Thursday, November 26, 2009

Napkin Folding Montessori Practical Life Activity: Perfect for the Holidays

NAMC montessori practical life activities folding napkins holiday table setting
I’ll never forget how grown up my sister and I felt the first time we ate at a restaurant with fancy, folded napkins. We felt like elegant ladies dining with their parents rather than the little girls we really were. Later, when we returned home, setting the table no longer seemed the chore it once had as we carefully practiced our newly-discovered art of napkin folding.

In the Montessori 3-6 classroom, children as young as three years old are introduced to rolling napkins with napkin rings. Using basically the same technique as rolling a rug, children secure the napkins by sliding a napkin ring over the top and resting it in the middle of the rolled napkin. Later, these napkins are used when learning how to set a table. In addition to improving motor skills, there is an art to folding napkins. It may even be compared with the art of origami. As with any artwork, the right tools, in this case, napkins, and practice, help make it beautiful.

The holiday season is often festive and calls for more elaborate table settings. These preparations are but extensions of more traditional table setting layouts. Including your children in your holiday preparations makes them feel that they've made a contribution to the celebration.

Try adding a fancy napkin-folding work on your Practical Life shelves at the holiday season.

Napkin Folding Montessori Practical Life Activity: Perfect for the Holidays

Use napkins in holiday colors, i.e. orange and brown for Thanksgiving, blue and silver for Chanukah, green and red for Christmas. If the napkins are thin, ironing them with light starch prior to folding will help them keep their form. Using attractive napkin rings will add some enjoyment for even the youngest child, who may not yet be ready for the “fancy” napkin fold. Place the unfolded napkins on a tray. Some teachers find that having the steps illustrated on a piece of laminated cardstock helps children become independent.

A simple, yet elegant napkin fold is the Napkin Ring Fan Fold
NAMC montessori practical life activities folding napkins ring fan fold
What You Need:
  • 4 square cloth napkins
  • 4 napkin rings
  • 4 dinner plates
What You Do:
  • Lay the unfolded napkin face-down in a square in front of you.
  • Fold the napkin in half, creasing the center fold.
  • Re-open the napkin and lay it flat.
  • Using 1-inch folds, accordion-fold the napkin up to the crease. Try to make sure the final fold rests on the crease. This will help keep the ends of the fan uniform.
  • Continue accordion-folding the remaining half of the napkin. You will have a long rectangle of accordion-folds.
  • Fold the rectangle in half lengthwise.
  • Insert the 1/4-1/3 of the folded end of the napkin into a napkin ring.
  • Place the napkin in the center of a dinner plate.
  • Repeat for the remaining napkins.
What impresses me about the Montessori Practical Life lessons is that they are so, well, practical! How beautiful is it that the simple napkin rolling and folding lessons that are given to the very young children in the Children’s House can be expanded into an art form at the holidays? And how wonderful the sense of accomplishment when a child can look at that special holiday table setting and say, with confidence, “I did it, all by myself!”

For more napkin folding patterns and techniques, see:
NAMC's Practical Life manuals for 3-6 and 6-9 provide many activities for the Montessori classroom.
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 Thursday, November 26, 2009.


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