Starting Montessori does not always mean spending a fortune or rearranging your home!
Fred and I chose to make the Montessori approach a part of home because we wanted to respect our son as an individual seperate from ourselves. Once you start however it becomes a bit all encompassing and you find yourself obsessing over the ‘materials’, (never toys, always materials!) Right after Alfie was born we were forced to become semi-nomadic for a few months, then we spent a few more months living in an (almost totally) empty house, then it was a bit of a building site for a few more months and finally it’s a home! Phew, all that in 7 months! The point is that it’s not always possible to have a designated Montessori space or any materials. Does that mean that you can’t incorporate aspects of Montessori into your life? Absolutely not.
The good news is that Montessori is an attitude, an approach to childhood and a fresh way of thinking about your living space. This means that Montessori is far more about how you do something than what you are doing. But babies don’t do anything so Montessori doesn’t apply yet? Not quite.
There are a number of simple tweaks you can make that don’t require one single purchase or even a whole lot of effort. These apply at any age but are especially relevant with babies.
A big part of Montessori is following the child and respecting their interests. Well and good when you’ve a toddler building a tower, slightly trickier to follow a child’s interests when faced with a glazed eyed baby – except that even babies have the ability to be attracted to something and are rarely as passive as we assume. A little observation goes a long way. From birth babies will find certain things engrossing, rather than whisking him from place to place take a second to see if he is ready to move. It may be that baby is staring at a shadow or fixated with a reflection or absorbed with their hand and needs a moment or two to finish their thought. So you’ll send an extra ten seconds at the changing table. So what! Babies can only concentrate for tiny periods of time so this step is hardly noticeable. It’s also good to get in the habit of observing your children’s interests from the very start.
Fred was initially sceptical of offering a baby choice, thinking it was beyond Alfie’s abilities but from the time he was able to grab things (about 4 months) he’s been able to show his preference. Hold out two toys within reach and let baby focus on/grab the one he wants, offer him a choice of which food to eat, it’s even possible to offer a choice a clothes (from about 9 months).
Awareness of ability
Knowing what baby is capable of will free both of you up for maximum fun! A perfect example of this is newborn sight. Children see in black and white for the first few months, after that colours begin to emerge very slowly. Their depth of vision is very poor too. Their hearing may not be great either. Poor baby! Offer your baby stimulation that they can actually enjoy! Spinning, multi coloured, musical mobiles high above a cot or pram are next to useless because baby can’t see them! Opt instead for black and white images placed close to baby or gentle night projectors. Spend a little time checking out their excepted development and then proceed accordingly.
Respect autonomy We tried to avoid doing things to Alfie and tried to do them with him. Mad hipster notions I know. For example we narrated what was happening and why as we changed a nappy, dressed him, made bottles etc. He might not have understood, but then again, he might have! Treat your child the way you would an adult, with respect and expectation. It’s more about your mindset and adjusting yourself to him as an individual.
Freedom to Move
Clothes, thick blankets, mittens and booties are all a hindernce to movement. Imagine spending 9 months curled up, naked, underwater, in a dimly lit, warm, quiet pool, your body is the only thing you know. Then imagine being stretched out, blinded, deafened, dried and having scratchy heavy fabric put all over your body!! You can’t feel your hands or your face any more and it’s all so heavy! Even light weight fabrics present a challenge as baby is so used to being weightless. Opting to forgo mittens is a HUGELY controversial decision. Lots of people will convince you that you’ve actually birthed Wolverine and he’s just WAITING to scratch his own eyes out. Ignore them! Or at least try not to remind them that Baby had nails in the womb. Let him continue to feel his face and his hands, they offer points of reassurance in a world where everything else is so changed. As baby starts to kick and wiggle opt for clothes with a loose waist band and shoulder seams. You can read more about supporting baby movement here in my post ‘Supporting the Sensitive Period for Movement‘.
And that’s it! Congratulations on doing Montessori with your baby!! Extra points if you use wooden toys, but nothing is essential EXPECT your mindset. We sometimes get so caught up in items that we forget the words of our friend and guide Maria Montessori; “The most valuable tool in the Montessori environment is the adult.”
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