If you've studied early childhood education, chances are you've come across the Montessori method. It is known for inspiring the youngest children to concentrate, to pick up toys independently, to complete tasks such as dressing or cleaning the table, and to choose their own learning program at school.
Cool! You might be wondering, "When did Montessori start?" The answer is that we can implement Montessori principles from birth.
That doesn't mean our babies will tie their shoelaces before rolling over. But it does mean that babies have their own separate version: focus and perseverance.
Knowing a little about the Montessori method will help parents become great observers of their children. As a result, you will be able to see and support your baby's development in a thoughtful way.
While most people think of it as suitable for preschoolers and older children, Montessori practices and ideas are very useful for understanding infant development.
Here's how and why babies and Montessori can be great together.
What is Montessori?
Montessori education is based on the development of the child. Everyone has a unique journey as their eyesight gets sharper and they become aware of their limbs after birth. Eventually they will move, slide, crawl, walk and talk! But everyone hits milestones at their own pace. Instead of focusing on the baby's age, we try to present the material (Montessori's word for toys) and experiences based on where the child is on their own developmental timeline. For example, your child's demonstrated ability to transfer objects like a rattle from one hand to the other will surprise you as a parent, even though you may not see it on the Babycenter milestone list.
Montessori is a way of guiding children with respect. The parent or teacher observes the child's needs, believes in their abilities, and allows the child to be independent (within certain limits) so that the child can follow his own unique developmental path in accordance with his own natural drive to learn and grow.
Why start Montessori at birth?
85% of the brain is formed by age 3. Formal education usually begins at preschool, but Dr. Montessori observed (and modern research has confirmed) that learning begins at birth.
Early brain development is the foundation of all future learning, as infants establish discovery pathways and patterns that they will use throughout their lives.
The quality of your child's environment affects their development. Research shows that children who grow up in stimulating environments have a greater chance of development. Your child's skills are not predetermined. Take visual development for example. Your baby is born with some basic visual wiring, but what they see in the first few months of life affects key visual skills, such as depth perception and the ability to quickly switch focus between objects. With this in mind, the first Montessori newborn material is a series of cell phones designed to support the development of visual skills.
In addition to developing their senses and basic skills, babies are also learning how to learn! A major goal of Montessori is to help infants develop habits of concentration, perseverance in the face of challenges, independent problem-solving and other skills that will help them throughout childhood and adulthood, no matter what type of job they choose. They provide good service.
How to use Montessori at home with your baby?
In addition to reading, singing, and talking with your child from birth, you can help promote early childhood learning by designing your baby's environment using the following principles:
- Provide a sense of order. For adults, a messy office full of documents can be a source of stress and confusion. The same goes for your kids and their play areas. Children do best in organized play spaces that are not overstimulated. One of Montessori's favorite sayings is: "Where all things go".
- Keep things simple. One way to keep things organized is not to take out all of your child's toys at once. Choose six to eight toys and a few books at a time, and set the rest aside for later.
- Provide passive toys. We like to say "passive toys are for active babies". We mean simple toys that require your child's involvement to activate them. More "active" toys with lights and sounds (the screen is the most active) can put your child into passive mode where they push buttons and wait to be entertained. Choose toys that are exciting because they invite your child to pull, grab or move, not because of their bells and whistles.
- Present the right amount of challenge. Montessori has an understanding that if you give your child a material and they use it "right" right away, you wait too long to introduce it. The best learning happens when children make mistakes while trying to solve problems and eventually master them on their own. When you're looking for a toy for your baby, try to choose one that provides the right challenge: Don't bore your child so easily or so complex that they'll get frustrated.