A few years ago, we stumbled on this lovely way to flip the script on “fall back”— make lanterns to light up the first night of darkness.
If wildly different cultures share fall lantern-lighting festivals, from the Mid-Autumn Festival celebrated in China and Vietnam to Germany's St. Martin's Day festival, there must be some magic to the practice. Here's our perspective: the frustrating loss of daylight we used to rage against each time daylight saving time ended (aka “fall back”) is actually an incredible opportunity to stop and be mindful of the cycles of nature. It is also a chance to teach kids not to fight but to make the most of change—habits of mind that will help them navigate life. And, what better way to construct a learning moment than to take children outdoors at night with a colorful lantern that they have made?
Not to mention, the act of making a lantern helps kids to develop self control, fine motor skills, creativity and sense of self. With or without help from an adult, depending on their ages, children can create their very own lantern. Your job? Support the making and add a handle so they are ready for a good evening stroll. Then, get out there at dusk, light the lanterns and watch darkness fall. It’s quite amazing, really. If you are lucky enough to live near a Tinkergarten leader, join his or her Fall Lantern Walk!
There's no shortage of ways to make lanterns. We really like this method and love doing it outside.
In addition to helping your kids learn to embrace and even celebrate life's inevitable changes, this activity helps kids develop several critical skills.
As kids hold and use a paintbrush, pick up delicate tissue paper squares, and press the paper firmly but gently into place, they develop fine motor control in their hands. If you know that your child struggles with this, work “as a team” with him or her on the frustrating parts. Working with tricky materials like glue, tissue paper (especially outside in the fall breeze) and a round jar requires that kids attend to the task at hand. Plus, they have to resist the temptation of other pursuits and stay focused until the task is complete. Kids also have to pay close attention to their lanterns once lit, or they could easily blow out!
Provided you let kids do as much lantern decorating on their own as they can, their approach to lantern-making is also a window into who they are. We have seen it all, including: “I will only use brown today”; “I will add the most so my lantern stands out;”and even “Okay, looks good, now can I collect sticks?” Kids make their own choices about the colors, shapes and placement they use, expressing their tastes and sense of design. When a finished product feels to a child the true result and reflection of him or herself, then he or she develops a sense that "I am capable" and that "I am worthy." These are aspects of a positive self concept that kids will need to tackle academic and social challenges as well as to find and maintain happiness in life.
We think all families should be learning outside. Try this activity with your child and begin to see the power in outdoor, play-based learning. Have fun!Email it to me