“In the soul of the baby there are secrets still hidden from the adult”. M. Montessori
Maria Montessori touches thousands of lives even today because of her passion and respect for children that thread through her teaching and method.
Her findings regarding a baby’s development are fascinating and predate many modern discoveries. Understanding what lays behind aspects of the Montessori approach when it comes to babies from 4-6 months old is something I will try to tackle in this post.
Childhood is not a race for a child to reach every single milestone by a certain time. Don’t get me wrong, milestones are important, but chances are that babies will get there regardless of our worries if we allow them to develop their full potential and enjoy this precious time.
Key factors I would like to emphasize:
- an uncluttered environment with low shelving and low wall art “..the small baby cannot live in disorder. Disorder disturbs him, upsets him, and he may express his suffering by despairing cries, or by an agitation that can even assume the forms of illness “.
“Images fall at once into a pattern in the service of reason: it is in the service of his reason that the child first absorbs such images. He is hungry for them, and, we may well say, insatiable.
It has always been known that a young child is strongly attracted to light, colors, sounds, in all of which he takes visible delight…
it is important that the child should be able to preserve the images he is taking in with a maximum of clarity; for it is through the clarity and brilliance of impression distinguishing one from the other, that the ego can build the mind”. Maria Montessori
- freedom of movement
“The small baby is immediately aware of a disorder that grown-ups and even bigger children pass by without perceiving Order in his outer environment evidently affects a sensibility that vanishes as he grows bigger.
It is therefore precisely one of those periodic sensibilities proper to creatures in process of development and which we call “sensitive periods”; it is one of the most important and most mysterious of such periods”. Maria Montessori
- stimulation. I believe “stimulation” is a keyword for this period of life. It is way too easy to go about the day without making eye – contact or picking up a book. Babies thrive on our attention. Contact physical and emotional provide necessary stimulation for brain development.
“Studies suggest that babies who are stimulated reach developmental milestones and become independent earlier. They have keener senses, better muscle coordination, and have a more secure self-image. On the other hand, babies who are not stimulated are found to grow up at a distinct disadvantage in their first grade in school.
This disadvantage may linger for years. It has also been observed that babies with the same genetic background or coming from the same family turn out differently when raised in different environments. Babies who are nurtured in an intelligent environment grow up to have better personalities and more advanced intelligence level. Infant stimulation can be fun for both you and your baby. Your baby is not the only one who learns, but you also get to know your baby better, and hone your skill to be her effective first teacher”. (source -via raisesmartkid.com)
- one-on-one interaction
- allowing “alone play time”
- nurturing a feeling of security. To know what is best for the baby is to understand their primary needs – babies need to feel safe. When babies feel safe, they are healthier, they are better dispositioned to learn, discover and absorb their world.
Babies feel safe when they
- allowed to be independent – pull things from shelves, reach for all sorts of objects
- hear calm sounds
- see familiar faces
- know they are loved
- know that their needs will be met (promptly, but not immediately, they still need to experience some sort of discomfort)
- see a smile on your face
- know what happens next – announcing what you are about to do is not only a fun way to continue daily interactions, but also helps your little angel feel relaxed knowing what to expect next.
- are touched, held, nurtured
- given an opportunity to concentrate without interruption
- spend time in nature
We need to give them freedom of choice and a sense of being in control, empower their abilities whenever possible. For example, offering to choose one object from two given, such as clothes to put on, or book to read, a toy to play with by presenting two objects in front and let the baby reach for the one he or she likes. Usually, you will find that baby’s room has low shelves with only a small variety of toys for the baby to choose from.
Montessori with your baby month-by-month (4-6mo)
4 months old
Key skills developing: grasping and reaching out. The baby usually starts to reach out for objects. Now is the perfect time to hang a ring on elastic instead of a mobile. The baby will enjoy practicing reaching out for the ring and pulling it in his or her mouth. There are a handful of techniques to hang objects for baby to explore:
- I used our bassinet that had a canopy on top which allowed to hang on mobiles.
- baby gym
- attaching ribbon to the ceiling
Another way to entertain your bub is to hang a chime bell mobile. The baby will be delighted to hear soft sounds he or she can make all on his or her own.
5 months old
Have you noticed that children gain a special fascination with their little feet around this time? Occasionally, you can dress baby’s feet in a sock with rattles. Alternatively, make exploration socks by sewing simple but fun objects to the end of socks for the baby to explore.
Vocalizing your actions while making eye contact will help engage your treasure in everyday routine, and make them feel like they are an important part of everything that is happening around you.
Rattles will still probably be your cherub’s favorite toy at this time. You may notice that they start passing objects from one hand to another.
At this stage, the child becomes more independent in their movement. it is important to make sure they are safe to do so.
6 months old
I found that six months was a good time to introduce themed treasure baskets. Replica animals are great for babies to play with because they have many intricate details they love to investigate and poke with their little fingers. At this stage, the baby tends to spend time sitting up, which gives him or her a whole new perspective of the surrounding world.
There are many gorgeous books to choose from that suit perfectly in a Montessori playroom at this age, for example.
Outdoor natural experiences are going to benefit children at any age. Being in nature is the single best gift you can give your little one, it provides a wide variety of sensory experiences.
Raising a multilingual child
Here is a very interesting piece of advice from Isabel – a member of the group – who shares her knowledge and experience raising a baby in a multilingual environment. Check out her blog packed with great information and inspiration – Uno Zwei Tutu.
” My husband always speaks German and English with our daughter while I speak Spanish and English. Something I think helped a lot was introducing sign language since she was a baby. We would use the same sign in the three languages and I think it helps her to make a relationship between the three languages from a very young age. At only 2 years old she makes 3-5 word phrases in the 3 languages and she still signs”.
And one more great tip from Maryam:
“My nephew is 13 months and is just now starting to say small things verbally, but has been signing “milk” since he was 5 or so months (We’ve signed the basics with him since birth and he always watched attentively) and signed a 3-word sentence at a few days before 12 months. For the most part, he does single signs, 2-word sentences, and some sign babbling. A recent compilation of the signs he’s used showed that he has 40 signs, the majority picked up in the last month.
So my advice would be to be patient and keep going even if you feel discouraged. I still do at times and then he’ll do something that surprises me! I’d also say that it isn’t an issue to start out slow and build up what you do when you’re a little older. A new baby can be a lot of work and there are so many things to figure out and adjust to.
Don’t stress yourself out trying to jump in feet first if you’re also learning the language. Do what you can. Despite my best intentions when my nephew was 10 months and under I only used about 5 signs with him and was as consistent as I could have been. However, he still uses ASL to communicate (and tell people to say thank you and excuse me, haha) so it wasn’t an issue”.
Before you go, check out these great reads.
The Trouble With Talking Toys
“That’s bad because the best way a toy can promote language in infants and toddlers is by stimulating interaction between parent and child. There’s simply no evidence that a young child can learn language directly from a toy. It isn’t responsive enough. It isn’t social”.
Continue reading here.
Monti Kids is the only at-home, safety certified Montessori toy program for babies from birth to 3 years. Through their subscription-based, learn through play program, they provide authentic Montessori toys thoughtfully designed for a baby’s specific stage of development, on-demand expert support from AMI certified Montessori educators, and access to a private community of parents in similar stages of life, giving parents everything you need to support your child’s brain development. Learn more here.