Today, Mother's Day ideas for teachers should reflect the fact that there are lots of different kinds of families. Luckily, you can simply modify more traditional activities so that all kids have the opportunity to show their love and respect for their mother or another person who serves as a caregiver in their young lives.
For most of my career in education, I worked in schools that served many military families, so Mom might be deployed on Mother's Day or Dad might be deployed on Father's Day. Also enrolled in the school district were children who lived with one parent while the other lived somewhere else. There were children whose mothers had passed away, children who had two dads or two moms, and some children who lived with their dad and his girlfriend. Some students were even in foster care. In order to cover all these possibilities, we had to come up with ways to celebrate Mother's Day so that all kids could participate.
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Inclusive Mother's Day Activities
One activity that worked very well at my school was a Mother's Day Tea. Fourth graders were encouraged to invite their mothers or "someone who is like a mother," and teachers designed an invitation that was inclusive and welcoming for everyone. Teachers served the tea, and students served lemonade and cookies. The students had written short paragraphs about their guests, who were mothers, grandmothers, older siblings, and stepmothers. Their writing was displayed, and some students read them aloud. It was simple, but very much appreciated by all.
The elementary school my children attended held a Mother's Day concert. I can recall only two of the songs. One was "All You Need Is Love" by The Beatles (a really shortened version). The other was a very modified verse or two of "Mary in the Morning" sung by the third graders, who changed "Mary" to "Mommy." They sang, "Nothing's quite as pretty as Mommy in the morning, when with her sleepy eyes she sees me standing there." Despite my fleeting thought that there were probably quite a few things prettier than this mommy in the morning, there wasn't a dry eye in the house when they finished, and that included mommies and surrogate mommies.
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Besides holding a tea party or a concert, children in the primary grades can still design cards or draw pictures for their mothers and other prominent caregivers. My own children planted bean sprouts one year that came with a handmade card that said, "Thank you for helping me grow." While some adults may be skeptical at celebrating someone other than a mom on Mother's Day, I've never seen a child who cared whether a classmate was making a card for a mom, aunt, older sister, or dad.
Kids Want to Show Their Love
While some organizations like the Human Rights Campaign offer ways for schools to design inclusive activities, other groups have objected to removing the focus from actual mothers. When a school in Nova Scotia decided to scrap Mother's Day and Father's Day activities in favor of the International Day of Families, which is a United Nations holiday, not everyone was happy—more than 600 parents signed a petition protesting the change. However, the school stood firm in its decision.
While I respect the school's decision to be inclusive, abandoning Mother's and Father's Day deprives kids of the opportunity to do something special for a special person. Besides, it isn't that difficult to celebrate mothers and others in a thoughtful fashion; recognizing those who simply serve as mothers to children does no disservice to a child's actual mother.
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There are lots Mother's Day ideas for teachers out there. You can often adapt activities so that all children in your classroom can participate. After all, all you need is love (and probably some colored paper, paint, glue, glitter, and markers).