Many people have heard of Montessori for toddlers, but many are surprised to learn that you can begin implementing the principles for babies, too.
Infants are like tiny little sponges, absorbing everything around them as they begin to form ideas, feelings, and impressions. From your baby’s environment and language development to touch and play, there are so many things you can do to help your baby process his or her environment in an enriching way.
The way you begin communicating with your child in infancy goes a long way into helping structure their language development and how they perceive themselves in the world around them. Even if your child is unable to respond back to you in a way that you understand, babies are still processing and understanding the information you tell them.
To help foster positive growth try these ideas:
Explain what you’re doing: Take everyday tasks, such as making them a bottle or washing a dish, and turn it into a learning experience. Position your child so that they can clearly see what you’re doing and then explain everything step by step. “First we put the plug in the sink and then we turn on the water. Then we add soap.” Even if they don’t understand exactly what you’re saying to them, you’re building a foundation of mutual respect with your child with your words and actions.
Ask them questions: Even if the responses come in coos and smiles or frowns, ask them questions. “What color is my shirt?” “What sound does a cow make?”
Use real words: Give your child a good grasp of vocabulary from the start by using the proper names for everything. Use rich details when describing things you see and hear. Our language is complex and beautiful, let them experience it fully.
Start conversations: When speaking with your baby, give them time to respond back to your questions. And be sure you respond to all those smiles, frowns, grunts, and coos.
Your baby’s environment plays a large role in his or her development, so put some careful thought into your nursery design. Floor beds allow your child to experience their room on their own level and allow your child the freedom of movement in and out of bed once they become more mobile. Low shelves allow for the same exploration of their toys and books. Putting things within their reach allows for independence in play and builds confidence.
A simple rug or cleared area on the floor is the perfect play space. Infants should be encouraged to explore their environment and crawl, walk or sit anywhere they want. Ensuring their room is a safe space for them provides at least one room in the house where the word “no” shouldn’t have to be uttered too much.
Touch and play
Toys for all ages should allow infants and small children to experience the freedom of exploration. To that end, try and provide toys that are simple and preferably made from natural materials. Avoid electronics and toys that provide an end goal. Common household goods are excellent toys for babies. Don’t discount the fun and value of playing with a wooden spoon.
Encourage your baby to play with toys any way they want. Don’t worry about the “right” way to hold a toy. Try to resist the urge to constantly engage your child while they play. Allow them to explore on their own. Swap out toys only after your child seems to have lost interest in a particular item, and remember, less is more. A room filled with toys may seem like a great idea for providing choice, but it can be an overwhelming environment for a little one. Pay attention to what your child seems attracted to or is working on and give them those options. If your child is interested in turning objects over and over, look for toys that would encourage that kind of exploration like letter blocks.
With a little creativity and some intentional effort, you can begin providing your baby a Montessori-style environment from the start.