The Little Book of Special Days


3-5 years

Characteristics of Effective Learning:

Being willing to ‘have a go’, Keeping trying, Making links



Type of Content:


Related Activities


An idea for a special day

by Elaine Massey and Sam Goodman

Diwali is a significant festival in Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism and jainism and an official holiday in India. It signifies the renewal of life. It is often referred to as the ‘Festival of Lights’ because of the common practice of lighting small clay lamps (called diyas) and placing them all over the inside and outside of the home. The lights and other decorations are used to welcome visitors and hopefully the Goddess of Fortune – Lakshmi.

What you need

  • clay (air drying)

  • tea lights

  • paint

  • PVA glue

  • petals (fabric)

  • flowers (cut out by the children from brightly coloured paper and card)

  • coloured string

  • thick straws, cut into sections of about 1.5cm

  • coloured chalk/felt pens/pastels

  • black paper

  • strips of paper approximately 20cm wide (for the band/top of the door banner)

  • shield-type shapes to attach to the long piece of the banner (optional)

Ready for more?

Clay lamps:

  1. Encourage each child to use the clay to make a small bowl shape, the centre of which will need to be big enough to hold a tea light. For younger children, encourage them to roll the clay into a ball and then press a finger down into the middle. Pinch the clay with thumb and forefinger around the edge, gradually making a bowl shape.

  2. Let the clay dry, then paint the outside, let that dry and then glue small colourful petals around the outside edge. Gently push petals into the wet clay, let that dry and then paint.

  3. Finally place the tea light in the centre.

In certain parts of India it is customary to wear a necklace of fresh flowers (garland) at Diwali, and to hang an embroidered door hanging (or toran) above doorways.

Flower garlands:

Each child will need a length of string, with a knot at one end so that the flowers and straws cannot fall off!

Use petals from artificial flowers/or boxes of petals that can be bought from many outlets.

  1. Encourage threading, one flower and then one piece of straw, or several flowers of different colours and then straws to separate every so often.

  2. When complete tie a knot to make sure all flowers stay on the string.

Door hanging:

  1. Use long lengths of paper for the band which is the top of the banner.

  2. Lay the paper on the floor and offer children a choice of resources to make a pattern along its length. If children are able, offer them the chance to cut out shield-shaped pieces of paper. Once these too are decorated they can then be stuck to the bottom of the bands already decorated.

  3. Hang around your setting!


Hindus draw a colourful design called a Rangoli on the floor near the entrance to their home. The Rangoli patterns are traditionally drawn with the fingers using flour, rice grains or coloured chalk and can be square, circular, rectangular, or a mix of all three. They are often symmetrical and the design taken from nature

  1. First, show children Rangoli patterns for inspiration and then encourage them to try for themselves on black paper. The grid is usually made from small dots at regular intervals over a specific shape and then these dots can be joined together to create a design.

  2. Work outside on the playground or on paving slabs. Use white chalk to get an outline of the design and the coloured chalks to fill it in. Use a mixture of flour, water and food colouring to make a paste and create your Rangoli. (Note: It will be semi-permanent and might possibly not ever be fully removed so be careful where you work!)

Ready for more?

  • Food is very important during Diwali so why not offer the children Indian sweets and snacks to taste? Where possible, get advice from someone who is familiar with Diwali celebration food.

  • Offer opportunities for the children to hear Indian music.

  • Let the children dress up in costumes/materials that are of vibrant colours and lend themselves to light and illumination themes.

  • Supply books to encourage the children to look at India and its customs more closely, and to look at Rangoli patterns.

  • Diwali is incomplete without fireworks so why not do outdoor splash painting or use the whiteboard to create firework pictures.

Where to go next: Chinese New Year
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