“The baby’s fundamental need – precisely because he is a human being – is to be loved. But it takes a mature person to love a baby, because love takes time, love takes patience, love takes fortitude, love even requires a certain kind of humility: to love another better than one’s self. The baby needs time to be understood: he needs time in everything he does.”
Infants are born with immense potential. They are eager to learn, explore, and try new things. Dr. Maria Montessori's research and experience teaches us that brain and physical development progress faster at this time than at any other time in life.
So why begin from birth?
We encourage parents to use Montessori ideas as early as possible. There is already so much you can do – how you touch the baby, talk to the baby, set up your home, and how you respond to their efforts at communication. A baby has an unconscious absorbent mind. They are taking in impressions of the world around them without any effort. And they absorb the good as easily as the bad.
In a carefully prepared infant Montessori environment, the babies are provided with rich sensory materials and a calm but stimulating setting. They learn to use their large muscles for crawling, walking and running. They use their small muscles for grasping and touching, and later, for eating, writing, and painting beautiful pictures.
Here are some of our favorite ideas for introducing Montessori to babies…
Unsure of where to begin creating a Montessori environment, specifically for their babies? Let’s take some time to discuss how to prepare yourself and your home environment. If you are brand new to Montessori, it is important to realize that Montessori is a lifestyle, and not just about shelves, pretty wooden toys, or educational activities. It is so much more!
Living a Montessori lifestyle means your child is treated with dignity, respect, kindness, and love. We show our babies that we view them as capable individuals with their own opinions, desires, and needs. In terms of Montessori baby spaces, this means you create your space with your child’s needs in mind, not your own convenience.
Before you design your baby’s space, figure out where that will be. Remember, during the day, it is important that your infant is in the main living area, but in a safe place.
A Montessori bedroom looks very different from a traditional nursery. Montessori Baby bedrooms or sleep spaces are designed to give baby the most independence possible.
There are many aspects of Montessori that are different than “mainstream” parenting or that go against convention and fads. All of those battery operated toys, colorful cartoon figurines, and toys, cluttered play spaces are omitted from Montessori homes. Swings, jumperoos, playpens are also missing.
Because baby will be moving around so much in this space, you need to take extra care to baby proof. All furniture should be secured to the walls. This is very important for shelving units, mirrors, and anything else you have that could fall on your child. Outlets also need to be secured.
For a Montessori baby room you will want to achieve...
an atmosphere of calm
a sense of order
an environment to facilitate a child's movement
an environment to engage the child
a balance between challenge and support for the child
separate sleep, play and change areas
a room a child would want to be in
What goes into a bedroom?
There are several basics key features of a Montessori bedroom:
A floor bed consisting of a mattress covered with a tight, fitted sheet only
A shelving unit with a few toys or books within baby’s reach
Baskets or bowls are often used for holding toys
A mirror secured to the wall in baby’s play area
A rug for coziness and warmth
Visual stimulation mobiles followed by Montessori tactile mobiles in baby’s play area, not hanging above the mattress where they will be expected to sleep
Low hanging, realistic art work at baby’s eye level, ideally placed above the low shelving unit. Start with black & white art. As baby’s eyesight improves, and they begin to see color, you can invest in some realistic artwork.
Introducing the right materials…
When it comes to toys many people feel overwhelmed by them even if they don’t apply Montessori principles to their homes. What kind? How many? Add finding Montessori friendly materials and it’s easy to become completely confused and unsure of what to get.
When shopping for Montessori babies it is best to keep materials as simple and as natural as possible. Avoid things that are too flashy, heavy or complicated. Instead, focus on beauty and, most importantly, function. For a baby, you should typically have 3-5 options out at a time. It is important that baby can access his or her toys.
Here is a small list of some amazing Montessori friendly toys to purchase for a baby:
1 and 3 piece shape puzzles
Textured/Sensorial Ball Set
Wooden Egg and Cup
Montessori Baby Books
Less is more...
We suggest to buy less than you think and, rather than needing to buy a lot, also let your child explore household items. The baby is able to choose more easily when there is less available and they can more deeply explore these items.
Babies tend to spend a lot of time in bike seats, car seats, baby wraps, and bouncer chairs. Here are some ideas to counter all this sitting and restricted movement:
Allow lots of time for free movement. A movement mat in the living area allows space for the baby to explore their bodies, practising to stretch, bring feet to mouth, roll over and eventually to wriggle to reach things and eventually crawl.
Keep clothing simple. Make sure it is easy to move in, keep feet uncovered as much as possible to allow them free movement and to grip with their toes, and keep to natural materials.
Let your baby experience a variety of settings. Consider carrying a small mat so you can put the baby on the ground at the park, at a friend’s house, or just about anywhere (as long as the setting is appropriate and safe).
Communication is key…
In a Montessori environment, adults speak very respectfully with the child. The same thing applies even when we speak with an infant. They understand everything even from a young age, so here are some tips you can use even if they cannot yet answer back:
Ask them sensorial questions. “Do you hear the birds?”
Show them things and pay attention to detail. “Look at the rose. The petals are pink.”
Let them know what is happening. “We are getting ready to go to the park”
Use rich language: the real names of trees, flowers, animals, dogs, vehicles etc.
Respond to their attempts to communicate
Repeat the sounds they make
Take turns with them – let them stick out their tongue and do the same. They are learning how to take turns in a “conversation”. Babies are very smart and love to mimic you!
Read books – it is never too early to start with books. Begin with black and white books, then simple word books with beautiful pictures, and move onto rhyming books. Around 1 year old, lift-the-flap books are great too.
The most important thing is to get their permission before you handle them. If you are going to change them, first tell them, “We are going to change your diaper.” When you get in the habit of doing this, you may even see them begin to raise their head as if to say, “I’m ready”.
use baby talk
raise your voice
use oversimplified language
use artificially high pitched voice (commonly used by adults when talking to infants)
use music or television as background noise
Prepare for a growing child...
All of these tips are a great Montessori starting point for babies and preparing your home environment, but keep in mind that the environment will need to evolve. Baby’s needs are constantly changing, and it will be important to update your space as your child grows.
We hope you will enjoy beginning the Montessori Method from birth and love encouraging your baby’s independence!