The Montessori Baby: How to encourage independence from the start
There are things you can do was early as the newborn phase to help your baby develop independence and concentration- skills that will serve him for his whole life.
When people think of Montessori, they often think of school-aged children, but the Montessori philosophy actually starts fas early as birth.
The way you talk to your baby, the freedom you give him to explore, the toys you offer him – all of these shape the way he sees the world and his place in it.
There are very simple things you can do now to help your baby grow into an independent, focused child. Here are five easy steps to start with.
Encourage freedom of movement
Giving your baby plenty of time for free movement allows him to develop the skills he needs. It also sends the message that the world is a safe and fascinating place to explore.
For a newborn, free movement simply means placing him on a soft blanket, inside or out, for stretches of time, rather than always carrying him or having him in a swing or bouncer seat.
Time on the floor allows him to explore the space visually, even if he can’t move independently yet. It also sends the message that he is safe even when you’re not holding him.
As babies grow and learn to move on their own, try to have at least one room in the house that is completely baby-proofed, where your baby can move around and explore without you needing to interrupt him or tell him “no”.
Freedom of movement also means not putting your baby into positions he can’t yet get himself into. For example, in Montessori environments, we don’t prop up babies to sit. We wait until they can reach the sitting position on their own. Similarly, we don’t place babies in walkers, we wait until they learn to walk on their own.
This may seem like a minor thing, but Montessori is all about self-discovery, the child using the environment to teach himself. Letting your baby discover how to move on his own is the beginning of this process.
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Use respectful communication
It is never too early to talk to your baby about what’s going on in her environment and to begin offering her choices. For example, tell her before you are going to pick her up. You might say something like, “I’m going to pick you up for a diaper change now” or “I’m going to see if you want some milk.”
Offer simple choices, even if she can’t yet respond. You might ask, “would you like me to hold you?” Then pause and wait for a response. Your baby might give a subtle smile or slightly reach for you.
Use detailed language to talk about the world around you. Describe what you see when you’re out walking.
This early communication sets the tone for respectful communication in your relationship. It shows your baby that you respect her as an autonomous person.
This is a great habit to get into when your infant is young and will help establish healthy communication between you as she grows.
Put things within reach
You can arrange your baby’s room for his independence from the beginning. Montessori infant environments use low shelves containing just a few simple and beautiful items.
Even if baby is not yet mobile, a low shelf with carefully selected toys allows her to look around the room and see interesting things. Eventually she will begin to reach for them or try to roll or crawl to the shelf to explore the items you’ve selected.
When your young baby is playing on a blanket, you can place a few toys around the blanket so she can potentially reach for one if she wishes.
This gives her the independence to select what she wants to play with, rather than just handing her a rattle or shaking a toy for her when she may not be interested.
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Offer a simple, calming environment
Montessori places a high value on concentration. A simple, calming nursery can help even the youngest babies begin to develop their concentration.
A room too full of bright colors or toys that make loud noises can be overstimulating and prevent a young child from concentrating on any one thing.
Instead, try selecting a beautiful mobile to hang above your baby’s play area. You might place a mirror in his room for him to explore his reflection. A few simple toys and books will round out the type of minimalist room that breeds concentration.
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Look for moments of concentration
After you’ve set up a peaceful environment for your infant to play in, look for moments of concentration.
Is she staring intently at her hand? Is she looking at her mobile with fascination? Protect these moments of budding concentration. Wait until her focus shifts to change her diaper or offer kisses.
These earliest moments of concentration are precious and respecting them will help your child develop longer and longer stretches of focus.
While it may seem that young babies aren’t capable of doing much, their brains and their sense of the world are developing so rapidly. How you approach your newborn can have a great impact on his development later on and even small changes can help him become more independent.
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