“In the first days of life, it is clear that something of the utmost importance is taking place….he has ‘potentialities’ able to bring about his development, and these do so my making use of the outer world.” – Dr. Maria Montessori
People are generally surprised to hear about Montessori from birth. To be honest I was one of them. My son was in a Montessori house and I had only heard about Montessori for toddlers and Preschoolers. A post about newborn Montessori on one of the social media platforms caught my attention. And I am so glad about it, because the more I read about it the more I was in love with it. It has given me the opportunity to be part of this journey of growth of my daughter, in a way that I had never thought of.
Montessori from birth is beautiful concept of creating an environment for the newborn in a way of making a smooth transition to the outer world. The Babies explore the world through their five senses. Therefore the first three years of the child is very important because every sight, sound, taste, smell and touch is remembered and processed in their minds.
I was lucky enough to have come across the Montessori way during my pregnancy, but I had little or no time to prepare the environment as my daughter surprised me a month early. It sure was a daunting process to squeeze in time to make the mobiles and I would not have been able to do this without the support of my husband and my family. How I wish there was an option to buy them all here in India and not pay a bomb for it!
Montessori Method is all about providing a prepared environment for the child to explore. But each family needs to decide what is best for their unique situation. Since my daughter was born a month early, we transitioned into our Montessori baby space in a couple of weeks post birth. While creating a baby space it is important to keep in mind that the space needs to be uncluttered as to not disturb the baby’s line of vision. The baby should be allowed free movement and feel safe and secure. The environment should be calm and not over stimulating making the transition easier for the baby.
“The child has a different relation to his environment from ours… the child absorbs it. The things he sees are not just remembered; they form part of his soul. He incarnates in himself all in the world about him that his eyes see and his ears hear.” – Dr. Maria Montessori
Here are some things we often find in a Montessori baby room:
- A floor bed – It is simply a mattress on the floor. It allows the babies to move freely while keeping them safe. We have co-slept right from day 1. So the floor bed was used only when my daughter was awake. It gave her the freedom of movement. The floor bed was placed in our spare room in which we had a small Montessori set-up for my son with child-sized furniture and Montessori shelf. This made a way to spend time with my toddler as well as my baby.
- A low wall mounted mirror – The mirror attached to the wall is an integral part of any Montessori baby space. We mounted the mirror next to my daughter’s floor bed. This was something I needed to convince my family about as they were not open to the idea of the baby looking at herself in the mirror (I am sure they had their reasons). But I am so glad I went ahead because my girl loved this and it would keep her entertained for a long time. The mirror helps the child improve concentration and tracking skills. It also gives the child a different viewing angle of the room. It is a great way to keep the child occupied during tummy time as babies love looking at the refection in the mirror although they just can’t yet realize that it is them.
- A Montessori Mobile – We used the mobile above our floor bed. The mobiles were hung using a ceiling hook. We introduced The Munari Mobile around 3 weeks as it took me longer time to make it but my daughter showed absolutely no interest in it at this stage. We simply removed the mobile and let her be on the floor bed placed next to the wall mirror. We used a DIY black and white mobile at this stage with high contrast images. This did catch her attention for a while.
But being born a month early, she took to the mobiles a few weeks later than the suggested age. Therefore, I believe that there is no hard and fast rule about when to introduce these mobiles. It solely depends on the interest of the child.
- The Topponcino – It is a thin oval shaped mattress made of cotton. It was actually a practice which Dr. Maria Montessori observed mothers using in India. The mattress makes the baby feel safe and comforted and also supports your baby when feeding or being held by those less experienced with handling a newborn. A great way for the sibling to hold and bond with the baby
Ideally, the mother sleeps with the Topponcino for a few weeks before the baby is born; so that it smells like her, making the baby feel safe in the external environment. I had planned to make one myself for my daughter, but since she was born a month early and I was not able to finish it. However, we were given this thin cotton mattress at the hospital which totally served the purpose.
This is my son holding his little sister when she was about 3 weeks old.
- Black and White Images – Just after birth, the newborn sees only in black and white, with shades of gray. Babies learn to see over a period of time. Because of this, the child loves to look at contrasting colors in bold geometric patterns. Thus, it is necessary to keep stimulating their vision by placing high contrast images in front of the child.
We used the Black and White book which was very handy. The images caught her attention and she would gaze at the pictures for a long time. Also, we used a photo frame where we could change the pictures periodically and it was placed whenever the child was in the movement area.
This is a picture of my daughter when she was just 7 days old looking at the high contrast images.
- A Place to feed – Babies love having a sense of order. It is wonderful to see how babies relate to things. It is often advised to have a place assigned for all activities of the child, like breastfeeding, diaper change or movement area. This helps the child understand and anticipate as to what happens next.
We had a feeding chair and during the day this is where I generally fed my daughter. Eventually, I could observe that the moment I would sit on the chair, she would stop fussing, as she knew what was going to happen next.
- Books – It is highly recommended to read to your child from birth. In fact, a lot mothers start reading to the child when in the womb. Reading to your baby, talking to them, smiling at them, well, within their field of vision, this is around 8-12 inches helps in stimulating their vision. The child will focus on your face as you read; this is the perfect time to stay close and bond with your baby.
We loved these two books and would highly recommend them. It is also recommended to use books with real images rather than fictional characters as it makes it easier for the baby to relate to.
- Pictures and Paintings – If you notice any Montessori environment, it usually has simple yet attractive pictures and paintings mounted on the wall. Unfortunately for us we could not have anything wall mounted, so we used a portable photo frame with high contrast images and pictures. This was easy too as we could place this where the child was, and change the pictures periodically. Also, we stuck some images on the head rest of our bed, which my daughter could look at without any hindrance.
It is also very important to remember not to disturb the child when he/she is looking at something. Whatever it is can wait for few more minutes. The child needs to concentrate and focus without being disturbed.
This picture is when my daughter was around 8 weeks old; this was our baby space since she was around 2 weeks old. The picture shows the floor bed, mirror, the mobile, the photo with high contrast images all in one frame.
The Montessori baby space may not be as colorful and bright as the common nurseries are but the soothing colors and minimal art gives an aesthetically pleasing experience, which helps in calming and soothing the baby.