouring individuality reflects cultural competence and honours all individuals
Thank you for sharing a great way of talking about birthdays when we have children who do not have celebrate. I love “Name Day.” What a great solution!
These are inspiring, thoughtful ways to celebrate birthdays!
However, in early childhood classrooms, I would like us to consider the fact that some children get to “celebrate” or “decorate” in the first month of school, and others have to wait nine months to do the same activity!! I have seen so many children look with longing and disappointment as they’ve watched child after child get their turn. They do not understand why: the abstract concept of time as adults understand it, is not understood by young children.
Can we create ways in which all children get to do these amazing birthday celebrations together (maybe the main portion), and then just a small piece gets completed/celebrated on their actual birthday.
Thanks so much for your great ideas. I really appreciate your work
It’s unique and amazing ideas! Thanks for sharing!
I love all these ideas! Would you have the children make their own lanterns in the beginning of the year? Or are these all prepared before hand.
I have done it both ways. It depends on the age of the children I am working with. With three year olds – I prepared the lanterns. With 5 years olds – it was one of our first projects. Hope that helps!
Hi Sally –
I’ve been using birthday letters for the past few years. The children love painting their letters and I feel like it’s a keepsake for families to enjoy. I want to try the silk hoops this year. Do you know what Rosa Parks teachers used to decorate them? I can see using so many materials – bleeding tissue paper, water colors, markers with a water spritz? I wonder how they got those deep bold colors.
I’m so glad this post came across my radar this morning.