Is it possible to take a Montessori approach to Halloween? I've received many questions over the years about Montessori and Christmas. Christmas is a religious and/or cultural event. Many families celebrate Christmas in a non-religious way because it is a tradition they would like to continue with. I see Halloween as a cultural event too. I believe Montessori would respect all religious and cultural events that are relevant to each family. Celebrations and traditions can play a very important role in a child's life.
While in Australia we celebrated Halloween in a very minimal way, here in the UK it appears more widely celebrated and so we will join in with the festivities. My children have already had one Halloween party and will go to another next week, some of the houses in our street are also decorated for Halloween. We will allow our children to join in the customs that are relevant here.
For our family, we don't question how can we celebrate Halloween in a more Montessori way, but how can we participate in Halloween in a way that respects the child. Here are a few suggestions:
- We don't need to tell untruths or make-believe, it is possible to participate in a way that is respectful to the child. We can share with children the story of Halloween, how it is celebrated in different cultures. It is possible to participate in a reality-based way.
- Learn the meaning and history of Halloween. At his previous (Montessori) school Caspar researched Halloween and will now retell its origins and how it's meaning has changed over time. This is great for a child who likes history or customs but it is good to know the 'why' behind Halloween.
- Stay true to your family's values. It is easy to get led astray with sweets or cheap decorations or excess, keep in mind we can participate in these events while staying true to our own family's values. This is also a good time to educate your children on your family values, you can explain why you do or don't participate in Halloween. It's a great time to discuss how we treat others with respect - especially when trick or treating - how do we approach those who aren't participating.
- Think practical life - I've never felt the need to swap up our toys or materials for those with a Halloween theme but Halloween presents many practical life opportunities. Think making your own costumes and decorations, or the child researching, paying for or ordering their own costume. Think carving pumpkins and roasting pumpkin seeds. This year my children have loved making Halloween themed treats.
- Teach and respect autonomy. This is a big one, it's so important. We need to respect our child's wishes - do they want to participate in events such as trick or treating, do they want to wear a costume or face paint, what do they want to wear? Dressing an infant in a costume? I will leave that up to you but it's not something we would do.
- Have fun. Sometimes we need to relax and have fun. While I don't like Halloween costumes, I have found a way to let go for one (or two) nights (for the older/second plane children) and allow the children to join in and have fun. This is true especially for Halloween, we don't place a lot of value it but allowing our children to participate, to go trick or treating with the neighborhood children to attend parties with their friends is important to us.
- Decide as a family. But don't force. It is a really good discussion to have and allow everyone to have their say, this will give you a really good feel for how much and how the children want to participate, perhaps they will have some new ideas! Otis really wanted to decorate his room (with pumpkins and other gourds) which we were on board with.
- Celebrate Fall/Autumn/Harvest instead/in addition. It's easy to substitute many 'activities' and decorations to an autumn or harvest theme.
Celebrate Halloween Montessori Style: Activity and Curriculum Ideas at Montessori Training (NAMC)
Simple Preparations for Hallows' Eve at Whole Family Rhythms.
Halloween: Grace, Courtesy and Safety at I Heart Montessori.
As always I'd love to hear your thoughts, do you celebrate Halloween?