Guess who’s five months old now? I think an update post is in order, but first I want to follow up to my Montessori post.
A few weeks ago, I blogged about reading The Joyful Child. I have now finished Montessori from the Start and have come away with some ideas that I love.
Montessori from the Start is written by a mother-daughter team, both of whom are very involved in Montessori education. The overall framework of Montessori is excellent; as I said in my previous post, it has helped me view these infant days as less about survival and sleep schedules and more about providing a sound learning environment and watching Liam develop.
That being said, not every practical application of Montessori’s theories is important to me or fits our child or lifestyle.
Here are some of the concepts I love–the ones I have excitedly shared with my husband and that we have started implementing or plan to implement.
1. The Infant’s Room: I mentioned that we were making some changes to Liam’s room. Montessori advocates using a child bed (a mattress on the floor) rather than a crib and then child-proofing the entire room so that the child has freedom to explore. It is going to take some time to child-proof our small space (some of our furniture resides in Liam’s closet and room), so for now, he sleeps in his crib. But we aren’t opposed to eventually placing the mattress on the floor and child-proofing the entire room, especially if he starts climbing out of his crib. For now, he tends to nap well in the crib (nights are another story….).
The authors of Montessori from the Start suggest an area with a mirror and bar for tummy time and eventually standing. We had never decorated the nursery, so we bought a mirror, a shelf, and a bookcase for Liam. The visual he gets of his room from the floor should be pleasant; now he can see his books, his toy shelf, and his mirror. He loves the mirror; I wish we had bought it sooner to help him enjoy tummy time more. With any future children, I will definitely use more mobiles above a mat next to the mirror.
2. Learning to use real objects: I love the idea of giving children varied materials (other than plastic) to feel. During and after weaning, Montessori suggests using a real glass for drinking. It will probably break, but this teaches the child control of error. I do love this idea; I think children learning gentleness with objects from an early age is important. They need to learn how to work within an environment where things can break. We will see how this goes, though. So far, Liam much prefers wood, metal, and glass to plastic (they get used to their own toys so fast and want everything else!).
3. The use of the hands: In Western culture, we tend to focus on gross motor skills (for example, crawling and walking). I believe the authors attribute this to our love for sports. However, fine motor skills are crucial and should be developed from birth. When I started researching the Montessori method, Liam was at the right age for hanging a bell and wooden grasping ring above him to help him gain control of his hands. I was skeptical about whether he would go for this, but I grabbed one of his plastic rings and used elastic to secure it above him in his pack and play. He loved reaching for it and pulling it down. Eventually, I found a bell that he loves even more. I enjoyed watching as he learned that he could affect and change his environment using his hands.
I have tried to give Liam things to hold of varying materials, shapes, and sizes. He is really, really fascinated with his hands, and I have loved watching him learning how to grab various objects. When he gets that look in his eyes when he sees something, I often let him touch it. He loves trying to grab mugs and the edges of tables.
4. Toys: So often we use toys as a distraction and don’t think about how a toy helps an infant learn. I was skeptical about whether this mattered, but I have seen Liam gain concentration and focus through giving him less toys and selecting ones that truly help him learn. We used some gift money to buy this set of toys. He loves them, especially the rattle. It is perfect (especially because it doesn’t hurt him when he hits himself in the face). I was amazed at how the interlocking discs encouraged him to use both hands, as well.
These are the more practical ideas. Tomorrow I will share four more concepts we are trying to implement–concepts that have changed my view of babies and their development. The learning process is fascinating, and seeing what such a young baby is capable of astounds me!