In this post, I’ll share a social emotional activity I used to do in the Montessori classroom, the love light. This has been a big part of Montessori Peace Education curriculums across the globe in recent years.
The concept of the love light can help with social and emotional development in young children. It enforces the concept of kindness, respect, and love. It also helps with community building; it was originally designed for use in an early childhood classroom setting.
What is a love light? How do I incorporate this concept with my child? Learn how I made this lesson and what happened when I presented it to my three-year-old daughter, Annie, at home!
* I also created printables; 3 Snowflake activities and an Acts of Kindness Calendar. To download them, sign up for the Resources Library at the bottom of this page.
My current need for a social emotional activity
I have a number of posts that I’ve shared here on this blog. It has been almost a year! Most of them center around Montessori-inspired activities and crafts that I’ve done with my daughter, Annie.
When we are doing these activities, she is very calm, peaceful, engaged and intrigued. I love that she explores new ideas.
She loves to help my husband cook and do chores around the house. She enjoys reading along during our story times throughout the day. She runs, climbs, and jumps at the playground or play gym. We keep her busy with work because she is very active and energetic.
There is a calmness and peacefulness when she is actively engaged in activities… well, as calm as a three-year-old can be.
When we’re not actively engaged in an activity, though, she’s one of the most spirited, intense three-year-old with non-stop silly (and difficult behavior) moments!
I’m home with Annie, an only-child, all day and night. I’m struggling sometimes and I need help. I need to try something new.
I started thinking back to my days as a Montessori teacher and wondered “what did we do to help instill calmness and peace?”
The classroom is a different setting as the group dynamic is different. But I remembered a Peace Education lesson, the love light, that I thought I could try with Annie at home.
A tangible and visual tool
The Love Light is a hands-on social emotional activity. It helps children to learn about their emotions and how we can be peaceful and kind to ourselves and to others in a concrete way.
Essentially, this lesson is a tangible and visual tool that helps young children to understand:
- When we’re happy and when we’re kind, helpful and nice to others the light within us shines bright.
- When we’re sad, mad, or afraid, or if we do something that is unkind or disrespectful the light within us gets dim.
- But the light within us never goes away and it can get brighter again!
The love light lesson
When I was teaching, I attended the American Montessori Society Conference in Chicago in 2011. That year, the woman who developed the Montessori Peace Curriculum featuring love lights, Sonnie McFarland, received the Montessori Living Legacy Award.
Sonnie McFarland’s keynote speech at the ceremony was inspiring. I’ll never forget the phrase she kept saying: “I see you.” This is something we can say to our children sometimes, even in the most difficult moments. She simply said, “look into your child’s eyes and say, ‘I see you’.”
What you are really saying to your child is, “I honor you and I see your love and your light.”
Then, as I presented the love light lesson to the children in my classroom each year I was amazed at how enthusiastic they were about the concept.
It’s like the children naturally know about the love and light that’s inside of them and they’ve been waiting all this time to share their light!
The lesson can be found in the book, Honoring the Light of the Child, by Sonnie McFarland. This book contains her peace curriculum of about 22 concrete lessons. It’s meant for an early childhood classroom setting, but you can certainly use these beautiful lessons at home.
What you will need for the lesson
Peaceful person template. I used the template from Sonnie McFarland’s book, Honoring the Light of the Child. But really, you can find any similar outline of a person, doll or gingerbread man. I cut out the template on plain white cardstock and laminated it. Laminating it is optional. You could also choose any flesh tone color for the cardstock, if you’d prefer.
Shadow Template. This is the same peaceful person template, but cut it out of gray cardstock. Laminating it is optional.
Flashlight. This is the light that you will shine behind the person templates. You can use any flashlight really, but a small traditional one that your child can easily turn on and off would be best.
Small picture stand. This makes your peaceful person stand up. You can find different styles of picture stands at an arts and craft store. The simple wooden block picture stand shown here is something we already had at home, to hold art prints. It’s from Artifact Uprising.
Love Light Necklaces. This is a concrete symbol of the “love light”. It reinforces that everyone has a light of love within. Make a love light necklace for everyone in your home. Cut out 2-3″ circles out of yellow felt and use a hole punch and yellow yarn to make it into a necklace.
How to present the lesson
- Show your child the peaceful person and tell her that this person represents all people on Earth. Talk about how we’re all different, unique, and special. Talk to your child about how she’s special.
- Say that inside of every person there is something beautiful and wonderful.
- Tell your child to close her eyes. Bring out the flashlight and turn it on behind the peaceful person. Ask your child to open her eyes.
- Say to your child that this light represents the love that is inside of every person.
- Explain that we can feel this love when we’re happy, loved, and when we know we’ve done something very well.
- Ask your child to close her eyes and think of something that makes her happy. Ask her to open her eyes and share what makes her happy.
- The warm, loving and good feelings we feel inside is our love light. The light keeps us happy and helps us to make good choices.
- Explain that this light is in all people. Sometimes we feel sad, mad, or scared. Then it’s hard to feel our light.
- Place the shadow template on top of the peaceful person template, with the flashlight shining behind it.
- The shadow template “dims” the light.
- Explain that when we feel sad, mad or afraid, our love light goes dim.
- But our light will never go away!
- Ask your child if she remembers a time when she felt sad, mad, or afraid. Ask, how did your light feel?
- Reinforce the idea that your light is always there. But sometimes if you feel sad, mad or afraid it may be hard to feel your light.
- Explain to your child that when her light feels dim, there are ways to help get her light to shine bright again.
- One way to help your light shine bright again is to take deep breaths. You can model to your child deep and slow breaths.
- As you’re taking deep breaths together, take away the shadow template, revealing the bright light through the peaceful person.
- Ask your child how she feels after she takes deep breaths.
- Remind your child that every person is unique, different, and special and everyone has a light inside.
- You can tell your child that when you see someone smile and see the twinkle in their eyes, that is their love light shining through!
- You can sing the song, “This Little Light of Mine” with your child.
- Refer to our lights and love often. You can suggest other ways to get our lights shining bright. For example, singing, coloring, helping someone or being kind.
- Keep the necklaces in a place where you can wear them often to reinforce the idea we all have a light.
- As the adult, remember to model and refer to your own feeling of the love inside of you if you feel your light shining bright.
- Recognize when you or your child’s light is dim. Talk about ways that you can get your lights bright again.
I noticed that when I did this social emotional activity with the children in the classroom, the effects where more immediately powerful for the four and five year olds.
It’s important for the three-year-olds to experience this lesson and it’s a great foundation for them. But it seems that it’s easier for the older kids to talk about it.
Annie is three and it seems that she’s more intrigued by the flashlight! But, we had moments where she would stop and recognize her light shining bright. She will also say sometimes, “That makes your love light very dim!”
This is a wonderful activity for multiple children in the home, and it can help them with learning about respect and resolving conflicts.
What I like about this lesson is that the children take ownership. With practice, they begin to recognize their emotions and choices, as well as the emotions and choices of others around them. They are proud of themselves when they are kind. That’s what makes this lesson powerful!
Did this activity help Annie’s behavior? It’s a bit too early to tell, but so far she loves the activity and we revisit it every day with enthusiasm. I find that it changes things up a bit, and we can look at our daily situations from different perspectives. It changes the conversation.
Have you tried a lesson like this before? What works for you and your children? If you try this lesson, let me know how it went. Leave a comment, below!
If you liked this post, you’ll also like my previous posts about peace activities:
I also created new printables for you!
I created a 28 days of Acts of Kindness Calendar for inspire you and your children on ideas for spreading kindness. These are ways to get your light shining bright!
I also created a Snowflake Bundle for Winter:
- Snowflake counting matching cards 1-10
- Snowflake matching cards
- Snowflake pattern strips
If you’d like to download them, sign up for the Resources library, below!