Today, I am going to be sharing the trays my son has been working on for our Sinterklaas or St Nicholas Day theme! Before we get to the trays though, I do want to chat briefly about my cultural background. I’ve talked about it before, but here’s a quick review. I was born in Russia/Crimea and moved to the United States as a child. Then, at 20, I met my now hubby and eventually moved to the Netherlands. Out of that mix, we have a lot of cultures influencing our lives.
When I moved to the Netherlands, I learned about St Nicholas Day (Sinterklaas) for the first time. My husband’s family has a fun, family-oriented celebration and I really love it! And we skip Christmas (Shh!).
St. Nicholas arrives in the Netherlands in November. He ‘comes’ on a steamboat from Spain, and then goes through the villages, greeting children and families. This is always a very big deal and every village and city has a symbolic event for this.
Basically, someone dresses up as Sinterklaas
(St Nicholas) and his zwarte pieten
and they arrive on some sort of boat. If you would like to read more about this, be sure to check out last year’s Sinterklaas post
Montessori St Nicholas Day Activities
For one of our first works, I had Y construct a boat from blocks. The idea is a simple shape matching work, but it was great for imaginary play. I really enjoyed watching him create this boat first using a simple mat I made (using a sheet of paper and pen), and then on his own without it.
Practical Life and Fine Motor
Because St Nicholas arrives here on his boat, I found it fun to add a work or two representing/using water! Here, I used blue gems for a spooning work using our homemade tray.
Again, using the boat theme, we had a boat punching work.
Related: You’ll also love our Life Cycle of a Christmas Tree
Sinterklaas also has helpers that are called Zwarte Piet. You can read more about them on google as they have been bringing quite some controversy here in the Netherlands. For our trays, I simply added a paper feather cutting activity to symbolize the feathers that the Zwarte Piet have in their hats.
After St. Nicholas arrives in the Netherlands from Spain, he parades in the villages/cities on his white horse, greeting children and handing out treats.
For one of our works, I created a horse washing set up. If Y chooses this tray, he then goes to the bathroom or kitchen to get water for it. I included a small pitcher for a pouring component, a sponge, a small bucket, and a cloth for cleaning up spills.
I created a simple carrot craft using pipe cleaners. I simply had a longer orange pipe cleaner and cut short green pieces for Y. He had to bend them into the proper shape to make a carrot.
One of the traditions here is that on Sinterklaas eve (December 5), kids will place their shoes by a fireplace or chimney. Inside, they will place a carrot or a different treat for St Nicholas’ horse. I created a simple shoe tying work. On top of that, you can also have your kids polish or clean their shoes.
Of course, this time of year also has a lot to do with presents. I couldn’t help but add a cutting practice tray using themed gift wrap.
I also had a gift wrapping tray! I had little styrofoam boxes leftover from a garland from last year that Y had kind of broken. I had him try to wrap them in themed gift paper.
Using the same little boxes, I also had him practice his tonging skills.
Sinterklaas carries a staff here. I created a simple counting work using wooden numbers and pipe cleaner staffs. I would lay out 1 staff and one number for Y. Then, he had to place the corresponding quantity of pony beads on to the staff.
(December 6), kids will typically find that the carrots they left out would be gone, and tend to be replaced with small treats such as pepernoten
(recipe from the Montessori Notebook
) or chocolate coins.
I created a counting work using our DIY sandpaper numbers
. Y was very excited about the chocolates and turned this work into more of a grace and courtesy lesson than a counting work.
He saw the chocolates, something he had been asking for at the store for a while, and immediately wanted to share with Mama and Heitie (daddy in my husband’s language). He grabbed the chocolates, gave one to both of us, and then asked if he could also have one. No time for sandpaper numbers, but at least he used his manners!
Related: You’ll also love our Free Christmas Tree Color Cards
Using our pretend carrots, I created a very simple imaginary play tray using two horse figurines.
In addition to making pretend carrots, we also practiced peeling a real carrot! This was a great work, but required a lot of concentration on Y’s part. I loved watching him work so hard!
Grace and Courtesy
The holiday season is also a great time of year to work on manners! I created a very fun work to do just that! This is really a pouring work (water in the little pot, and a cloth to clean up messes). The idea was for Y to pour both himself and me a cup of water/tea, giving us the opportunity to work on using words such as ‘please’ and ‘thank you’.
This is more of a seasonal one than specifically, St Nicholas Day themed, but I just love tea. The weather here is cold and rainy, and sipping tea just feels like a must during this time of year. I love to buy loose leaf teas at the market and created a very simple spooning work.
I had an orange infused black tea and it smelled absolutely gorgeous! This is a great way to get more than one of the senses involved in the works – even though the main focus here is spooning the tea, Y also used his sense of touch, smell, and sound during this work.
You can have your child scoop some of the tea into these tea filter bags
. This would make a lovely homemade gift!
More Awesome Christmas Activities
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I hope you have a fabulous day!