Each child's development is unique, and it is the main thing we have to remember. From the moment of emergence, the method that makes the child the subject of its growth gains more and more followers. If you are here, you have already chosen the Montessori method. Our task is to help you apply it correctly to the little ones.
The "to do" list before the baby is born
Parents have to be prepared before the child is born and we have many reasons for that. Firstly, it helps them be calmer, knowing that the child will arrive in the world already adapted for their needs. Secondly, the preparation itself can distract you from many leftover problems and concerns. Thirdly, that means that you are already mature as parents, thinking of the baby as the person with its small goals and will for development.
Think about basic needs
What we have to do is think carefully about what a baby needs after it is born. We are not talking about superior comfort for parents; the main point is the education of the mentally and physically healthy child, which does not always coincide with stereotypes and excesses many times chosen by future parents.
For the newborn child, the most important thing is not toys or expensive clothes, it is the closeness of the mother, her warmth, which cannot be substituted with any gift made.
While in the womb for 9 months, we connect with the mother and surely need them after birth. Sometimes it is very difficult to stay with a baby at home, especially nowadays, following the hard rhythm of life, but you have to try to overcome it for at least half a year. Almost all doctors advise continuing breastfeeding as long as possible. Maria Montessori herself mentions the benefits of prolonging that, one of which is the ability to be with the mother and breathe the scent of her body - the unique smell that the child can distinguish during the first weeks of its life.
The use of baby carriers also helps the child a lot, in this way he or she can easily meet new people, get to know the environment, watch how routine actions are done, and enjoy being close to the mother.
The thing that should be mentioned is the sounds and general atmosphere in the house. It is very important to control yourself and your emotions in front of the child. The 5 "do no" list: do not yell, do not argue, do not cry, do not fight, and do not bring bad emotions.
Don't forget about safety
Since the child is always in action and movement, we have to think beforehand about their safety. It is not necessary to go to extremes; the main task of parents is to ensure basic security measures to be calm in their own home:
- Electronic devices and cables. Close all outlets in your home that you do not use with covers or plugs. Check all outlets carefully at foot level. It is also recommended to tie the electric wires into a bundle or close them with a special box. It is necessary to secure all wires, including those from chargers, computers, Wi-Fi routers, home theaters, stereo systems, and floor lamps. You can hide sockets and wires behind furniture. Some electrical outlets and wires can sometimes be completely blocked by hiding them behind heavy furniture such as a bookshelf or TV stand. Just make sure that the child will not be able to climb under the furniture;
- For children who have begun to crawl or walk, it is also necessary to remove all small things from the floor. Coins, buttons, screws, and other small objects can choke, so make sure there is nothing dangerous on the floor within reach of your child. Along the way, it is recommended to check the bottom drawers, shelves, baskets, boxes. If you find an item that could potentially pose a danger to a child, move it away or put it in a locker or drawer. Also, the use of carpets is not recommended;
- Kids are very interested in everything that happens on the street. The safety of windows in the house must be ensured in such a way that the child does not accidentally fall out. Childproof locks can be installed. If there are locks on the windows, you will be calmer, because you will be sure that the child will not open the window on their own. It is worth removing all furniture directly under the windows and choosing curtains and blinds without cords;
- The safety of the home for children in terms of furniture should be considered as carefully as it is possible, from the coffee table and table drawers to the TV stand. Secure large, heavy objects. While the baby is learning to stand up, they can grab and lean on various objects. Freestanding items such as bookcases, dressing tables, dressers, shelves, the TV should be attached to the wall or floor so that they do not accidentally fall on the baby upon contact. It is very important to secure sharp corners. If the furniture has sharp corners, you need to put on overlays, so that the baby does not get hurt. Install soft bumpers around the edges of the tables. This is especially true for low tables, such as coffee tables, side tables, bedside tables, as well as low shelves and TV stands;
- It is necessary to block access to the stairs for the baby until they learn to climb and descend confidently on their own. The child can practice walking up the stairs under supervision so that you can hedge it. It is recommended to cover the stairs with carpet to cushion any possible falls.
Here are some other small recommendations to offset other risks provided by the home environment:
- Install a fire alarm;
- Move potted plants away from the child. If the plant is poisonous, remove it from the house;
- Latch or lock the trash compartment door or collect trash in a container that the child cannot open;
- Shield heating devices with a screen or barrier: fireplaces, radiators, floor heaters, chimneys, etc.;
- Place floor fans where the child cannot reach them;
- Store alcoholic beverages in a locked cabinet away from the child;
- Keep separate cables (laptop and phone chargers) so that the child is guaranteed not to be able to reach them;
- Place fragile objects (glass, ceramics) out of the child's reach;
- Move potentially dangerous items (cleaning products, paint, tools, chemicals, batteries, matches, pins, medicine) away from the child or in a cabinet as high as possible;
- Write down all emergency numbers.
The stages of psychomotor development
Psychomotor development is the development of motor skills by the maturity of the nervous system in contact with the environment; interaction of the psyche with motor activity.
The assessment of the level of the child's psychomotor development should always be differentiated, considering the developmental features of general motor skills, fine motor skills of the hands, hand-eye coordination, perception, cognitive functions, and speech. In addition, it is important to assess the characteristics of social and emotional development.
The intrauterine development
The first weeks of intrauterine development are the determination of organs and tissues, including the nervous system. The first half of pregnancy is the leading formation of the spinal cord. At this stage, the beginning of fetal movement occurs. The second half of pregnancy is the leading formation of the brain. The brain stem prepares for the moment of birth. Primary complex motor acts are formed (sucking, swallowing, sneezing, breathing, heartbeat). An important role is played by the importance of external stimuli for the development of functional systems of the brain.
The first three months of postnatal development
At this stage, sensory responses develop, such as initial auditory and visual responses. Also, motor reactions, a decrease in flexor hypertension and an increase in the range of movements, the formation of grasping movement, and visual-motor coordination are formed. Concerning speech reactions, children begin to make some vowel sounds (like "ah-ah" or "ooh-ooh"). From the point of view of the psyche, positive emotional reactions appear.
From three to six months
At this age, the child already easily turns on their side. Lying on the stomach, they can rise on the arms and lean on them. Attempts to roll over from the back to the tummy become more confident, and if there is an opportunity to pull up, they even turn out to sit with a straightened back. The kid is interested in exploring the surrounding objects, loves to hold everything in their hands, makes more and more varied sounds.
The kid begins to recognize their relatives, especially their mother. Everything that comes to hand, the baby immediately drags into the mouth; they try to crawl on the stomach and may even sit well with an additional support. If you pull your kid up from a supine position, the child tries to immediately jump on their legs. They play with rattles very interestedly, respond to various intonations.
At the age of six months, the child sits without support, and if you take them under the arms and lift, a kid tries to step with their legs in turn. The baby makes the first attempts to pronounce syllables.
From six to nine months
Significant shifts are observed in the child's psychomotor development. The kid crawls, gets on all fours, sits confidently. If you support them, then they step with their legs quite firmly. The child picks up the fallen objects quite easily, while not forgetting to pull them into the mouth.
Pulling up on the support, the baby boldly rises and tries to walk, they can stand if you hold them by one hand. They also begin to copy facial expressions and emotions of adults, master the simplest games.
Leaning on something, the child rises, stands, and walks. Can sort through fairly small items. They make attempts to pronounce the first monosyllabic words, understand when they are forbidden or asked to do something.
From twelve months
The kid is already confidently standing, squatting, bending over, and crawling. They try to dominate, understand, and can fulfill a lot of requirements. The vocabulary is becoming more diversified. The psychomotor development of a child under one year ends with the first independent steps.
The first year of life is very important: during this period, the foundation is laid for the further physical, mental and emotional formation of a person. Undoubtedly, the main role in the successful assessment of the child's psychomotor development is played by how carefully the whole family, and especially the mother, observes her child.
List of top activities for Montessori kids
Children under one year old unconsciously absorb everything they see and feel, this is how their brain works. They do not yet have developed voluntary attention or memory, therefore, they do not control what they remember, whether it is good or bad. This means that it is your task to create a decent environment for development: surround the baby with beauty, care, respect, and love.
Activities for the development of visual perception
The period from birth to six months is extremely important for the development of a child's vision since it is at this time that the eyeball, the pathways leading from it to the brain, and those parts of the brain that are responsible for receiving and processing visual information are formed most rapidly and intensively. Psych physiologists consider this age period as critical for the formation of the visual system. It is the first half of a child's life that is the most sensitive time to external stimulation for the development of the visual system, which is optimal for training.
Logically, little ones under one year of age cannot focus on one object for long, but some activities will help them develop this skill.
- Their vision is not perfect, but from a month they can already distinguish some contrasting colors such as black and white. We can use the Montessori picture books, or print some pictures and stick them on the walls. This will help a lot to fix their vision and develop visual-tactile reactions. The more visual information your baby receives, the more actively its brain develops;
- The next step is the usage of the Gobbi Mobile. Gobbi Mobile can be used from 3-4 months when the child is already physiologically ready to perceive color. The height of the suspension should be at least 60cm (spatial vision and understanding of the depth of space continue to develop). We recommend choosing mobiles in shades of blue, as this color is still the worst perceived;
- The next, but not so obvious step in Montessori development is a mirror. Toddlers love to look at faces, so they are usually very attracted to looking at their reflection. Place a child-safe mirror near the sleeping area or play area and give your child enough time to examine the reflection.
Activities for the development of tactile perception
Tactile perception is cognition (examination, recognition) of objects by direct touch. Its essence lies in the reflection of the characteristics, surface features, and structure of what is touched.
In the first years of a child's life, objective activity is the main one. Children touch and feel different objects, pay attention to differences. The hard surface of the table is not at all like a terry towel, and the plastic cube is different from the soft toy. Thanks to tactile sensations, the baby perceives such signs as hardness-softness, warm-cold, prickly-fluffiness, etc. The tactile perception of objects will allow the child to involuntarily accumulate a base of object characteristics, which is later used by them to understand the properties and characteristics of everything around them.
- Using a small tactile mat is the first step in helping your child develop tactile skills. Baby rugs help create a unique environment in which your baby can have fun and develop. First of all, this allows you to develop motor skills due to tactile contact with elements on its surface or toys. In addition, rugs are painted in bright colors, which help kids learn to distinguish shades, and drawings will allow them to get acquainted with animals, marine life, etc. It is important to choose a rug made from natural materials so that it is not only fun but also safe to use;
- The curiosity basket will also come in handy in teaching a Montessori toddler. We recommend putting there several elements of the same shape, but different to the touch, for example, balls or cubes. It is best to choose non-toxic and durable materials since children under one-year-old love to try everything not only with their hands but also with their teeth.
Activities for the development of auditory perception
Auditory (auditory) perception of the world is an important component of the effective development of a child in the early stages of life. The first sounds that a child begins to distinguish and recognize are the voices of relatives, especially the mother. For the baby to grow up healthy and develop harmoniously, it needs constant training of all senses. You can start by purchasing musical toys that will not only stimulate the child's desire to interact with the object (for example, by pressing buttons) but will also begin to develop the hearing aid. Here we will also discuss other ways to stimulate this type of perception.
- A wooden baby rattle with a bell is one of the classic Montessori activities for the development of children under one-year-old. Such a toy can keep the kid busy for a long time because it can be grabbed with small fingers, and for every movement, it will respond with the ringing of a bell inside. A little later, its comfortable shape will allow it to roll away from its owner, stimulating it to active crawling movements. Other rattles from the Montessori series can also attract a baby's attention;
- Introduce various children's musical instruments to your baby: xylophone, tambourine, rattle, drum, bell, spoons, triangle, ratchets, guitar, trumpet, pipe, etc. The more instruments you gather, the more interesting the game will be. Place the musical instruments in your home in front of your child. Let the kid try again how each one sounds. Then ask the child to close their eyes or turn away, and play an instrument yourself. You should start with one instrument and slowly, step by step, increase their number;
- As we said before, little children are very attached to their mother's voice. Humming simple songs with a light melody is a good idea. The most important thing is to do it calmly and cheerfully, so as not to frighten or upset the child. Many parents overestimate the role of reading to babies under one-year-old and simply forget about such a simple technique as singing lullabies or children's songs;
- Reading poetry also instills in children a sense of rhythm, which plays an important role in the child's coordination. It does not matter at all what verses you read - from children's counting rhymes to Shakespeare, the main thing is the presence of rhyme and rhythm.
Other activities and materials
Many activities cannot be classified because they influence the development of different areas of the baby's brain and body. We do not recommend forgetting them, because sometimes the easiest thing to do is the most important one.
- Teething is an unpleasant process that many parents anxiously await. Teething lasts from the age of the first few months to the first year. Most people understand this as a process where babies drool and chew hard on their toys, and parents examine the baby's gums in search of the first signs of teething. Can a baby's teething process be made easier? Get a teether. According to Montessori recommendations, preference should be given to simple models made from natural materials. For example, a wooden ring with natural silk ribbons attached to it can be used;
- Don't forget to take walks. Take a walk with a baby carriage, and in the warm season, feel free to take your baby with you to a picnic and lay it on a blanket. Children need to be in contact with nature: listening to the singing of birds, the rustling of leaves, and the smooth movement of clouds cannot be replaced by any toy.
Activities for children from six months to one year
Children at this age already have a higher level of concentration and can accomplish more difficult tasks. They are also already actively interested in the world around them and are very fond of trying new activities. Here we have more interaction with different objects and it is an opportunity for parents to find new ideas for the harmonious and gradual development of their children.
- The spinning drum is a toy from the classic Montessori set, which perfectly develops the child's arbitrariness, coordination and teaches it to perform different actions on objects. To make the toy even more attractive, choose a model with a mirror in one of the sections. It is worth starting to offer such a toy when the baby can already keep its weight on the hands, lying on its stomach, and can free one hand for playing. The finest hour of this toy falls on the moment when the child can already play sitting;
- The children's pyramid with wooden rings (the rainbow stacker) can be used to learn sizes and colors. It also opens up many new possibilities for exploring the world and rearranging objects in space;
- Wooden jigsaw puzzles of one shape become the first logic toy. The kid has to find its place for each insert and then pull everything out of the grooves again. It's an excellent task for the coordination and control of hand movements. Do not expect that the baby will be able to pick up the right figures already at this age, now it is important for the child to just master the grip of objects and learn how to pull them out;
- The most famous Montessori material for children from 0 to 1-year-old is the box of constancy. The idea is to explain to the child that if something is missing from the field of view, it does not disappear completely. After mastering the box of constancy, you can go to the wooden piggy bank. Its difference is that when it gets into the box, the coin does not immediately return to the child's field of vision, but remains inside, which complicates the task for the kid: now you need to understand that the coin is in the box, even if you cannot see it. In addition, the coins themselves become more difficult to grasp with small fingers.
- Montessori inserts and sorters with different shapes. Closer to the year, children are already beginning to recognize different shapes and they can be offered the simplest inserts and sorters. Games can be accompanied by the words: “Look, this is a square, and this is a circle! Big blue circle!”
Baby sling in the Montessori method
Most doctors, discussing all the pros and cons of slings, agree: the benefits of using them are enormous; if used correctly, they harm neither newborns nor older children. A child up to 20 kg can be carried in a sling.
The main positive aspects of babywearing include:
- close contact with the mother: heartbeat, breathing, walking rhythm - all this is familiar to the child and has a calming effect on it;
- soft and harmless adaptation to the outside world;
- better psycho-emotional development - children who grew up in a sling are more sociable and balanced, they learn better;
- elimination or relief of baby
In addition, a wide-hip position is an excellent way to prevent hip dysplasia. For example, in the countries of Africa and Asia, where slings are used very actively, this pathology is extremely rare.
The sling can only be harmful if used improperly. Generally, this is an abnormal formation of the spine, scoliosis, and osteochondrosis. To avoid such troubles, use the services of sling consultants. They will help you choose the right model, tell you in detail about the pros and cons of a baby sling for newborns and older children, and teach you how to use it correctly.
Types of baby slings
The most popular are three main models:
- scarf sling;
- ring sling;
- Asian Baby Carrier.
A scarf sling is a piece of fabric from 3 to 6 meters long. The width of the product is 50–70 cm. By winding it in a special way around the body, the mother creates a “pocket” for the child. An obvious advantage of this type of sling is its versatility. It can carry a baby from birth to 4 years old. The scarf sling evenly distributes the load on the abdomen, hips, and shoulders, relieving stress on the spine. Using different methods of dressing, the child can be placed horizontally and vertically, placing them in front, on the side, or behind. Securely fixed with several layers of fabric, the baby will feel comfortable and safe.
The only drawback of a sling scarf is that experience is required to use it properly. However, sling consultants will be happy to help overcome this barrier. In addition, in summer it can be hot for the baby in a scarf sling, so the choice of clothes for a child during this period must be approached with special care.
In a ring sling, the fabric is pulled through two rings. This makes it possible to adjust its length and securely fix the child. Like the previous one, it is suitable for a child from birth to 4 years old. A ring sling is easier to use than a scarf. A ring sling is put on one shoulder, and this is its main disadvantage: due to the uneven load, a parent gets tired quickly. It is also inferior to a scarf sling in terms of safety - a very tall child can fall out of it.
Asian Baby Carrier is a rectangular piece of fabric with straps sewn on the sides. They are tied around the body, placing the child in the "pocket" formed by the back. Even though this one has several advantages: it is very easy to use, the child doesn't feel hot in it, it can be used to carry tall babies, it also has disadvantages. In particular, it is recommended to be used for carrying children who can hold their heads, and even better for those who are already sitting confidently. For a newborn baby, this sling can be harmful as their spine in an upright position is under excessive stress.
Baby led weaning (BLW)
Weaning should be guided by the recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO). Currently, WHO recommends maintaining breastfeeding for at least two years. Young parents are often encouraged to use the book “Montessori from the Start” by Paula Polk Lillard and Lynn Lillard Jenson as a basis for introducing Montessori principles at home. This book is a great resource for parents of children from birth to 3 years old. It also covers topics such as Breastfeeding and Weaning.
Montessori supports and encourages breastfeeding. In the chapter on breastfeeding, you can find biological benefits, attachment experiences, common problems and some solutions, suggestions for seeking help and support, and the role of the father and other children in breastfeeding.
An interesting quote can also be found there: "After the two-month period for breastfeeding has passed, the mother and baby have approximately 6 months before the completion of the weaning process." These authors do suggest starting BLW at 6 months and finishing by 9 months.
Some believe that parenting styles are based on what is fashionable or popular in a given culture at a given time. The Montessori method is not a fashion, but a scientifically-based approach to education and parenting adapted to receive new information.
Lillard and Jenson cited breastfeeding guidelines when the book was already written: "Although fashion is changing, it is irrefutably proven that breastfeeding from 6 to 8 and even 9 months is beneficial for the health of mother and baby."
Today we know that science supports and recommends continuing breastfeeding well beyond 6 or 9 months. The Academy of Pediatricians of America recommends "exclusive breastfeeding for about the first 6 months of a baby's life, followed by breastfeeding combined with complementary foods for at least 12 months, and continuing breastfeeding for as long as the mother and baby want".
We can conclude that this is an individual choice for each parent and child in particular. Breastfeeding should be continued as long as the mother has the opportunity and the child has the desire.
Children's room according to the Montessori method
Everyone knows that the surrounding space is one of the main factors that affect the harmonious development of the baby. It is very important that from an early age the child feels comfortable, safe, and free. It is these principles that are fundamental in the development methodology of Maria Montessori.
The children's room, decorated according to Montessori, is a unique world, filled with comfort, light, natural materials and colors, contributing to the development of the creative inclinations of the baby.
The main features of the interior, created based on the principles of the Montessori system, include:
- a low bed. For very young children, just a mattress is used, which is placed directly on the floor. Classic cribs contain bars that hide and distort the world around the little one. A mattress or a low bed allows the child to broaden its horizons, climb down and climb onto the sleeping place on their own;
- a mirror. According to the Montessori development method, with the help of a mirror, a child studies movements, facial expressions, the environment, which is very important from the earliest days of its life;
- An integral part of a Montessori children's room is a low open shelving unit. It stores various toys openly, which ensures free access to them at any time. According to the methodology, there should not be a lot of toys and they need to be changed periodically.
Special attention is paid to furniture in the children's room. As soon as the baby learns to sit, it is worth buying a table and a chair in their room. It is necessary for creativity, as well as snacking.
In the decoration of the room, you need to use materials with different textures. Most of the information children learn through touch - by carefully examining different materials and textures. Cork rugs, soft and knitted blankets, wooden toys are all great for enriching your little one's experience in learning the environment. That is why it is so important to surround the child with all kinds of textures.
Play area in the children's room
When planning a children's room, it is very important to set aside a play area where little ones can play freely. Most often it is placed in the center of the room. A small bright carpet will help to separate the play area. When the child grows up, an easel and a table with a chair can be placed in the area of creativity and play.
One of the basic rules for decorating a nursery according to Montessori is the use of natural materials only. Furniture in this case is chosen exclusively from wood, for example, from plywood from alder, coniferous, maple or beech.
Curtains should be chosen from linen or silk, or you can even leave the window without decor at all so that as much sunlight as possible enters the room. The carpet should be made of wool or cotton.
To instill in a child a love to beauty from childhood, you can hang pictures with landscapes or images of insects, birds, animals on the wall.
Lighting in the children's room
It is also worth paying attention to planning the lighting in the children's room. To ensure the required level of illumination, it is necessary to use several lamps at once. A small chandelier can be used as the main light source. They can be made of various materials, have the most original shapes and colors. At the same time, you should not buy massive, expensive crystal chandeliers, because during the game the child can damage them.
The creative zone should be equipped with a small table lamp, the direction of the light of which can be changed if it is necessary. Shelves with books and toys should be additionally illuminated. For this, you can use spotlights.
How to work with bilingual children in a Montessori environment
Like any other skill, the language switcher requires training and a supportive environment. A child must be able to choose one or another language for thinking and speaking to recognize them as separate areas of experience. The child is faced with speech activity, but they cannot know in advance whether it is one language and which one. We can separate them by associating each with a specific person, a situation or time.
One of the most effective methods is called "one person, one language". From the very first meeting, a specific person communicates with a child in a certain language. If parents speak several languages, they can agree, "divide" them among themselves and communicate with the baby each one in their way. They can communicate with each other in any convenient way since the child learns only when speech is addressed personally to them.
If this rule is not strictly observed for at least the first four years of life, then you can greatly confuse the child and harm the successful development. If you want to raise bilingual children, it is important to approach this decision responsibly.
The child most often chooses the zone and the specific Montessori material on their own. Our task is to give enough support and offer opportunities.
With the help of the Montessori method, the child develops logical thinking, attention, creativity, memory, imagination, fine and gross motor skills. The Montessori methodology helps to master communication skills, as well as elements of everyday life, which contributes to the development of independence.
Early child development is not a fashion, but a necessity. And the Montessori method, based on respect for the child, will help to grow a free, harmonious, and comprehensively developed person.