Easter Activities For Montessori Parents
Easter time comes at the wrong time of the year for us living on the Gold Coast. All those European traditions involving fluffy yellow chicks, daffodils and the like seem rather irrelevant, in spite of all their “new life” symbolism. And there’s only so much chocolate you can really give a child without making him or her sick! But there are some fun seasonal things that parents can do with their children, especially during all those extra days off.
There’s no getting away from the fact that Easter is primarily a religious holiday. Not only do you have the Christian festival remembering the whole story about Jesus (and church-based things can go on for a whole week, starting the Sunday before) but you also have the Jewish Passover falling about roughly the same time. We know the parents of children who attend Montessori early childhood centres have a range of beliefs, so you can pick and choose exactly how much of these traditional religious elements you want to include.
Many children (and some adults) wonder why Easter isn’t on the same date every year the way Christmas is. At a Montessori centre, we encourage children to ask questions and find out things, so to help you, here’s a reasonably quick answer. The date of Easter shifts because it ultimately derives from the Jewish calendar, which looked to the moon as a guide to the years, in much the same way that the Islamic and Chinese calendars do (which is also why the dates of Ramadan and the Chinese New Year shift from year to year). There’s a lot of fiddly calculations that go on to get the date right, involving whether or not it is a leap year or not and the nineteen-year cycle that synchronises the sun and the moon, but Easter is the first Sunday after the first full moon that comes after the Southern Hemisphere’s autumn equinox.
The shifting date of Easter, combined with the earlier onset of darkness and the end of Daylight Savings gives parents of children of all ages the chance for an activity that we aren’t able to do at a Montessori early learning centre simply because of the timing: astronomy. Get a good set of binoculars – choose smaller ones to suit your child’s eyes that aren’t too heavy for them in best Montessori fashion – put on your warm clothes and go out after dark to watch the moon and stars. Watching for the moon and noticing how it goes through the phases is an easy activity. You can also learn to pick some of the easily recognisable constellations. The Southern Cross and the Pointers appear in the southern sky all year round. Orion the Hunter with his easily recognisable belt of three stars; bright Sirius the Dog Star; Taurus the Bull with a red star, distinctive horns and the Pleiades cluster during are easy to find in the north and west at nightfall during February to March. Later in the year, Scorpio the scorpion can be found in the eastern to northern sky. A good almanac can help you recognise the other constellations and find the planets – and can also tell you when an eclipse of the sun or moon happens.
Another activity that is a good one for the Southern Hemisphere is planting daffodils and other bulbs. This is the best time to plant them, and it can be a fun family activity, especially as even small children can plant bulbs without much trouble. All you need is a selection of bulbs (tulips, daffodils, snowdrops, hyacinths, etc.) and a trowel for everyone involved in the activity. Garden centres seem to have cottoned onto the Montessori principle of providing tools the right size for children, so picking up child-size trowels, watering cans and rubber boots is very easy. You can simply spend an afternoon planting bulbs, or you can combine the planting with a more traditional Easter egg hunt. The children go out into the garden to find Easter eggs that the parents have hidden there. In the places that they find an egg, they plant a bulb.
Those who like garden-related activities and want to include a more religious tone to activities can try making Easter gardens. An Easter garden is a miniature replica of the garden tomb that was the site of Jesus’s resurrection, decorated with symbolic flowers. These can be as simple or as elaborate as you like. Start with a mound of dirt or damp sand in an ice cream container or on a tray, shaped into a hill with a little cave hollowed into it. Once you have made your hill and your cave, you decorate it with flowers and twigs for trees – and maybe some plastic animals to roam through the garden. Traditionally, an Easter garden has three crosses at the top of the hill and a path leading from the crosses to the cave. A stone covers the cave mouth, and this is rolled away on Easter morning to show that the cave is empty. The flowers on the hill are red, purple and blue, while the flowers near the cave are white and yellow.
You may also like to take a tip from the Jewish Passover to remember your family’s cultural heritage and origins. During a traditional Passover, Jewish families have symbolic food eaten standing up with coats on as if they were about to travel as they re-tell the story of the origins of the Jewish people and how they were once slaves in Egypt but won their freedom. Many churches have adopted the custom as a way of acknowledging the Judaic roots of Christianity and also as a symbol of spiritual freedom. Secular/agnostic families can create a their own variation by having a meal with traditional food representing their ethnic origin and take the time to tell the story of how their families came to Australia, or any other culturally important tales.
And have a bit of chocolate, some hot cross buns on Good Friday and eggs for breakfast on Easter morning – they’re part of the tradition, after all!