The Shhhhh… Silence Game.
One of the lessons in Practical Life’s Grace and Courtesy exercise, I personally love this activity in the middle of the day probably one hour after work cycle time. Even as adults, we need a quiet moment, being alone or with others, to simply reflect on the day and compose ourselves before accelerating to the next work/duty. With young children, no matter how active or busy they are with their routines, a quiet time is essential to develop a higher level of discipline and also gain awareness and appreciate the sounds they can hear from their surroundings.
To initiate The Silence Game, do this:
- Teacher/a child ring a small bell, or hang up a sign that says ‘SILENCE’, or go around with a signboard that says the quiet word.
- Children stop what they are doing, go to the circle, sit down, close eyes and remain perfectly still.
- During 5-10 mins of silence, teacher can recite a poem/motivatonal mantra and express gratitude for the day. A cd of different sounds or soothing music can also be played, and a little discussion after the game can be held to talk about the sounds heard.
- Other variations of the game: children carry bells across the room without allowing them to jingle or ring; guided visualisation like in yoga practice.
It’s okay if the children are fidgeting early during the introduction of this game. As time passes, children will learn to relax, sit still and listen to the environment. Eventually, they will value the moment of idle and peace.
This ritual can be performed on a daily basis, and try to practise it with as much democratic approach as possible. What if a child wants to be silent near his working area and chooses not to go the circle? Is that okay or is he breaking the rule? Ask other children’s opinion and observe their responses.
Remember the origin of the game in this tale of Maria Montessori’s own encounter:
“One day I came into class holding in my arms a baby four months old, which I had taken from the arms of its mother in the courtyard. … The silence of the little creature struck me, and I wanted the children to share my feeling. … To my amazement I saw an extraordinary tension in the children who watched me. It seemed as though they were hanging on my lips, and felt deeply all I was saying. “Then its breathing,” I went on, “how soft it is. None of you could breathe as it does, without making a sound…” The children, surprised and motionless, held their breath. In that moment there was an extraordinary silence; the tick of the clock, which generally could not be heard, became perceptible. It seemed as if the baby had brought with it an atmosphere of silence such as does not exist in ordinary life. This was because no one was making the smallest movement. And from this came the wish to listen to the silence, and hence to reproduce it.“Maria Montessori (The Secret of Childhood)
(Photo courtesy of Deb from www.livingmontessorinow.com)