One of the things that people seem to notice most about Alfie (and Montessori kids in general) is his maturity. I don’t mean in the sense that he isn’t childish – he’s not even two yet! I mean in his peacefulness which strangers recognise in his ability to wait patiently, to fix himself a snack, to answer questions or follow directions and to find purposeful activity in whatever environment he’s in.
Montessori with a Newborn
How has this happened? Through the principles of Montessori. From the start of Alfie’s life we allowed him independence. From the moment he was born we accepted his individuality. We tried to understand that he was independent from us and even as a newborn had his own motives and impulses, abilities and thoughts.
We have taken the same approach with Indi and tried to give her every opportunity to exercise her independence and autonomy. We have done by incorporating respect into all our interactions with her.
But…you can’t have a conversation with a newborn?! Au contraire! That is only true if you believe that words are the only form of conversation. Newborns love to communicate with their family and are more than capable of making their meaning clear.
I speak to Indi as if she were able to understand every word I’m saying. I tell her what our plans are for the day, ask her how she’s feeling, describe what her brother is doing or discuss which plants are growing well. We talk about serious things and silly thing but we do a lot of talking.
Most importantly I tell her what I’m going to do for her. Before I pick her up I say “I’m going to lift you up now. Are you ready? Here we go!” and I slowly ease my hands from the front to the back so that she’s not startled. This shows that I know she is her own woman!
Not a quiet environment, a calm and natural one! With Alfie around there’s very few moments of silence! However there are very few hectic moments! We have slowed ourselves right down and try to operate at a newborn’s pace. When Indi is in a room I try not to bustle around her or have loud conversation’s right beside her, instead I try to give her room to just be herself.
The biggest calming influence is the absence of baby toys and equipment. There are no light up, musical, spinning, flying plastic toys in our house. We have no toys that would alter her environment in any way or introduce any sensory input that isn’t naturally occurring. Her environment has been kept as simple as it can be.
We also spend as much time outside as possible. I try to get our chores done in the morning, Alfie helps and she watches or sleeps. This way we can spend the afternoons in the garden with very few distractions from nature.
Giving a child a peaceful environment allows them to build their own thoughts.
Mindfulness & Personal Space
At all times we are mindful of where her attention is directed. It sounds strange to give a baby personal space but it’s the best way that I can describe the last guiding principle we have.
We respect when she’s busy or sleeping and give her the space she needs to get on with her business. For example we try not to whisk her around the house with us, if she is lying on her movement mat happily watching a mobile I won’t drag her with me when I leave the room. If needs be I wait until she is ready, although I am happy to leave the room for short spells if I’m staying within ear shot.
She gets plenty of cuddles and opportunities to nap in my arms but likewise she gets the mental (and sometimes physical) space she needs to pursue her own interests…even if that’s just watching a shadow on the wall!
What Works for Us
From the outside Montessori can seem a bit ‘hands off’ and many people who don’t know what it’s about or have only read about it can misinterpret it as being cold and unloving.
I find it to be the opposite. It is prioritising her needs, wants and desires above my desire to squeeze her and cover her in kisses! There is nothing that I’d love more than to cuddle Indi all day, every day, forever! In fact I feel the same about Alfie, one reason I don’t do it with Alfie is because he makes it very clear that he does not want that to happen. Indi can’t say these things or fight me off (!) so I rely on the decades of developmental research behind the Montessori method to steer me in the right direction. When she wants to be cuddled she is, when she wants to do something else she’s respected.