Honoring the Light of the Child: Activities to Nurture Peaceful Living Skills in Young Children

The author of Honoring the Light of the Child, Sonnie McFarland, was awarded the esteemed Living Legacy Award from the American Montessori Society in 2011 due in large part for the work she has done to further education for peace. These award winning, clearly written activities help children recognize their authentic nature and that of others while developing respectful social skills, emotional intelligence, self confidence and self-management skills.  A complementary music CD, Peace Through Music by Pat Yonka, accompanies this inspiring book.

This Visionary Book Teaches Children How To:

  • Concentrate & center their bodies, minds and emotions
  • Cooperate with others
  • Thoughtfully communicate their needs & listen to others
  • Peacefully resolve conflict
  • Be self confident and self aware
  • Be environmentally & culturally conscious

Price: $30

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Foreword by Aline D. Wolf, vii
Preface, xi
Acknowledgments, xii


The Need to Educate for a Culture of Peace, 1
The Flower of Peace Model, 6
The Nature of Young Children, 10
Creating Environments to Nurture Peace, 12
The Playful Adult, 15
How to Use This Book, 16


1 See My Love, 17
2 Awareness of the Love Light Through Silence, 21
3 Everyone Has a Love Light, 23
4 Black Elk’s Medicine Wheel Vision of Peace, 25
5 Black Elk’s Vision of Peace Revisited, 31
6 Good Kind Deeds Tree, 37
7 Making Peaceful Choices, 41
8 Resolving Conflict Peacefully, 45
9 Circles of Self Awareness, 49
10 Body: Breath Awareness, 57
11 Body: Muscle Awareness, 61
12 Body: Spinal Column and Nerves, 61
13 Mind: The Five Senses as Messengers, 65
14 Mind: Positive and Negative Aspects, 69
15 Mind: Making Positive or Negative Choices, 73
16 Mind: The Powers of Imagination and Concentration, 83
17 Emotions: Identifying and Expressing Feelings, 87
18 Emotions: Empathy Expanded, 93
19 Emotions: Changing Feelings, 95
20 Spirit: Appreciating Differences in People, 103
21 Spirit: The Web of Life, 109
22 Spirit: The Web of Love, 117

Song Lyrics, 119
References, 122
About the Author, 123
Contact Information, 124


SONNIE MCFARLAND is a pioneer in the teaching of peace to young children. Her work was an inspiration to me during the years I was preparing my book, Nurturing the Spirit in Non-Sectarian Classrooms. Since that publication in 1996, Sonnie has expanded and refined the details of her series of activities, so that with this book, they can be easily used by other teachers. And they should be. As I am writing this, amid the world turmoil of 2003, it seems that practicing peace is the most important experience we can give to our children.

Some readers may wonder why it is necessary to design specific lessons on love, kindness, compassion and tolerance. They may feel that preparing a peaceful environment and modeling peaceful behavior is sufficient for guiding three through six year-old children. From my own experience as a child in school, I know that virtues such as these must be explicitly taught. With shame I recall that neither I, nor any of my other schoolmates, ever reached out to one particular girl in our class. She was a midget. We never invited her to play with us; we simply ignored her. Although we were taught in peaceful environments by women who valued peace, not one of them ever gave us a lesson on being sensitive to the feelings of others or including all our classmates in our activities.

Maria Montessori, in whose path Sonnie McFarland now walks, recognized a century ago the joy of repetition that children exhibit in the classroom. Montessori’s materials invite young students to repeat and repeat each activity. The children delight in gradually mastering basic skills by returning to the same pieces of equipment or parallel lessons day after day. The very creative peace activities in this book offer children the same kind of comfortable repetition with frequent use of silence, songs, symbols and unique materials that embody peaceful thoughts and actions. There is no doubt in my mind that the repetition in these powerful lessons can make a significant difference in children’s behavior.

Basic to the whole effort, however, is the nature of the teachers who use this program. In order to convey convincingly to their students the life changing meaning of these beautiful activities, teachers must do more than follow the procedures outlined in this book. They must be peaceful people themselves, whose commitment to peace proceeds from their own inner essence. This means that they take time in their busy schedules to nourish themselves spiritually, to reflect on their own strengths and weaknesses, to grow in patience and love, and as Montessori insisted, “to purify their hearts and render them burning with charity towards the child.”

Ron Miller, whose well-known commitment to holistic education reflects his Montessori
training, wrote recently, “If we are to teach peace, we need to learn to practice love, not only within intimate circles of families and friends, but in schools and in society and in the world at large. We need to transform society, reorganize our institutions, and expand our values, so that our culture favors caring, compassion, justice and love. No doubt it is a huge task. But it is our truest calling as human beings.”



OVER THIRTY YEARS ago, I read a book that changed the course of my life by igniting a flame in my heart that burns brightly to this day. This passion made parenting and teaching a pure joy and can be summed up in six simple words: “Honor the Light of the Child!”

In my experience the more I honor the light of love within children and reflect it back to them, the more they express love in cooperative and peaceful ways. Children come to the Earth as innocent spiritual beings bearing unique gifts to share with humanity. The ability of children to manifest these gifts to the fullest is greatly dependent on the significant adults in their lives.

The seeds of potential within children are similar to the seeds of potential within flowers. Just as a seed comes into the world with all it needs to grow and fulfill its destiny of becoming a certain type of flower, so children enter the world prepared to bloom into their own unique potential. However, both seeds and children must have certain conditions present if they are to bloom. Just as the gardener is responsible for providing the proper conditions for seeds to flourish, child educators, including parents, teachers, child counselors and anyone who works with and cares for young children, are responsible for providing nurturing environments for children to flourish.

The gardener must provide soil for the seeds to keep them warm, safe and secure. Similarly, child educators must provide physical safety to keep children warm, safe and secure.

The gardener must provide nutrients for the seeds to flourish and grow. Similarly, child educators must provide intellectual stimulation and encourage children to explore and create on an intellectual level.

The gardener must provide water so the seeds will soften, sprout and grow. Similarly, child educators must provide emotional environments for children that are safe enough for children to comfortably express themselves.

The gardener must place the seeds in a place where they get enough light to fill the plant with energy. Similarly, child educators must place children in the light. This is done by seeing and recognizing the light and potential within each child.
When children experience their light reflected back to them, they flower. Just as the gardener plants a seed with a vision of the flower in mind, a child educator must continually honor the light or seed potential in each child.

The activities in this book provide a variety of opportunities for child educators to reflect love to the children, help them make conscious choices based on this and encourage them to live and work in a peaceful manner with others.

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Your book…and your understanding of letting our inner self impact our whole being is terrific. Thank You!” – A Grateful Teacher Shining Through – A Teacher’s Handbook on Transformation provides Montessori teachers with self management skills to support them in their journey of self-transformation.DirectorMontessori Education Center
Sonnie – Continue to shine your light. You are truly an inspiration to many.An Inspired Teacher
Montessori knew that if we are to establish peace we must begin with young children who are forming their basic personalities and attitudes toward life. The peace curriculum provided by Sonnie McFarland in her book, Honoring the Light of the Child provides a systematic approach and concrete materials that show us how to effectively work with children to develop peaceful living skills.DirectorMontessori Education Center
Honoring the Light of the Child is absolutely wonderful. It is so beautifully written – so many great activities – what a wonderful contribution towards a more peaceful world. …The cover photograph and design just calls to all who see it. You can see love lights shining through her beautiful eyes – she just melts my heart every time I look at her face.Penny, HeadSchool
Being in the moment with Sonnie and watching her speak was truly one of the most ‘a-ha’ moments I have ever had about children and Montessori. I have been so incredibly lucky that my oldest daughter was guided by the most amazing Montessorian at a public charter Montessori school this year. She used a lot of Sonnie’s activities in Honoring the Light of the Child such as the awareness of the love light and the silence game. It made me feel so proud that my DD has become such a ‘peace…An incredibly thankful Mommy
Not only do I feel the lessons of peace in Honoring the Light of the Child are important for teaching peaceful living skills and developing awareness in children, but I also know that successful adult education is necessary if we are to meet the inner needs of children. When that happens, peace naturally unfolds.Kyndraa Wise Teacher
Sonnie – I bought your Honoring the Light of the Child book and have absolutely loved implementing the activities as well as learning and teaching my students the peace songs on the CD that came with it.Jenniea Pleased Teacher
Words of a Preschool Child: Child: “Mom, do you know what your Love Light is?” Mom: “Tell me about it.” Child: “It is love, joy, patience and fruits of the spirit.”
Words of an Elementary Child: “These last few days have been very exciting and frustrating. Ms. Sonnie has been teaching us about how to work with being in a grumpy mood and how to turn it around with a big smile on your face and breathing deeply. I’ve been having a hard week lately with my tetanus shot and all, but with the help of my friends and especially with the help of Ms. Sonnie, this week has been turned inside-out into a beautiful firework. And now it’s been a much better…Melissaa Happy Ten Year Old Student
These 22 classroom tested activities are based on…a deep philosophy of peace which is rooted in the beliefs of such thinkers as Maria Montessori, Abraham Maslow and Gandhi.Janet Engel, MAMontessori Educator
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