Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Halloween and Dia de los Muertos in the Montessori Classroom: Montessori Appropriate Activities

Most Montessori schools where I have worked did not want classroom celebrations of popular holidays. It was not that these schools wanted to ignore the existence of these holidays; they simply felt the Montessori classroom was not the appropriate place for the commercial “candy fests” that most of the holidays- especially Halloween- had become. A cultural lesson about the history and meaning of the holiday was considered acceptable.

There are many ways to explore spooky holidays like Halloween and Dia de los Muertos in the Montessori classroom, with Montessori appropriate activity ideas such as the ones we've collected for you here!

Halloween and Dia de los Muertos in the Montessori Classroom: Montessori Appropriate Activities

Halloween is celebrated in several countries and is one of the world’s oldest holidays. The holiday’s roots are in the Celtic festival of Samhain. Halloween came to America with Irish and English immigrants. Today Halloween is celebrated with costumes, parties and trick-or-treating.
Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is celebrated in Mexico, in certain parts of the United States and in other Latin American countries. The celebration honors the dead and embraces death as a continuation of life. It began over 3,000 years ago and still maintains the basic ideas of the original Aztec ritual. The ritual was celebrated during the ninth month of the Aztec Solar Calendar (approximately the beginning of August) and the celebration lasted for the entire month. When the Spaniards came to Mexico, they did not understand Dia de los Muertos and moved the celebration to November 1 and 2 to coincide with All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day and in an attempt to make the ritual more Christian. Today Dia de los Muertos is celebrated by wearing wooden skull masks (called calacas), dancing, creating altars, eating skulls made of sugar and visiting cemeteries where loved ones are buried. While in the cemetery, people decorate graves and have picnics that include favorite foods of the deceased.

Halloween and Dia de los Muertos Activities for the Montessori Classroom
  • Research Celtic history and the festival of Samhain.
  • Create a timeline and map of Halloween and its roots and journey around the world.
  • Read The Legend of Sleepy Hollow as a class.
  • Make Dia de los Muertos sugar skulls as a class. Want to avoid sugar? Make Dia de los Muertos hand soaps instead!
  • Study Mexican folk art and create some of your own. Do an internet search for images of the Dia de los Muertos art for inspiration.
  • Practice Spanish vocabulary with Mexican Loteria. This old and traditional bingo game can be purchased in affordable and beautiful sets or your students can create their own.
Halloween and Dia de los Muertos Books for the Montessori Classroom
  • Shake Dem Halloween Bones, by W. Nikola-Lisa and Mike Reed
  • Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak
  • By the Light of the Halloween Moon, by Caroline Stutson and Kevin Hawkes
  • Halloween Night, by Charles Ghigna and Adam McCauley
  • The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, by Washington Irving and Russ Flint
  • Day of the Dead, by Tony Johnston and Jeanette Winter
  • Calavera Abecedario: A Day of the Dead Alphabet Book, by Jeanette Winter
  • Festival of Bones / El Festival de las Calaveras: The Little-Bitty Book for the Day of the Dead, by Luis San Vicente
  • Day of the Dead: A Celebration of Life and Death, by Amanda Doering Tourville
  • Paper Crafts for Day of the Dead, by Randel McGee
  • El Dia De Los Muertos: The Day of the Dead, by Mary Dodson Wade
  • Clatter Bash! A Day of the Dead Celebration, by Richard Keep
  • Mexican Folk Art Coloring Book, by Marty Noble
The NAMC elementary Cultural Geography manuals provide a rich cultural curriculum: 6-9 Cultural Geography / 9-12 Cultural Geography.

    As much as possible, NAMC’s web blog reflects the Montessori curriculum as provided in its teacher training programs. We realize and respect that Montessori schools are unique and may vary their schedules and offerings in accordance with the needs of their individual communities. We hope that our readers will find our articles useful and inspiring as a contribution to the global Montessori community.
    © North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Tuesday, October 27, 2009.


    1. Thank you for mentioning my book "Paper Craft Fun for Holidays : Day of the Dead". I appreciate the Montessori approach with "hands-on" activities. Randel McGee

    2. It was my pleasure to include your book! Thank you for reading our blog. It's so nice to meet fellow appreciators of the Montessori approach!


    Have questions or comments? Let us know what you thought about this article!

    We appreciate feedback and love to discuss with our readers further.

    NAMC Blog Inquiries Contact Form


    Email *

    Message *

    Search the NAMC Montessori Teacher Training Blog

    Are you interested in reading back through NAMC's blog articles from years gone by, or for more information on a specific topic?

    Browse a select list of our most popular categories below; by clicking on one, you will see every article posted under that topic since 2007. You may also use the lower archive menu to select a year and month, displaying all blog posts in the chosen time frame.

    If you are seeking a range of information on a certain topic or idea, try this search box for site-wide keyword results.

    Choose From a List of Popular Article Topics

    NAMC Montessori Series

    Montessori Philosophy and Methodology

    Montessori Classroom Management

    The School Year

    Montessori Materials

    Montessori Curriculum

    Montessori Infant/Toddler (0–3) Program

    Montessori Early Childhood (3–6) Program

    Montessori Elementary (6–12) Programs

    What is Montessori?

    Search Archives for Montessori Blog Posts by Date

    Thank you to the NAMC Montessori community!

    This year marks NAMC’s 20th anniversary of providing quality Montessori distance training and curriculum development to Montessorians around the globe. Since we began in 1996, we have grown to build a fantastic community of students, graduates, and schools in over 120 countries. We are grateful for your continued support and dedication to furthering the reach and success of the Montessori method. Thank you for sharing this amazing milestone with us!