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I absolutely love the Balancing Bird (which comes in 3 colours - please see the gallery images)! It is incredibly rare to find something that is so simple and affordable yet powerful and valuable!
The Balancing Bird is like my "get-out-of-jail-free" card for maintaing a calm and positive dynamic within my Montessori classroom. Whenever I sense that a child, or group of children, is moving away from self-control and heading towards chaos I simply invite a child to place the Balancing Bird on a fingertip and, as if by magic, the atmosphere becomes more peaceful and purposeful. The child (or children) can become almost mesmerised by a sense of reverence and delight for the incredible way that the bird seems to hover in the air. The child seems to absorb a sudden and spontaneous desire for stillness, inspired by the desire to keep the bird balancing rather than disturbing its flight with unexpected movement.
I often incorporate the Balancing Bird into our Walking on the Line exercises. It is such a joy to watch a child putting intense focus into progressing towards the level of control and coordination required to take steps along the line without disturbing the bird's balance. There is such a palpable sense of concentration, peace and joy throughout this process but especially when a child reaches the point that he or she can complete the line with the bird still resting proudly on the fingertip!
Some of my students who are endowed with a particularly good sense of humour have also invented a new variation on this game - tipping the head back and resting the Balancing Bird on the nose! This makes the task even more challenging as the child must rely on "muscular memory" to navigate the path rather than looking at the line!
The exercises with the Balancing Bird are reminiscent of Maria Montessori's work with the Silence Game. Both experiences focus on the lack of noise and movement while providing the opportunity for a child to progress towards the level of self-control required to create and maintain this harmonious state.
The Balancing Bird also provides a wonderful point of discussion and investigation about scientific concepts such as gravity, balance and weight distribution. Older children can be invited to create their own versions of the Balancing Bird either by following instructions (as shown in the link) or by engaging in an ongoing process of experimentation and problem-solving.