Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Essential Montessori Infant Products

Henry's whale mobile (from his nursery tour)

A friend of mine from my pre-natal yoga class asked me what baby products are useful when trying to implement the Montessori philosophy at home with an infant. After I spent way too long replying to the e-mail (I should have just picked up the phone!), I realized that I should also write a post about it.

We've only been implementing Montessori for eights weeks with Henry, but here's a list of things that have been really useful to us:
  1. A movement mat: Henry spends a lot of his awake time on his movement mat, looking at mobiles, looking at his black and white accordion book, or wriggling around on his stomach. Ideally, you would have one of these mats set up in every room you spend time in with the baby. Because our bungalow is so tiny, we use the IKEA crib mattress in his bedroom (where we spend much of the day) and then we have a portable movement mat made out of foam and a cotton cover (which I had made by a local seamstress). In a Montessori environment, movement mats take the place of many other baby products on the market, like infant seats, swings, play pens, etc.
  2. A mirror: Babies love to see other babies (even if that "other baby" is actually themselves!). Attaching a long mirror on its side along the wall next to the movement mat gives babies endless entertainment and allows them to see the room from a different perspective.
  3. Simple mobiles: Mobiles are an integral part of an infant's early development. They help babies develop visual discrimination and tracking, as well as focus and concentration. Since babies have "absorbent minds" and take in so much from their surroundings, Montessorians believe it's important to keep mobiles simple. Henry loves his high contrast whale mobile, his butterfly mobile, the black and white cards I hang from his metal clip mobile, the black and white images hanging from his wooden arch, and his Gobbi mobile. We also have a wooden ring when he's ready for it. The mobiles are all "simple" in the sense that they move with the air currents (rather than any mechanical mechanisms), they do not produce any sounds, and they only have 3-5 elements.
  4. Rattles: Once babies have more control of their hands, we introduce rattles. Henry has a variety of rattles--all made from natural materials like wood. We purchased most of them from Etsy. He's not ready for them yet, but they are still out on his shelf. In a Montessori environment, you include the things they are currently working on, as well as the next materials to pique interest and build motivation.
  5. Child-sized toilet: Montessorians start toilet training early by simply associating the toilet with diaper changes (I'll write another post about the process later!). We use this toilet with Henry, and it seems to be the perfect size for his little body.
  6. Cloth diapers: Montessorians prefer cloth diapers because they make toilet training easier. The idea is that children are more motivated to learn how to use the toilet when they can feel the wetness against their skin. Because the chemicals in disposable diapers do such a good job of wicking away wetness, children feel dry, even if the diaper is full of urine. Henry uses organic, all-in-one cloth diapers.

We use lots of other things on a daily basis, which you can check out on our registry, but these six are the most relevant to the Montessori approach.

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Anonymous said...

Hey Sara,
Your Blog is a wonderful resource about the philosophy of Montesorri, but are there a few books that you would recommend about the ideals, and also about the teaching style? I am curious about it, and also about teaching as a career to enter once my husband and I have children.


Anonymous said...

Oh this made me giggle. The movement mat = blanket on the floor. No extra cash or special items required. Mobiles? How about leaving the baby where he can watch whats going on? A friendly dog serves as my baby monitor, amusement device, washcloth, and helper. The dog happily returns toys to the baby, entices her to crawl, and helps her roll over. From experience, the next step will be portable support and stepstool. Toys? Spoons. Pot lids and pastry brushes.
Montessori looks like a bad way to spend money. Babies don't need so much fuss.

Nina said...

How do you use the toilet with Henry, since he's so young? Do you prop him on the toilet while you diaper change him? Confused...

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