Monday, January 24, 2011

Introducing History and Passage of Time in a Montessori Preschool: The Birthday Walk and the Clock

NAMC montessori preschool introducing history passage of time birthday walk clock with globe
Everything must be taught, and everything must be connected with life…
—Maria Montessori
The Discovery of the Child.

The Clock – Relating The Passage of Time to the Daily Routine

Learning about the clock and recognizing times of the day is a beneficial way to explore the passing of time in the Montessori preschool environment. My Montessori students can see on our classroom clock that circle time begins every day at 9:00 a.m. and that the music comes on around 11:30 a.m. to signal clean-up time. Usually around 11:15 a.m. each morning, students begin to ask me if they can turn on the music so that we can clean up for circle time. It is amazing how quickly they begin to understand the routine and the schedule of the day; it provides them with a sense of security that they can predict what is going to happen throughout the day. At 11:45 a.m. we eat our lunch, and at 12:00 p.m. we get ready to go outside. Many of the older Montessori preschool students pay close attention to the clock and if I happen to lose track of time, they are very quick to let me know!

Introducing History and Passage of Time in a Montessori Preschool: The Birthday Walk and the Clock

Birthday Ritual – Relating the Earth’s Rotation To The Passage of Time

In the Montessori classroom children have the opportunity to celebrate their birthdays by doing the “Birthday Walk”. It is a meaningful way to further their understanding of the passage of time and a great way to introduce the concepts of months, days of the month, the earth, the sun, and how the earth revolves around the sun. The aim of this birthday ritual is to help students recognize how they have grown and changed since they were born, to help them understand why they have turned a year older, and to foster a sense of community and celebration in the Montessori classroom environment. This birthday ritual is typically introduced during circle time and an item such as a candle or yellow ball is placed in the center of the circle to represent the sun in our universe.

The birthday child is invited to carefully hold the globe while the Montessori teacher explains to the children that the earth orbits around the sun and one rotation around the sun takes one year of time. Essentially, the child’s walk represents the earth revolving around the sun and another year that has passed. At the beginning of this activity, the students are told that the birthday child is waiting to be born and on his birthday, he begins to walk slowly around the “sun” carrying the globe.

The child walks around the sun one time while the students sing the birthday song, The Earth Goes Round The Sun to the tune of Farmer in the Dell

The Earth goes round the sun,
The Earth goes round the sun,
It takes a whole year for the Earth to go round the sun.

After the child has walked one time around the sun, the Montessori teacher explains that now the child is one year old, everyone claps one time and the shares a picture of that child at one year old. The birthday child talks about his/her picture and discusses what he/she may have done when they were one year old, i.e., say “ma-ma”, learn to walk, drink from a bottle, etc... Each time the child walks around “the sun” you sing the song, then discuss the age of the child and show a corresponding photo. When you get to the child’s current age, everyone sings happy birthday and the child gets to blow out the candle (if a candle is used) and make a birthday wish. It is a lovely ritual and it makes the birthday child feel valued and special!

This year long series looks at the experiences of teachers, parents, students, and Montessori education itself, as we follow a student through his first year at a Montessori Preschool. Montessori Insights and Reflections of a Preschool Child’s First Year is a collection of useful stories, tips, and information that have arisen from one real student's Montessori journey.

Bree — NAMC Tutor & Graduate

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 Monday, January 24, 2011.


  1. Do you also celebrate the birthday of the teacher? Say a 50th birthday? How would that work re walking around the sun during circle time...?

    1. Introduce counting in 10's!!


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