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Today is a special day in our household – there’s a birthday… 🙂 Last year, I created some printable Santagrams and started a new birthday tradition of creating and sharing something that had special meaning to me as a kid. This week’s “Montessori Week” with Montessorium’s Guidepost Parent presented the perfect opportunity to honor the fond memories I have of my Montessori birthdays and their lovely Celebration of Life tradition.
At my Montessori school (and many others), on our birthdays, kids formed a big circle and held hands. In the middle, a candle was lit. The birthday honoree held a globe and walked around the circle – one time around for every year, symbolizing the earth’s rotation around the sun. After each revolution, our parents or teachers shared special events in that year of life – a photo we brought to class or a story our parents shared.
I think it’s such a beautiful observance, so in the spirit of the day, I created this birthday celebration candle – complete with rotating parts!
To make your own Montessori celebration of life candle you’ll need
- 5 sheets of heavy cardstock
- Our Montessori Birthday Candle Wheel free printable templates
- A medium-sized cardboard box or spare cardboard pieces
- A cardboard paper-towel tube
- White acrylic paint
- A foam brush
- A hot glue gun
- A glue stick
Note: We wanted to create something that stood off the floor and had some weight to it, but if you’d like to simplify this process, or would rather not use cardboard and a glue gun, we’ll share a modification to speed up and simplify the DIY. 🙂
DIY Cardboard Montessori Celebration of Life Activity Instructions:
- Print the free Celebration of Life Candle Templates
Download our free printable templates and print on to heavy cardstock (be sure to choose “borderless printing” in your printer options). Cut out each template piece.
- Cut the cardboard bases
Gather a cardboard paper towel tube and a medium-sized shipping/cardboard box. Using the smaller “seasonal trees” half-circles, flip face down, line up to make a full circle, and trace to create a donut shape on one of your box sides. Cut right along the lines. This will be the base for your “season name” disc. We want it to be a little smaller than the paper disc so it’s hidden. Repeat the process on another piece of cardboard. Cut about an inch inside the lines for this one. It will be the base for your “seasonal trees” disc, and again, we want it to be hidden from view, so should be smaller than the paper disc. Cut a large square out of the remaining cardboard to create a base for your entire candle. I also cut out 8 small squares (I’ll explain why in a few steps…)
Once you’ve cut your circular discs, make sure you can push your cardboard tube through the hole in the middle – the larger bottom disc should fit snugly. We want to be able to rotate the disc with the trees so kids can practice matching the trees up with the correct seasons, so the smaller disc should be a bit looser so you can comfortably spin it.
- Paint your cardboard tube and base
Paint your cardboard tube and the square cardboard base for your candle with white acrylic paint. It should dry fairly quickly, but you can hit it with a hairdryer for 15-30 seconds if it feels like it’s taking a while to dry.
- Glue the printed seasonal discs to the cardboard bases
Using a glue stick, glue the halves of your printed discs onto their cardboard bases.
- Glue the 2 sides of your flame together
While the glue dries on your discs, glue the 2 sides of your candle flame together, making sure the cut lines at the bottom line up on both sides.
- Affix the candle to it’s painted base with a hot glue gun
Using a glue gun, glue the bottom of your cardboard tube “candle” to the middle of the painted base. Cut along the cut lines at the bottom of your flame circle.
*Note* – To give our base some extra weight, once the glue had dried, I tossed some small rocks down the center of the tube to add some sturdiness.
- Glue cardboard spacers in between your rotating discs
This is an optional step, but I think it adds some nice dimension and makes it easier for kids to rotate the moving pieces. Flip your “seasonal trees” disc and earth paper piece over. Hot glue 2 sets of 3 small squares together, then glue those squares to the bottom of your “seasonal tree” disc. Glue the remaining 2 squares together, then add those to the back of your earth paper piece. This raises your pieces up a bit, adding some nice height and space between your moving pieces.
- Slide all the discs on to the center cardboard tube, adding the flame on top
Once your hot glue has dried, slide your discs onto the cardboard tube in the same order we did (season names on the bottom, seasonal trees next, then the paper earth piece on top). Push your flame over the top of your cardboard tube (no need to glue). Now your candle is ready to be used!
Modification: Your candle doesn’t have to be as “sculptural” or moveable as ours to be enjoyed! You can print out and cut the printables. Use a few pieces of scotch tape to join the circle halves (add to the blank sides). The seasonal discs can be glued together, or you can use a brad so they can be rotated. Grab a toilet paper tube, and simply place it over the middle, adding the rotating earth and candle just as we did for our version.
I’m so excited to celebrate and share this special memory with you this year!
For a few more Montessori-inspired activities, visit this collection of winter-themed practical life skill ideas, some winter-themed counting, sorting and simple math with the help of our tactile favorite – felt! Or create a lovely tabletop winter sensory garden with natural materials.