Artfully Montessori: Learning About the Winter Solstice With Five Activities and a Freebie, too!

IT IS WINTER! THE LONGEST NIGHT IS APPROACHING AND MONTESSORI CHILDREN CAN DISCOVER THE MAGIC OF THE WINTER SOLSTICE IN LOTS OF ARTFUL WAYS. Read on for my ideas, activities and resources from around the web. And, see my newest Freebie for a sweet addition to your Montessori Cultural Shelf.

In the Northern Hemisphere, the Winter Solstice is just around the corner. This year it happens on December 21st, at 8:30 in the morning, where I happen live. You can check out the exact time for your area at this site: The Old Farmer's Almanac  

The most obvious thing about the Winter Solstice is the sun. This is the day of the year when the night is actually longer than the day. So, we have the least amount of sunlight on that day. That is why, in most cultures,  it is important to emphasize the light and to spend time with others in order to get through this longest night of the year! Yes, light will be returning, because after the Solstice the days begin to grow longer. 

For children, we can offer many activities that celebrate the sun, the light, and gathering together. In the Montessori environment, we can always relate these activities to our Cultural Studies, Practical Life Activities, and all the other areas of curriculum as well.

Photo from Adobe Stock
Midwinter festivals are happening all over the world, and throughout history, we find fascinating stories about the sun returning to the people. 

I love this book that is filled with Winter Solstice stories, The Return of the Light: Twelve Tales from Around the World for the Winter Solstice.  I saw in the reviews on Amazon that one family was using this book in a very interesting way. During the twelve days before the Solstice, they were planning to read one story a night. That sounds really lovely to me.

  • Read or tell a Midwinter Story each day. This book has twelve! 
  • Extend this with simple activities that celebrate the season and teach the words to a rhyme or song to go along. 

Available at Amazon

You could easily do that in the classroom as well. Even though it is not a picture book, the stories are short enough and engaging enough to read to an older Preschool group at a 15 minute Story Time. In this case, be sure that you read the stories yourself before offering them to the children. There are some that you may feel are not appropriate for young children in a group setting and all of them are stories that involve imagining rather than reality-based.  Even if you only read a few, this book is a wonderful resource for activities dedicated to the Winter Solstice. 

The last section has some lovely activities for children. Here are a few:
  • "Tree Offering": Sprinkle seeds, glitter, or cornmeal at the foot of a tree outside. Then say: "Leaf to leaf, root to root, seed to seed. May all that we have be all that we need."
  • "Deck the Halls": Decorate the environment with cuttings of rosemary, bay, holly, ivy or fir. Everyone names a blessing for the year.  Then sing, "Deck the Halls."
  • "Bake and Eat a Treat":  Say or sing, "Into the oven we slide this treat. May all hold close and life be sweet." Check out my Sun Bread Activity later in this article to really celebrate the sun! This is the book that gave me the idea, Sun Bread, by Elisa Kleven.

Available at Amazon

There are stories about the Winter Solstice all over the world as you can see in the "Return of Light" book I mentioned earlier in this article. That book has Solstice stories from The Americas, India, Polynesia, Tanzania, the Nordic Islands, China, South Africa, Venezuela, and Italy.

As you introduce the story of the day, you can: 

  • Bring out the Montessori Globe or Puzzle Map of the World to enrich the experience by connecting the story to the place on the globe.
  • If you happen to have a doll or some other artifact from that place in the world, the children will enjoy passing it around as you read the story.
And, there are even more stories for the Solstice. You can do a google search and find lots more. One of my favorites follows.

The Story of the Kachinas 
from the Hopi Tribe of North America
Over the years, one of my favorite Solstice stories has been about the Kachinas from the Native American Hopi tribe. The Kachinas are dolls that represent stories about the spiritual beginnings of life and how to behave appropriately in your community.

The Hopi were the first to create kachina dolls as a way to teach children about these spiritual beings and the wisdom they have to share with the people. The dolls are traditionally carved from a single piece of cottonwood root, then are painted and adorned to represent objects from the tribe's spiritual beliefs. 

The messages of the dolls and the men acting in the ceremonies vary widely from teaching the identities of the kachinas and the symbolism of their regalia, to proper behavior and learning about responsibilities. Each kachina has a different purpose - Ogres teach discipline, Chief Kachinas teach wisdom and have powers comparable to that of a religious elder, the female kachinas teach values, clown kachinas provide amusement, and others provide advice, blessings, and warnings.

What I love about the Kachina stories is that they are considered helpers who reside in the heavens (or high in the mountains), but who come down to be with us during the time between the Winter Solstice and the Summer Solstice. 

One of the Hopi Kachinas is actually called "Sunface Dancer!" Here is a photo of this Kachina. The feathers surrounding the face of the dancer are like the rays of the sun. What could be more appropriate for this time of year!

On the Winter Solstice, the Hopi conduct ceremonies in which dancers from the tribe dress in their Kachina attire and perform the story of the "Soyal", the Winter Solstice dance. The children of the tribe are given Kachina dolls representing the dancers to help them understand the story. 

From an article titled, "Soyal Ceremony: Hopi Kachinas Dance At Winter Solstice" in, I discovered an interesting version of the Winter Solstice dance.

In the story, the "bearer of the sun shield" must fight off the hostile powers that might effect the sun (drought, fire, darkness, cold). The article goes on to explain the dance movements:
Then they arrange themselves into two groups, one on the north side, another on the south. Then they sing as the bearer of the sun shield rushes to one side, then the other. He is driven back by the shield bearers on both sides. The movements symbolize the attack of hostile powers on the sun (drought, fire, darkness, cold) that influence whether it will shine and bless the crops.
On the west wall of the kiva, they construct an altar with two or more ears of corn contributed from each family, surrounded by husks and stalks. It also has a large gourd with an effigy of the Plumed Snake’s head sticking out, operated like a puppet, rising and made to roar. The shield bearers then throw a meal to the snake effigy, answered by more roaring noises. This persuades him not to swallow the sun, like he does in an eclipse. When the Sun God’s footprints appear in the sand, everyone knows he has been persuaded to return.
The entire ceremony ends with a public kachina dance. The Katsinam remain with the people for the first half of the Wheel of the Year until the summer solstice, when they return to their home in the mountains. 
 At times, I have been able to show my groups, my collection of little ceramic replicas of Kachinas and even a real Kachina doll that I bought while traveling to the Acoma Pueblo in New Mexico. Acoma is the oldest pueblo that is still inhabited, and during the summer it is open to the public for educational tours.

Photo from DepositPhotos

The actual Soyal ceremonies are considered sacred rituals and the dances are not disclosed to people outside of the tribe. The ancients did these ritual dances in kivas, which are underground chambers reserved for sacred ceremonies.

Photo from Adobe Stock

My groups have enjoyed hearing the Kachina stories I have learned from reading about the Hopi tribe. The one I mentioned above has always been a favorite with my groups over the years. When I show them my Kachina collection and pictures of Kachinas, they are always fascinated because these dolls are traditionally made for the Hopi children.

My Free Resource for You

You can download my free activity, "Sunface Kachina Story"  from my Subscribers Freebie Collection. 

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  • Click on the "Free Stuff" button
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Hopi artists are still making these Kachina dolls and they are truly exquisite. I found a lovely site on Etsy. 

In the past, I have provided small scraps of balsa wood for my Preschool classes to create their own Kachinas. We have enjoyed making these in several ways.
  • Making Simple wooden "Kachina Dolls": Each child can wrap a small swatch of fabric around a small rectangle of balsa wood (from the Craft Store). Glue this on, then add feathers, beads or bits of leather lacing to decorate the doll. Lastly, the child (or adult) can draw on a simple face.
  • Making Kachinas from cardboard tubes: These can be made following the same process described above only using a cardboard tube instead of a scrap of wood. Or, you can download a free template for coloring, cutting out, and then gluing on to the cardboard tubes. Here is an article with the template download for a color-cut-paste Kachina activity: DLTK Kids  


Baking is always popular this time of year, since the oven warms up not only the food, but the house as well!

Keeping to the Winter Solstice theme, baking "Sun Bread" fits perfectly into your activities. The recipe for sun bread can be found in the book mentioned earlier, Sun Bread.

Photo from DepositPhotos

You can make one or two regular size round loaves or you can provide each child with a smaller portion of bread dough so that s/he can create her own little sun loaf.
  • Show the child how to flatten a ball of bread dough, then you can press the edges all around with a fork to make the "rays of the sun." 
  • Or, like in the book, you can add little triangles of dough all around the round dough so that it looks like the sun.
  • Or, for a quick "sun bread snack", simply toast up a slice of bread and add strips of cheddar cheese along with raspberries, blueberries, and cut up strawberries.  

Photo from DepositPhotos

If you haven't ever heard this Winter Solstice song by Charlie Murphy, "Light is Returning," it is simple and just lovely. One of my all time favorites and one that both adults and children love.

"This Little Light of Mine" is another song that is perfect for the Winter Solstice and always a big hit with children. 

"Mr. Sun" is one of the very sweetest songs about the sun, ever! 

I am so happy to have you visit my blog today. I hope you have gotten lots of ideas for your Winter Solstice celebration with your group!

What Midwinter Activities do you do with your groups? Feel free to leave a comment and tell me your ideas! I'd love to hear from you.

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Artfully Montessori: Practical Life Activities for Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite for Little Kids


Recently, during the first music lesson in our Nutcracker Suite Unit, I realized how much the children loved the parts of this wonderful music from Tchaikovsky that had to do with the foods of the season. 

This time of year is always a fun time for cooking, baking,  and preparing warming teas and hot chocolate. And, little children so enjoy participating in these activities! 

So, why not connect the Nutcracker Suite music to the Practical Life area of your Montessori environment? These activities are also fun for at-home activities during the Winter Break.

Adobe Stock

Whether  your group is planning a big event with families or a small holiday tea party just for your classroom, preschoolers can really benefit from the following food preparation Practical Life Activities that are derived from Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite. 

Click here to listen/download a recording of the "Opening Scene" music of the Nutcracker Suite.


Well, this entire music unit is based on the magical story of a girl named Clara,  and her favorite gift, a nutcracker!  Which is, of course, the first idea for a fun Practical Life Activity for the children: Using a nutcracker to prepare nuts for a yummy baking project.

Adobe Stock

My groups have always loved having a "Nutcracker Work" on the shelf. Now, the decorative nutcrackers that are around during this time of year, are not usually sturdy enough to actually crack nuts, but you can get this beautiful crank-operated nutcracker from Montessori Services, and my groups have always greatly enjoyed using this tool. 
Available at Montessori Services

If you have children with allergies to tree nuts in your group, you can put this nutcracker out as a fun fine motor activity and the children can place pompoms in the little bowl rather than nuts. 

You can also offer sunflower seed grinding as another alternative to nut cracking. For this activity the children would use a small mortar and pestle instead of a wooden nutcracker. This grinding activity is available at Montessori Services.

A similar activity that children enjoy is grinding seasonal spices (like whole nutmeg, or cinnamon sticks). These ground spices could be added to your baking projects. Here is a spice grinder from Montessori Services.
These festive grinding activities add wonderful aromas to your environment and really set the mood for the season!

Click here to listen/download a recording of  "The Battle of the Mouse King" music from the Nutcracker Suite

This year, my music groups have really taken a liking to the Mouse King character in the Nutcracker Ballet Suite. When I tell them the story, I leave out the battle between the Nutcracker and the Mouse King. (I think this part can be a little scary for children.)

Instead, I tell the children:  "In Clara's dream, the Mouse King was gathering all the mice in the house to go under the tree and gobble up all the sweets. The Nutcracker tried to keep the mice away, but it was Clara (the little girl in the story) who had the idea to take off her shoe and throw it across the floor to scare all the mice away!"

Since mice like cheese, and cheese is a delicious food to serve with tea, hot chocolate, or home-baked gingerbread cookies, then it makes perfect sense to offer the children a cheese slicing work. 

This can be the "Mouse King Cheese Slicing Work" in your Practical Life area.

I've found that this type of cheese slice works well with little ones. Usually, children press down on the cheese placing both hands on the handle to get the leverage needed. Available at Amazon.

Click here to listen/download a recording of  the "Spanish Dance" music from the Nutcracker Suite.


The Spanish Chocolate Dance is still the all-time favorite with my music groups! Making hot chocolate from scratch can be a wonderful Practical Life Activity for your group, and goes really well with the Nutcracker music unit when you feature the Chocolate Dance. The "Spanish Dancer Hot Chocolate Work"has lots of interesting steps for children to follow.

Children can first grate the chocolate. You can use bakers chocolate or the delicious Spanish Chocolate cakes from the Mexican Grocery.  You can also purchase a kit from Uncommon Goods. 

Adobe Stock

When the children are ready to make the hot chocolate drink, you can provide an authentic "molinillo frother". Your home-made hot chocolate can be made with hot water, milk, or milk alternatives like soy or rice milk.

Adobe Stock

For a special touch to your home made hot chocolate, you can garnish it with the spices that the children ground in the activity above. (cinnamon or nutmeg)

Click here to listen/download a recording of  the "Arabian Dance" music from the Nutcracker Suite.


When you set up the "Arabian Coffee Dance Work," you might be surprised to find that coffee grinding ends up staying on the shelf all year long because it is so popular! 

There is something so satisfying and meditative about grinding coffee. Whole coffee beans grind so easily and smell so nice! 

Photo from Magical Movement Company

You can fill the coffee grinder tray with decaf coffee beans and the children can save the ground coffee to brew and serve to their parents on the day of your Nutcracker Celebration.

Photo from Magical Movement Company

Click here to listen/download a recording of the "Chinese Dance" music from the Nutcracker Suite.


Brewing tea is another satisfying activity for the winter season. To turn this activity into the "Chinese Tea Dance Work", I have simply added a colorful Chinese tea pot and even Chinese tea cups because they are just the right size for children. 


For our winter tea parties, we have often added other Practical Life Activities such as cutting up lemons for the tea and also setting up dishwashing for the clean up.

                                                                           Photo from Magical Movement Company

Click here to listen/download a recording of  the "Russian Dance" music from the Nutcracker Suite. 

Baking is probably one of the most fun Practical Life activities of the season, and creating Russian gingerbread cookies goes well with the Nutcracker music unit.

Adobe Stock

The "Russian Dancer Cookie-Making Work" will not be something you would set up as a shelf work, but rather as a special baking project, where lots of adult helpers will come in handy. I have found that parents are happy to come in for an hour or so to bake with the children. 

These gingerbread cookies pictured below are called Kozuli in Russian. These seasonal cookies are made in the shapes of animals such as goats.


If you are looking for a simple cookie decorating activity, you can offer "graham cracker decorating" with food coloring makers. (Amazon)  

Children also like to create little gingerbread houses out of graham crackers and cake icing. This is an involved, but fun project for a cold, wintry day!


You can also bake Russian Tea Cakes with the children.
And, if you're in a pinch, you can buy these and the children can enjoy arranging them on pretty little doilies for your winter Nutcracker Suite tea party! 
Available at Amazon

I'm going to put in my plug here for my really fun mini-eCourse, "Musically Montessori: Nutcracker Suite for Little Kids" that is open for enrollment to educators between October 15th and February 1st each year. I have packed this little eCourse full of activities and mp3 music downloads! 

My music groups this year, have already enjoyed the first two lessons from this four session course that I am currently presenting to my groups, and I am sure we will go longer than just four classes. It is fun to have a little Nutcracker Tea party around the middle of December, but I know we will enjoy this music unit on into the first weeks of January. 

Over the years, I have found that children understand the story and the wonderful music even better after the holiday season is over, since so many of them have gone to Live Performances of the Nutcracker or have seen it on TV during the Winter Break.

I invite you to learn more about my eCourse and enroll before November 25th! 

If you are a Subscriber to my Email Newsletter List, then you have gotten the special discount code for 10% off the regular price for the course.


You can become a subscriber on the sidebar of this Blog or scroll down to the end of this post if you are on a mobile device. 

My subscribers have access to my Freebie Collection, where you will find lots of free resources including some Nutcracker Suite activities and more! 

I have posted two new products at 

Thank you for visiting my blog today and I hope that you have gotten some ideas for enjoying Montessori music with your group.

Advertising Disclosure: Magical Movement Company may be compensated in exchange for featured placement of certain sponsored products and services, or your clicking on links posted on this website. Thanks for your support! 

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Musically Montessori "Vlog": Puppets, Music and Kids Go Together!


Scroll down to watch my video for ideas to engage your children in musical activities using puppets.

Here is a 5 minute video that shows excerpts from my eCourses to give you some ideas of how to use puppets in your Montessori Music curriculum. I hope you enjoy!

"Puppets and Making Music in the Montessori Music Lesson"

1. As always, I make sure to explain to the children that the musical stories that we are learning about have some imaginary parts. (However, I still steer clear of stories with talking animals, monsters, and super heroes.) Some of the stories I have featured in my eCourses are Tchaikovsky's "The Nutcracker Suite" and Mozart's "The Magic Flute". 

2. I adapt the musical stories that I introduce to the children, and I avoid the parts about sword fights, or scary dragons. You can see  the details of how I do this in my eCourses.

3. When I am using plush puppets (as compared to stick puppets) I always show the children how I put my hand or finger inside the puppet and that is how it moves.

4. Whenever possible, I create a shelf work so that each child can make their own puppet to go along with the musical story.


Here are my favorite resources for creating Nutcracker Dancer stick puppets with the children:

Sarah Jane Nutcracker Puppets on Etsy

Nutcracker Super Bundle at TpT

Animal Puppets from Folkmanis

My granddaughter in Japan made the templates for the delightful "Papageno & Papagena" stick puppets in the above video. 

That set of puppets is one of the many beautiful downloads in my first eCourse, Musically Montessori: "First Twelve Weeks."

My newest eCourse  Musically Montessori: "Nutcracker Suite for Little Kids" is a "mini course" consisting of four sessions to give you a magical music Unit to celebrate the season. 

Get my 10% Off Coupon in my latest email to all my subscribers!

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You can subscribe to my newsletter on the sidebar of this blog!


When you become a subscriber, you will receive the password to access my Freebie Collection...more than 30 free resources including my eBook. ($12.99 value) 

And, I am adding more free resources every month!

I am happy to have you visiting my blog today and I hope that you got lots of ideas for using puppets in your music activities with your group!

Advertising Disclosure: Magical Movement Company may be compensated in exchange for featured placement of certain sponsored products and services, or your clicking on links posted on this website. Thanks for your support! 

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