Wednesday, July 10, 2013

First Montessori Mobile: The Munari

Image courtesy of bella's casa on Etsy
My dear friend Karla let me borrow her daughter's Munari mobile for baby Tate, and I am extremely grateful. I was incredibly daunted by the thought of following these directions and making one myself, but now that I've seen it in person: a) I promise you can make one, if you're interested! and b) it's worth it--it's so beautiful!
I remember the first time I ever walked into a Montessori classroom full of productive and focused 3-6 year-olds. It looked like magic. The children were contentedly working all around the classroom on different things, but all of them were confident and competent beyond what I had typically witnessed from children that age. I was in college at the time, and I remember being blown away by watching a 3 year-old use an apple slicer to cut an apple (with the slightest bit of teacher support), arrange the pieces on a ceramic plate, and walk around the classroom to offer slices to her classmates.
The thing about Montessori, though, is that it isn't magic. It's a systematic, sequenced approach to preparing the physical environment and modifying our interactions with children in response to their needs to support their optimal development and help them complete their formation of self.
The focus, concentration, competence, confidence, and respect that I witnessed in that classroom connect directly back to the first mobile in the Montessori sequence: the Munari.
I'm not saying that every child in that classroom had experienced Montessori from birth. In fact, I bet most of their families came to Montessori around the age of three. But I am saying that the Munari mobile is designed with that 3-6 year-old classroom in mind (and the 6-9 year-old classroom, and the 9-12 year-old classroom, and the well-adjusted adult, etc.).
It's designed to give the infant exactly what s/he needs to push her/his development forward in the right way at the right time. It's so easy to spend all of our time holding newborn babies. While that kind of contact and nurturing is important, it's also important to give them time to freely develop their movement. Placing them on their backs under developmentally-appropriate mobiles gives them the stimulation and freedom they need to begin to develop their eyesight (the ability to focus and track), their concentration, and control of their bodies.
When I talk about "stimulation," I'm not talking about the kind of stimulation that stems from parents' desire to get their kids on the Ivy League track as soon as possible. I'm talking about providing exactly what a child craves--a developmental challenge that is within and just beyond their range to satisfy their natural desire to grow and form themselves.
The Munari provides just that. The black-and-white images optimize how much a young infant is able to see of the mobile. The glass bulb (you can use a Christmas ornament) is shiny, attractive, and intriguing. The lightweight mobile is designed to catch air currents and move slowly enough for an infant to practice tracking. The mobile has four different elements to it, which is in the recommended range of 3-5, so as not to overstimulate the absorbent mind of young infants.
Here's how I use the mobile with Tate: Throughout the day, we move through a continuous cycle of breastfeed, activity, sleep. During the activity time, I sometimes place him under the Munari mobile and give him uninterrupted and sustained time to watch it. I don't interrupt him by talking with him. Instead, I engage in my own work, which might look like writing a blog post, leaving the room to put in a load of laundry, or reading a book. I follow his lead when it comes to how long he wants to watch the mobile. I also watch for signs of drowsiness. For example, when I start to notice yawns, we start preparing for a nap.
Right now his awake time is very short, so he only spends about ten minutes under a mobile. We have three different options that he rotates among. Pretty soon we'll add in other things like looking at a black-and-white accordion book on his stomach, going outside to lay under a blanket beneath a tree, dancing with me to music, etc.
P.S. If you're interested in the Munari mobile but aren't creatively-inclined, you might consider purchasing it from the following site:
REMINDER: Registration is now open for the next Purposeful Conception Course: Preparing Your Mind, Body, and Life for Pregnancy, which starts on July 14. Register today! We'd love to have you join us!

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Tabatha R said...

I just watched Greek on netflix. It was a nice break from things.

Nici said...

I am in the process of making my own Munari mobile. I am wondering why the parts are hung vertically instead of horizontally/flat, since they seem to be harder to fully see from below? Or is the mobile hung in a way that the baby will view it from an angle instead of from below? Thanks for any advice!

Sara E. Cotner said...

Hi, Nici!

Yes, you hang it a little in front of the baby, so they can view it from an angle. With most of the other Montessori mobiles, the pieces are flat so you put them directly under the mobile. Hope that helps!

Unknown said...

I made a munari for my baby, and found that the objects being vertical seemed to let the air catch them better which made the mobile move more. He loved it, especially when he got good at focusing on it and we would tap it or spin it a bit stronger; man those legs would start kicking a mile a minute!

Kelly said...

I love the mobile, but don't forget tummy time, even for a newborn!

L said...

You inspired me to make one this weekend!! It was definitely challenging to follow the how to, but I got it done! Good thing I used to be a geometry teacher!

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