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Filtering by Category: Montessori by Age

Introducing Language Work

Theresa Heiden

Dakota is 16 months, and soaking up language like a sponge. She points to everything, wants a name for it, and often tries to say it back to us. We’ve used baby sign since 9 months, and that is still her primary way to communicate her needs. (In video below, she is signing “help please”). But she also has so many more words in her head than she can say out loud (and that I know the sign for), so this month has been all about activities to help her expand her receptive and expressive language.

Montessori or not, some of the best ways to expand babies and toddlers’ vocabulary are books, songs, and simply talking through your day with them. While I try not to use too many words while Dakota is playing/concentrating on her own, I talk to her a lot throughout the day, whether it’s about what we are having for dinner, dressing after using the potty, or what we see while we’re out on a walk. She soaks it all in. There are board books for her throughout the house, and she loves to sit in her little chair and read to herself or have me read to her. Books are a favorite part of both our days. Her favorite language activity lately is her book of fingerplay songs. She opens the book and points to a song/rhyme and I do the fingerplay for it. It’s super sweet to see her start to mimic the movements on her own. Her other favorites are action songs that of course involve spinning and dancing.

fingerplays for toddlers

While books and stories are a very important component of language learning, Montessori also believed in starting with the concrete: “What the hand does the mind remembers”. Toddlers learn best through all their senses, especially their hands. When toddlers are first learning language, they get so much more out of holding an object than they do from a photo or picture of an object. Since Dakota was just a baby, and still today, I’ve given her lots of real objects to touch and explore, such as fruit and vegetables, kitchen utensils, household items and containers, and animal replicas. The more realistic, the better.

object labeling

Labeling/Asking

Dakota’s favorite items to explore now are any small replica objects (made by Toob), such as vehicles, animals, community helpers, and tools. I usually have at least one basket of objects (that fits in one category) on her shelf. To introduce this material, I start by taking one object out at a time and labeling it, for example, “delivery truck”. I repeat this with all the objects. Then I invite her to find each object to put back in the basket. If she doesn’t want to, that is fine! I also just let her explore the objects on her own, and provide labels if she asks for it. Below is an example of her exploring, and me labeling, real fruit.

Matching Object to Object

The next level up in Montessori language materials is object to object matching. Again, this involves tangible items for her to explore, but this time, pair together. When starting out, it’s easiest for toddlers to do this with identical sets of objects, rather than similar items. So I found a some inexpensive sets of animals at the local toy store to set up a “wild animal” matching activity. You can also use two sets of these Toob wild animals. When I first introduce the material, I take out one animal and label it, e.g. “elephant”. Then I find the other elephant in the basket, label it, and set it down right next to the first elephant. I repeat with the rest of the animal pairs in the basket (5-6 pairs max). Then I let her explore. Though she doesn’t line the animals up as I do yet, she has started to pick out two of the same animal from the basket, noticing the sameness. No matter how she plays with this material, she’s learning!

Object to Object Matching

Matching Object to Picture

Just this week I introduced object to picture matching, which is still quite a challenge for Dakota, but a favorite of hers to explore and have me help with. Instead of matching the animal/fruit/vehicle to an identical object, she has to match it to a picture of that object. For toddlers, the more identical the picture is to the object the better, so I created my own laminated cards using photos I took of the objects at home. You can find pre-made language cards or photos online but they it’s harder to match the objects in size and details. In the examples below, I used the Schleich farm animals (large replicas), and Toob vehicles (small replicas). I’m sure I will be making many more sets of these in the near future!

object to picture matching

As with all labeling, when I present this, I do so slowly and with few words, so she focuses on what my hands are doing and the names of the objects. I lay out all the cards first, naming each one as I set it down. Then I pick up an object from the basket, e.g. fire engine, label it, and put the object over the matching card, covering the picture, then repeat the word. I repeat this sequence with each object. I find 4 matches to be the maximum for young toddlers. Dakota enjoys covering up the pictures with the objects, even if she doesn’t always match perfectly! Again, it’s about the learning process rather than the product!

object to picture matching

Our Montessori Shelf at 15 Months

Theresa Heiden

Dakota is such a busy bee lately, it’s hard to keep up! She zooms around the house, exploring and working on one thing after another, with such purpose and determination. It is a joy to watch her discover new materials and master old ones. She now does the “I did it” clap and smile when she completes something, showing me how proud she is of herself. That is all I can ask for! :)

Montessori Shelf at 15 Months

With so much energy to work on both gross and fine motor, I’ve been having to rotate her shelves more often than I used to. This month I’ve been switching out toys about once a week. I always rotate only a few toys at a time, so as not to overwhelm her. Sometimes just moving a material from one shelf to another makes it new and interesting again! In total, I only have about 8 materials out at a time for her, not including books, her wagon, and practical life activities.

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Because we don’t have a designated playroom, I have placed her materials in various areas of the house, so she can get her gross motor practice in, moving from one station to another. She has two shelves on our main floor (one mostly books), across the room from each other. And in the dining/kitchen area, she has her sensory table and mini kitchen. This way she can be working wherever I’m working, though sometimes not!

Fall Sensory Play at 15 Months

The kitchen is one of her favorite places to be, and you can find her latest practical life activities in my last blog post. But today, I’ll focus on her shelves in our living room. I tried to find a theme to link these toys together, but her interests are pretty varied right now! Which is probably for the best. :) From car trackers to animal noises to hammering, here are her favorite materials at 15 months. You can find previous posts like this on the home page.

Montessori Shelf at 15 Months

Hammer and Roll Tower - she can hammer with her hands or the hammer and watch (and hear) the balls roll down the tower. This is good gross motor for her too, because she has to go chase the balls to put them back on the tower!

Rings on Dowel - this is a simple toy, but so great for fine motor and hand-eye coordination. Dakota has also been experimenting with putting other blocks on the dowel and realizing it only works with the rings! She gets a lot of satisfaction from doing and undoing this one.

Imbucare Box with Slot - this is great multi-step activity because she has to put the chip in the slot, flip the lid, repeat, and then flip the lid the other way. It comes with just one big chip but I added a few other chips from the color sort bowls below.

Drum Set - we brought this back out after many months because she has been so into her music class! She is much more coordinated now, and dances” along with her drum.

Grimms Stacking Cups - nesting/stacking cups never get old. Dakota loves to nest the small cups in the bigger ones, and lately has been pretending she’s pouring water from one to the other. A simple and beautiful material!

Color Sort Bowls - thought Dakota isn’t yet sorting by color, she loves to use these color chips in various ways. Lately her favorite thing to do on repeat is to pour the chips from one bowl to another. This entertains her for so long!

Schleich Farm Animals - we have various sets of these animals, and they are so wonderfully realistic and sturdy. She loves making farm animal noises with these ones. Soon I am going to get another set of the same animals for her to match.

Car Tracker - this is always a huge hit with toddlers of all ages. It takes some practice for them to get the wheels facing the right way, but then they get to watch the cars zoom down the track. It definitely fulfills their need for repetition!

Shape Puzzle - we were actually supposed to get a circle sorter puzzle, but this one arrived in the mail instead! I decided to keep it because it’s a nice variation to the shape sorter, and nice sturdy knobbed pieces. She is still figuring this one out so it’ll be a good one to rotate in and out as she gets a bit older!

Vehicle Puzzle - Dakota has shown a strong interest in vehicles and things that go this past month. She enjoys making the vehicle noises when she plays with this simple 3 knob puzzle.

Dakota also has several toys in rotation (shape sorter, pull toy, stacking, and hammering) that came from Elfbox. This is an awesome toy subscription box where you can RENT the toys for a month and then send them back for new ones! If you really love one of the toys you can keep it for a discounted price. They also don’t charge at all for missing or broken pieces! If you’re interested check them out HERE and use code ELFFRIEND20 for $20 off your first box!

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Next up: our intro to art and sensory exploration!

In & Out / Open & Close

Theresa Heiden

Dakota's first month of her second year has been all about in and out, up and down, open and close. So of course most of her toys are in line with this theme (see below). While last month she was constantly on the go, she is now back to work at her shelf. She has a few materials that she really loves to play with over and over, which has slowed down toy rotation, making my life a little easier. She also really enjoys combining her materials in different ways, especially when there are peg people to be moved from one box to another!

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In addition to new materials, I have also introduced trays for a few of her materials. Trays are a staple of a Montessori classroom, and now that we are nearing the toddler years, they are useful for home too. Toddlers LOVE order, and trays provide a sense of order for their materials. They can take the tray off the shelf, use the materials, then put it all back in one piece. It also allows for you to set up the activity "incomplete" for your toddler to complete it themselves. As a teacher, we noticed that if puzzles were set out completed, the toddlers didn't engage, whereas if the pieces were in a basket beside the wooden puzzle base on a tray, they would use it more often.

I am hoping that my husband can build a new shelf soon that doesn't have cubes so that we can fit trays more easily! Here is a great resource for Montessori Trays if you are looking to purchase some for your Montessori environment.

Without further ado, here are Dakota's favorite materials on the theme of in/out & open/close:

Pop-up Men - This is by far Dakota's favorite toy. Even when she's not pushing the men to pop out, or carefully putting them back in, she's toting these little guys around the house with her. I find them everywhere! 

Box with Bins - Dakota's aunt gave her this one and she loves to open the drawers and discover little surprises inside! My sister filled them with these button shapes. Often the pop-up men end up in here too. ;)

Imbucare Box - We have a couple versions of this one, and they are great for learning sequences (drop, open, close, repeat).

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Object Permanence Baby Box - This little box comes with a large wooden ball but you can also get little peg people from this shop, both of which Dakota loves to put in and take out of this cute little box. Perfect size for her small hands.

Hide & Seek Wooden Board - Another fun peek-a-boo game. I wish there were fewer doors than this, but it's still a fun one, and definitely one to grow with her in the toddler years as she begins matching.

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MontiKids Peg Board, Rings on Post, and Basic Shape Puzzles - These three (of six total) toys came from the Level 4 MontiKids subscription box. If you haven't heard of it yet, MontiKids is a Montessori quarterly subscription box that sends high quality Montessori toys perfectly suited to your child's development and age. In addition, each box comes with detailed video tutorials, lesson plans, and developmental info. This is a great opportunity for parents who want to provide a Montessori education for their baby or toddler at home! Use the code REALLIFE to receive $30 off your first order!

In addition to her many wooden toys, Dakota loves any simple box or container that she can open, fill, and empty! Look for ones in your bathroom or kitchen that you can clean and repurpose. Patterned duct tape can really come in handy. :)

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Cruising through a year, with some bumps

Theresa Heiden

How is my baby 1 year old?! The phrase "the days are long but the years are short" has never rung more true. What an amazing journey it's been! Our bond gets stronger each day. The way she says "mama", rests her head on my shoulder as I sing to her, blows me kisses, brings me books to read, and cautiously checks with me as she starts to climb the stairs just make my heart melt. I also love watching her interact with the rest of the world - not only is she a social butterfly who can charm the grumpiest of TSA agents - but she is observant, focused, and open to adventure. 

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While Dakota continues to get sweeter, mom life never stops challenging me. Over the past few days, with cross-country travel, Dakota getting sick, sleep loss, and house renovations underway, life with baby has been exhausting. It's reminded me of why I started this blog "Montessori in real life", because real life isn't always Instagram perfect, and Montessori-at-home can become Montessori-ish. And that's okay. Sometimes it's pack-n-play or carrier over floor bed, stuffed animals over object permanence box, and squeeze pack over spoon. Sometimes it's crawling all over tired mama lying on a floor without furniture in the house. ;) It always helps to remind myself that phases are called phases because they don't last forever! And in the meantime, I enjoyed the extra snuggles that the past few weeks brought me.

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Besides her beloved books, the one consistent interest that Dakota has shown through all these "routine disruptions" is gross motor. (Available anywhere!) In the past few weeks, she is busier than ever. She's pulling up on just about any surface, climbing stairs, and trying to wedge herself in any small space she finds. While sometimes I wished she would focus more on the beautiful new ball tracker, it has been a good reminder to follow her interests and stop pushing mine. Setting up spaces for her involved simple things like moving cushions to the ground for her to climb over, filling a couple of drawers in the kitchen with things for her to unpack, and exploring the outdoors. I also purchased this tunnel she loves to crawl through and a pool to splash around in. Dakota's grandma also gifted her this beautiful wagon which just began to "walk" through the house!

This week when we returned back from our vacation, and despite still being sick, she surprised me by returning to her shelf to play with her wooden toys. What's more, even with weeks of not using these materials, she all of a sudden knew how to use them, just from my demonstrations a few weeks ago. For example, she put the pop-up men back in the holes, and opened the drawer to find her hidden ball in her imbucare box. It just amazes me how much babies' brains are processing and working through all the time, even when we can't see it happening. Sometimes I miss it, but when I do follow her cues and give her time and space to work through a new skill or phase, we are both happier for it.  

Lesson of this month: Practice patience and enjoy the present, because even the hard days are so sweet, and so short.

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8 Months Old, and Making (Some) Things Happen

Theresa Heiden

Somehow another 2 months have gone by and Dakota is getting closer to 9 months old! The past couple of months have been the best, and Dakota the sweetest, and honestly I haven't thought a lot about blogging. Though in all honesty, another factor in my blog hiatus has been self doubt. Is this blog providing anything original or interesting? Do I come across as a mom snob? Nothing can prepare you for the insecurity you feel as a mom, and the constant worry that you are doing things worse or lesser than other moms! The last thing I want this blog to do is make other moms feel bad about choosing a different path for their child. Because as much as I believe in the Montessori method, I also believe every child needs something different, and every mom does too. I started this blog as a way to journal my motherhood adventure with Dakota in our Montessori-ish way, and I realized this week that worrying about what other moms think shouldn't be what keeps me from continuing that! I hope other moms agree. :) As I always say, you do you. So I'm doing me.

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Back to the topic of the hour...Miss Dakota Mae. While no baby is happy all the time, Dakota comes pretty close lately. And I do know now how phases come and go, so I'm just enjoying this one while it lasts! I can't get enough of her many facial expressions, her hugs, "words", giggles, and how she "waves" at every person who smiles at her. Dakota just seems delighted with her world, meeting new people (and seeing the familiar ones!), exploring her surroundings, but also really concentrating on her "work" at home. You can really see her start to see her understanding, and more impressively, her desire to understand, her little world. 

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Because Dakota isn't crawling yet (lucky me, I know), she spends a lot of her day sitting or stretching out on her tummy playing with her toys. She is perfectly content doing this for up to an hour at a time, with or without me by her side. I try to make sure she has time each day to play uninterrupted, while I do my own work, to get her used to playing independently. This will be harder when she starts to crawl, but just this afternoon I finished the dishes and came back to find Dakota with her book open in her lap, "reading". My heart! While she still very much enjoys her toys from previous blog posts (especially teethers with her top tooth about to poke through!), I wanted to focus this blog post on her new favorites.

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Besides books and knob puzzles (both of which she LOVES), most of her favorite toys involve some kind of cause and effect. In the past month, she has really been figuring out that she can make things happen with her own two hands. When she shakes the eggs, she makes music; when she hits the bell, it rings; when she turns one gear, the other turns. Even if the toy doesn't make a sound, she bangs two toys together to create one. See below for some ideas! 

Montessori Object Permanence Box with Tray and Ball - we started this with me showing her, and now she takes the ball and attempts (occasionally successfully!) to put it back in the hole. She delights in seeing that ball rolling into the tray each time!

Melissa & Doug Farm Animals Jumbo Knob Wooden Puzzle - this puzzle, along with others that have pictures under the pieces, are super fun and easy for her to pick up, and good pincer grasp practice!

Egg Shaker Set - these entertain Dakota to no end. She loves shaking one in each hand and "entertaining" our dog!

Single Shape Puzzles - the more traditional Montessori route to first puzzles, and likely the first that Dakota will get the pieces back into the inset, but for now just exploring.

Sensory Board - Dakota's favorite toy! The noises and sensory experience of this board is amazing. Would be a fun one to make if you are handy like that.

Play Cube Activity Center - My sister had this one, and it's the perfect size for babies to reach on their tummies or sitting. I love how she reaches over and around to get to the different parts of the cube.

HABA Magica Clutching Toy - I kind of want this one as a stress ball for myself! A great one for babies to use two hands in coordination and teeth on too.

Hape Wooden Musical Instrument Set - Dakota is still trying to figure out how to really make noise with these, but she is enjoying trying!

Multi-Color Rhythm Scarves - So many uses! Dakota loves pulling these out of a box, playing peek-a-boo with them, and just runnings her hands through them!

Green Toys Stacker - a new favorite made from recycled milk jugs and oh-so-smooth and fun!

Sitting Pretty, with Confidence

Theresa Heiden

Time just keeps flying by, and our Dakota Mae is almost 7 months old! Six months has been my favorite age so far. Although not yet crawling, she is observing and exploring everything and everyone around her, and clearly fascinated by it all. Up until 6 months, I had just been giving Dakota time on her tummy and back on the floor to roll and play in whichever way she was interested. She has been quite content playing with her feet, gnawing on a teether, or batting at a mobile. In the past month,  she's also become a pro at rolling onto her tummy to grab a toy and rotating like a clock on her tummy. But since the 6-month mark, she's also been showing signs of wanting to explore, see, and do just a bit more. 

Which leads me to supported sitting. Traditional Montessorians usually advocate against supported sitting. They encourage parents to wait until their baby learns how to push up from their tummy into a sitting position on their own, which can happen as early as 7 months, but often later. In theory, I like this idea, but just as I placed Dakota on her tummy before she could roll on her own, I also helped Dakota sit up before she could get into that position by herself. I did this because she really enjoyed the different perspective, and getting to explore her toys and materials with both her hands in a sitting position. Sitting gives her a way to be closer to my level, and that in and of itself she loves.

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There are various forms and ways to start "supported sitting". I chose to wait until she showed signs of readiness to sit independently (holding her head back up fairly straight) to help her sit up, which for her was 6 months. Rather than Bumbo chairs or bouncers/walkers, I simply helped her figure out how to balance upright by sitting her between my legs on the floor, or with the Boppy around her. It really only took a week or so until she could sit up on her own without support - balancing her weight, albeit a bit wobbly. She toppled sometimes, and still does, but she's always on a soft surface and always on the floor to begin with, so never falls far. And this is how she learns her own body's abilities and limits!

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Though I can definitely see the appeal of the bumbo chair, walkers, bouncers, etc, the reason we haven't used these goes back to my Montessori training too. My issues with them (besides the noise!) is that they don't typically allow for free movement once the babies are placed inside. Babies don't get to learn how to balance if they are fully supported, and they can't reach in whatever direction they please. Instead, babies are essentially "stuck" which can lessen their motivation to sit and move on their own. I've also heard child PT's say that things like the bumbo chair put babies in an unnatural sitting position much earlier than they are ready. Lastly, some of these "supports" can lead to falls, more dangerous than from a sitting position on the floor. But to each his own, and if motherhood has taught me anything, it's "you do you" and what works for one family isn't what works for another.

So now that Dakota is sitting on her own on the floor, I typically place a small basket of toys in front of her, allowing her to explore freely. I try to keep just 3 or 4 toys in the basket at a time, to not overwhelm, and then rotate them every week or so. While playing in a sitting position, she gets practice using both of her hands, and transferring toys from one to another. She is also learning how to throw toys to her side, and then reach around to grab them. Sometimes she goes from sitting to lying down on her side, and unless she fusses about it, I just let her explore from there. With this independent sitting, she will eventually learn how to get into a crawling position from sitting, or down to her tummy and back up again! It is really fun to watch how she explores both her body and environment from this new perspective. It makes her so proud and happy! 

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Here are some of Dakota's favorite toys right now:

Learning by Hands, and Mouth

Theresa Heiden

"He does it with his hands, by experience, first in play and then through work. The hands are the instruments of man's intelligence." - Maria Montessori

Dakota is now 14 weeks old! She has grown and changed so much, but one of the biggest developments recently has been her fascination and use of her hands. These past few weeks, Dakota is all about grabbing objects, fabric, or often just her other hand, and bringing everything to her mouth. As a former developmental psych student, it has been so fun for me to geek out and watch her gradually develop this grasping and holding on skill.

Although babies are born with the palmar reflex (when you touch their palm, they close their fingers around your finger), they don't voluntarily grasp until closer to 3 months. In fact, newborns keep their hands clenched in fists for the first couple of months. But around 11 weeks, Dakota began to open her hand in response to seeing an object (or more often my hair) to grab. Once she could hold on to an object, everything just started going to her mouth (that need to suck is so real). There doesn't seem to be a reason for Dakota to touch an object if she can't also get it to her mouth. Let the germs begin...

When I began to notice Dakota's interest in grasping, I started with simple objects for her to grab at, such as ribbons dangling from her wooden play gym. She especially enjoyed this when one of the ribbons had a bell to make noise! As she started opening her hand more, I helped her grasp a wooden rattle and other thin, lightweight toys to hold onto. Over time, she began to grasp the toys on her own when I held them out to her, and bring them to her mouth. She'd often just grab onto her onesie or burp cloth and bring that to her mouth. Now she has "advanced" to occasionally picking up a toy that is next to her, and holding on to the toys for longer stretches of time (we're still talking a couple minutes max). She is also starting to test her balance by grabbing a rattle or cloth in front of her during tummy time. Who knows where those little hands will take her next! In the meantime, I will just enjoy being Dakota's favorite grasping toy. ;) 

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Here are some of the toys we have enjoyed in this early grasping phase:

 

Baby-Led Tummy Time

Theresa Heiden

All parents have heard the "back to sleep/tummy to play" advice on based on the AAP on repeat. Now that babies must be put to sleep on their back (Dakota's swaddle even reminds me in case I missed the million memos), pediatricians recommend tummy time to strengthen the neck muscles and prevent the dreaded "flat head syndrome".

Unfortunately, now that we put babies on their backs from birth, they often hate tummy time. In addition, some Montessorians and RIE proponents argue that we should skip tummy time until our babies can roll onto their own tummy from their back on their own. They argue that the back is the only natural (unaided) position for baby. I think they have valid arguments, however, I also appreciated my husband's point that young babies don't really put themselves in any positions on their own, even their back.

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I fall somewhere in the middle in my view of tummy time. While I do not think it is crucial in the first few months, I think it can be helpful in gross motor development, and also provides an interesting new perspective for baby. I like the idea of following Dakota's lead, and only placing her in tummy time when she is content to do so, and only as long as she indicates is enough. If Dakota really disliked it after a few tries, we'd probably skip it until she could roll over, but for now she enjoys it and sometimes even cozily rests on her tummy.

I think it's important to note that tummy time doesn't have to be on the floor, or without comforts. While Dakota probably spends a few minutes once or twice a day in tummy time on a rug or pillow, she also spends much more "tummy time" while resting on my chest after nursing, allowing her to look at my face. While sometimes this quickly turns into a boob snooze, more and more she is now lifting that big head of hers to take a look around.

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Here are some of the other ways we've made tummy time more enjoyable for Dakota these first 2 months:

  1. Place baby on a super soft surface (her favorite is the sheepskin rug)
  2. Use a boppy or small pillow to elevate her head and hands
  3. Lie down next to her on the ground so she can see us
  4. Place a mirror or pictures in front of her or to the side
  5. Try different areas of house, to vary light and scenery
  6. Let her rest or suck on her fingers on her tummy
  7. Give her a chance to struggle a bit (but end when she's clearly getting upset)
  8. Talk to her and encourage her (note our dog helping with this!) 

And that is how we are doing baby-led tummy time. For now at least. ;)

A Baby's Focus

Theresa Heiden

The set-up of a child's environment is a key component of Montessori's philosophy. For an infant, a main feature of this environment is the movement area, where they can move freely in their natural position while absorbing their surroundings. Pictures and objects are placed nearby at the baby's eye level and be specifically designed to tap into their visual and cognitive abilities at each developmental stage. For the first couple months of a baby's life, this includes high contrast black and white mobiles, images, and a mirror for self discovery. The idea is that given time and space here, babies will work on concentration, visual tracking, gross motor skills, and develop an appreciation of quiet, alert time.

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Following this, I've set up various movement areas for Dakota around the house. My husband likes to tease me by calling them "cognitive development stations". ;) In these areas, I usually lie her down on a soft blanket, rug, or the Montessori topponcino with plenty of wiggle room, and then provide some kind of visual stimuli appropriate to a newborn's sight and reach. This has been a big success for both me and Dakota. Several times a day, she lies on her own on the floor (up to 30 minutes at a time!), content and focused on the black and white animals, herself in the floor mirror, or the munari mobile. I recently added in a bell on a ribbon that she enjoys kicking and swatting as she wiggles. Each set up is simple, but just interesting enough to capture her attention.

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It has been really fun to see her interest, concentration, and movement develop over the last month or so, as she "plays" on her own. It gives me a chance to really appreciate all those new baby sounds, expressions, and jerky movements. Seeing her happy in these movement areas gives me hope is that the time she spends in these movement areas now will give her an appreciation of independent play as she gets a bit older. It's nice to have that balance of social and independent time. Because it is equally fun to lie down next to her or cuddle with her, and these days, occasionally be rewarded with a smile! In these short spurts of Dakota's alert time, we are finding that balance of quiet time and mama time, both equally sweet.

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