As we say goodbye to Bonfire Night, onward comes Diwali, a joyful five-day celebration of light over darkness. Diwali celebrations, like Bonfire Night, marry beautifully with the colder and darker months of the calendar by bringing colour and joy to an otherwise chilly season. Celebrated by Sikhs, Hindus and Jains, each faith has a different belief behind the meaning of the festival. There are, however, collective celebrations held by all, from fireworks to the creation and lighting of lamps (also knows as diya lamps, pronounced diva) as well as decorating beautiful patterns on walls and floors (known as rangoli). As a wonderfully bright and colourful festival, there is much to be celebrated and to involve children in, whether you belong to the faiths of Diwali or not. Here are a few simple ways to involve your children in learning about, and celebrating, Diwali.
Learn about why Diwali is celebrated
Diwali has a deep historical past, and the different faiths that practice Diwali have differing beliefs behind its significance. The BBC Newsround website has a great summary of the different reasons faiths celebrate Diwali, and depending on the age of your children you might like to dig into this more deeply. Hindus celebrate Rama and Sita’s return from a 14 year exile (Hindu deities), Sikhs celebrate the release of Guru Hargobind Singh from prison, while Jains celebrate the moment their founder Lord Mahavira reached enlightenment. Each tie together themes of freedom, release and return, and the celebration of all things light and good over darkness. Older children might find the festival of Diwali to be a great way to learn about similarities and differences between faiths, thinking about what makes groups similar and different. You might reflect on why many festivals at traditionally dark times of year (in the northern hemisphere) focus on light and brightness, making comparisons with bonfire night.
Make your own diya lamps
Diya lamps make a frequent appearance across Diwali celebrations. Usually made of clay with a tea light in the middle, they make lovely handmade gifts as well as supporting fine motor development and creativity. There are a few ways you might recreate these at home. Purchase child-friendly clay and create your own diya by shaping an oval, palm sized piece, then add a tea light (battery operated or real) to the middle. Alternatively, you could make reusable diya lamps with Modelling Clay. Decorate with toy jewels, stickers, or even with pebbles and sea glass collected from your nearest beach! If you are using real candles and clay, you might like to float your diya lamps on water. Beautiful! If you make your diya lamps with clay, you can keep these and bring them out each year. They will become a lovely memory of childhood days past once your children grow older.
Create your own rangoli
Rangoli is traditionally used during Diwali to welcome light into the home. Some faiths also connect this to welcoming gods into the household. Rangoli usually consist of bright colours and symmetrical, geometric patterns, which are brilliant for practising artistic design as well as shape recognition and hand-eye coordination. Whether you are a person of faith or not, getting involved by making your own rangoli can be a wonderful activity! There are several ways to make a rangoli. Typically natural items are used, such as seeds, petals dried pulses, spices and coloured powder along with stencils. This is particularly true if you are making rangoli on the floor. Once Diwali is over, you can add these dried items to your mud kitchen for pretend play - or even use them in cooking if they are edible and still safe for consumption! If decorating on walls, use paper, paint, Crayons or pencils. You might even use bath crayons and make rangoli in the bath! If you have younger children, or struggle to get hold of natural materials for rangoli, there are plenty of rangoli colouring patterns online too.
A final way to get involved in the spirit of Diwali is using natural, colourful materials in your water tray or tuff tray. Petals are particularly beautiful for this sort of play, but you could also add child-safe food colouring. The key is about bringing light and colour at a time of year which is dark and chilly! If you made diya lamps, you could even float these across the water. Why not try making colourful rainbow potions?
Diwali is a lovely celebration that brings light through the darkness in the colder autumnal months. Whether you celebrate Diwali as part of your faith or not, there is much to be learned from this historical festival. Happy Diwali!
Freelance Writer, Education and Play Specialist