Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Montessori Weaning Table

Henry is officially eating solid foods!

I chickened out and couldn't give him juice drops when he was two months old like his Montessori guide recommended because of his dairy sensitivity and the pediatrician's recommendation to not give him anything before four months.

Around three months, Henry started watching us eat with so much focus and attention. At four months, he started grabbing our water glasses and bringing them to his mouth. We finally couldn't resist it anymore and decided to start following his lead. He took to it right away. He loves eating anything (rice cereal, avocado, sweet potatoes, banana) and he enjoys drinking out of his glass.

I ordered a "first table" for him from the Michael Olaf company. It was expensive, but I decided to invest in it for several reasons. It's heavier than a normal table to provide extra stability for the child who is just learning to sit. Further, it's the perfect height for the small child. Finally, I hope to use all of Henry's Montessori materials for a family resource room when I open a public, Montessori charter school in Austin, so I'm fine spending extra money to get authentic materials. I do believe you could easily get a table (like at IKEA), cut it down to size, and attach something to the underside to make it heavier. According to Henry's AMI-certified Montessori guide, the table is supposed to be 20"x20" and 13.5" high, for those of you who want to chop a cheaper one down to size.

We opted not to order the matching chair because Henry's Montessori guide (who also has a penchant for mid-century modern design) said we could opt for a booster chair from the 1950s/60s, so I ordered one from Ebay. I got the stool for free from our favorite antique store (she gave it to us as a "new baby" present).

Right now there's a plant on the table, while I keep looking for a simple bud vase instead. And the pine cone is there because I take it out of Henry's Discovery Basket when I'm not supervising him vigilantly. The wall art is a clipping from our Charlie Harper book inside an IKEA frame.

In a Montessori environment, children who are able to sit independently begin eating their meals at their own table, while the adult sits on a small stool. Child-sized materials help children develop their independence, confidence, and their sense of self.

Children use real glasses instead of sippy cups. I got Henry's glasses from Ross in a box of eight, but IKEA also sells them. Children who use real glass learn to develop care. If they throw the glass across the room, it will break. I use a small pitcher to pour a tiny bit of water into Henry's glass (no more than I'm comfortable with him spilling). Although I hold the cup and help tilt it to the right angle, Henry is mastering how to put his hands on the cup and swallow without spilling.

We also use child-sized silverware that looks just like adult silverware, only smaller. We don't use plastic silverware or spoons with plastic-coated tips.

Children sit at their small table for their meals when they are eating at different times from the rest of the family. Then they sit in a high chair (without a tray), pulled right up to the table, that they can climb into themselves (eventually) to socialize with the family while the rest of the family eats.

So far, I am absolutely loving the Montessori approach to weaning. It felt so natural to give him food because he was so interested in it. He really seems to enjoy sitting at his table, and he loves everything we offer him. So far, nothing has been a struggle. He has taken to using a real glass very easily. The work that we put into preparing the environment and helping Henry cultivate his independence feels very worth it.

If you want to read more about weaning, check out one of my favorite Montessori blogs or information from Michael Olaf.

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At Home with Montessori said...

whoo hoo! what a milestone - now things start getting really interesting. the part I find most fascinating about the weaning process is the contribution it makes in the child's gradual awareness of the separateness of him and his mother. the bounds in self-confidence made in this process - if the child is followed sensitively - are a joy to witness. how exciting for you all!
Meg :)

Maggie said...

My husband intends to make a weaning table for Cora, as he had for his son (who is now 10). Now I'm obsessing over that wonderful chair!

Jessica said...

Add me to the list obsessing over that chair! Did you have a specific search you ran on ebay? Or did you just keep your eye out?

I wish I had read up on Montessori weaning methods before my daughter started eating, but we have done baby-led weaning, which I see as very Montessori friendly. My father is making a table for our daughter (now 1) to use, and I can't wait to set it up for her meals and snacks she eats separately from us. Do you know if Montessori sanctions using the weaning table as an art/work table in addition to weaning? I'd like to also have it available for activities.

Kelsey said...

Yes! The chair! That is an awesome find. I love that you are using children's things that are both beautiful and functional and not plastic and that are in harmony with the rest of the house. I also think it's very smart to buy better quality things that are more expensive so that you can use them for years.

Julie Reynolds said...

I love it!!! Thank you so much for your balence of traditional Montessori with your own personal touches. Enjoy this new stage, I really saw Coralie emergence of personality come out with her eating.

Kylie said...

I have been waiting to see how you set up Henry's table and it looks lovely. Thank you so much for posting this. Is his table in his room or in a communal eating area?

Sara E. Cotner said...

Hi, Meg! Yes! I've started letting go of the spoon once Henry has a good grip on it, and I can see his awareness. It's like he notices, "Oh, my mom is no longer holding the spoon. I am." It's a truly powerful thing to witness. I can see him developing his sense of self and his confidence in his own abilities. So amazing!

To anyone interested in the chair: You can search "Eames booster chair" or "Cosco booster chair" on Ebay. Sadly, I only see one listed right now, and it's really expensive.

Hi, Jessica! The little that I know about baby-led weaning resonates with me. One of the things I really like about Montessori is the use of real silverware (just smaller) right away, first with adult support and then independently. I'm guessing that Henry will be able to feed himself with a spoon relatively early because of all the work we do on it.

I'm not sure what the official stance is on using the weaning table for other activities. The Michael Olaf catalog says, "The First Table--For Eating and Working. The choice of a child's first table and chair is very important. This is the perfect table for the child's first sitting up to work or to eat."

Hi, Kylie! His table is in our dining room where we eat. I read that we were supposed to start with it in his room (with the assumption that he's been eating there), but we actually breast feed in our room. Then you transition it out of the bedroom and into the dining area. The extra step just didn't seem worth the benefits to me. Henry already spends quite a bit of time in our dining room while we're cooking and eating, so it felt very natural. said...

Hi, Sara,
Thank you for all of this wonderful info. As a pediatric OT, a former Montessori primary assistant, and soon-to-be first time mom, I've been really into your info and characterization of Montessori perspectives on infancy. One question here: why a separate table for your child? I understand about developmentally appropriate furniture, but wouldn't you want them to eat with you?

Angela said...

Hi, Sara!

Did you find the Cosco/Eames booster chair comfortable/useful for Henry? I'm not certain if we should go for this one or one that is wooden.

My hubby is making the weaning table, so he's just trying to discern if he should make the chair, too.


Sara E. Cotner said...

Hi, Angela! When Henry was first starting to use the chair, he was a bit unstable and I wished I had gone with a wooden chair that had more supportive sides. However, he outgrew that unstable stage VERY quickly, and then I was happy to have an aesthetically pleasing chair that is light enough for Henry to move independently. Although, now that I think about it, one more downside is that it does not slide well. Henry needed help pushing away from the table for a while.

We are going to use the chair with Tate (and switch Henry to the stool).

Hope that helps!

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