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Filtering by Tag: montessori infant

Our Montessori Mountain-Themed Nursery

Theresa

Well, it took a few months, but Baby S’ nursery is finally complete! In the past few months, we’ve installed new carpet, painted the walls and trim, and painted the mountain mural. This past weekend, we cleared out what was our guest room and added all the baby furniture and decor. It reflects our family’s love for the mountains, forest, and adventure. It feels and looks so much fresher and lighter now! I think S is going to love his room as much as we do. And once he is a bit older, we hope to have both kids share this room.

Our Montessori Mountain Nursery - Montessori in Real Life

Setting up a Montessori baby bedroom is a bit different than setting up a traditional nursery.

  1. Floor bed instead of crib. This allows freedom of movement and independence from an early age. You can read more about the why’s of a floor bed in my previous blog post. Right now he is on a mini-crib mattress but he’s a big guy so we will probably switch D to a twin and switch over to a normal crib-size mattress and frame soon.

  2. Toys, books, and artwork are minimal and at the infant’s level. This allows him to enjoy and access their environment without our assistance. As he gets older, we will keep fewer toys in here as this is meant to be a place of rest first, play second.

  3. Baby-proofed. The trickiest part of setting up a Montessori nursery is making sure it’s safe once he is on the move. We use outlet covers, tuck cords behind shelves, and keep the floor clean. Once S is crawling and/or pulling up to stand, we will remove the rocking chair, table, and changing table.

A Montessori Mountain Nursery - Montessori in Real Life

At four months old, S is only sleeping in his room for nap times. At night he still sleeps in the bassinet in our bedroom, but we will probably transition him around 6 months. To get him more used to this room as his place of rest, we typically do our bedtime routine in this room, and then I carry him over to the bassinet in our room. Our bedtime routine consists of: bath, change, nurse, books, partial swaddle, songs, set him down with a kiss and an “I love you”. :)

Our Montessori Mountain Nursery - Montessori in Real Life

In regards to sleep, I’ve found Taking Cara Babies newborn class and 3-4 month guide incredibly helpful. She helps lay the foundation for healthy sleep habits from birth. (Note: this is not sleep training, which isn’t recommended prior to 4 months.) The advice from Taking Cara babies has helped both of us. By creating routines (NOT rigid schedules), paying attention to wake windows, helping him gradually shift from falling asleep nursing to falling asleep with his thumb, and setting up a cozy place for sleep, he’s able to put himself to sleep and sleep longer stretches, both for naps and nighttime sleep. Though I still wear him and hold him plenty during the day, I know he sleeps more soundly in bed and I enjoy a few moments of “me-time” or something like that. ;)

Our Montessori Mountain Nursery - Montessori in Real Life

If you are interested in any of the furniture or decor, keep scrolling! Below is a list of all the nursery products with links. A lot of good finds on Etsy! Note that my husband made the floor bed frame and the pull-up bar. However, Sprout Kids makes a beautiful floor bed and Heirloom Kids makes a pull-up bar!

Our Montessori Mountain Nursery - Montessori in Real Life

Note: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of these links, you won’t pay anything extra, but I will get a small commission, which helps keep this blog going. Thanks for supporting Montessori in Real Life!

Our Montessori Mountain Nursery - Montessori in Real Life
Our Montessori Mountain Nursery - Montessori in Real Life

Montessori for Grandparents and Caregivers

Theresa

One of the most frequent questions I get is how to help grandparents/nannies/caregivers better understand or follow Montessori with their children. It is tough to answer, because it really depends on the person, and the situation. I have also been lucky to have both parents and in-laws who have read my blog since day 1 and take what I write and say to heart. I know many of you reading this haven’t had the same experience, so this is for you!

Montessori fro Grandparents and Caregivers - Montessori in Real Life

In defense of grandparents and experienced nannies, it can be tough for them to parent differently. They probably did a wonderful job raising their own kids (including you) and don’t see the need to grandparent differently. They also love your babies almost as much as you. That being said, grandparents need to also respect your own parenting style and wishes for your own children. How you raise your children, and with what values, is ultimately you and your spouse’s decision only.

Montessori for Grandparents and Caregivers - Montessori in Real Life

It’s also worth deciding what Montessori principles really matter to you, and how much time grandparents or caregivers spend with your child. As we only have occasional sitters, I don’t really worry about whether or not those babysitters know anything about Montessori. A few hours of “good jobs” and doing everything for my children isn’t going to hurt anyone. The important thing is that they are responsible, fun, and loving. Even a weekend with grandparents who don’t “do Montessori” won’t mess up what you have going on at home. However, if someone else were watching my child a few days a week, their caregiving style would matter a lot more to me, and I’d want them to understand a bit more about Montessori philosophy.

Montessori fro Grandparents and Caregivers - Montessori in Real Life

I created these “cheat sheets” as one place to introduce Montessori to grandparents, nannies, or caregivers who aren’t quite on the same page as you yet. While these cheat sheets are far from a complete guide, I hope they can open up a conversation about how you are trying to parent differently. If they are open to it, I recommend having them read some blog articles or even The Montessori Toddler by Simone Davies. I also highly recommend this short video about infant/toddler Montessori programs and this other video about the Montessori philosophy in general.

Montessori fro Grandparents and Caregivers - Montessori in Real Life

There are likely certain principles or issues you care more about, so focus on those with your parents or nannies. Maybe that’s screen time, maybe it’s letting your infant learn to walk on their own, or maybe it’s the kind of words they use. Whatever it is, let some of the other things go, because we all need a little time and patience to learn, and teach, something new.

Montessori fro Grandparents and Caregivers - Montessori in Real Life

Lastly, the other common question I get is in regard to gifts from family and friends. I recommend making lists ahead of holidays. They don’t need to be super specific, but you could give some examples of the types of toys you are looking for. Other options are books and clothes. Another way to dodge noisy, light-up toys is to ask for money towards their college fund or a membership to your local children’s museum or zoo. If you do receive a gift that you don’t love, you can always pass it on, or do what I do, and keep it in the car or for “emergencies”. ;)

Montessori in Real Life

Montessori from Birth

Theresa

A frequent question I hear is “When can I start Montessori at home?” The answer is that Montessori can be implemented anytime, as early as birth! It is never too early or too late to incorporate Montessori principles at home. Though the environment and materials are an important component of Montessori, there is much more to the philosophy than beautiful toys. Now that we are lucky enough to be back in the newborn phase with our 2-week-old baby boy, I thought I’d write a bit about what “Montessori from Birth” looks like for us.

Montessori from Birth - Montessori in Real Life

A beautiful book I read during my Montessori training was called Understanding the Human Being, and it describes the first 6-8 weeks as the “Symbiotic Life”, or “life together”. It is a time when the newborn and mother are co-dependent, each requiring something the other gives. The newborn requires the mother’s nourishment and by breastfeeding, helps the mother’s uterus contract and body heal. Additionally, the bond formed between mother (or primary caregiver) and baby in the time spent together in the first weeks ensures a securely attached child and mutual love for each other. From this secure attachment, the baby learns to fully trust their environment and mother/primary caregiver, knowing they will be taken care of, loved, and are safe to explore independently when ready. It helps me to think about this Symbiotic Life period as it gives meaning to the wonderful, but exhausting, time with our newborn. The attachment we form sets him on the right path forward towards becoming his own capable little being, and for now I can just soak up the sweet and valuable time we have together.

Montessori from Birth - Montessori in Real Life

Equally important to the love we show our baby is the respect we hold for them. A key component to Montessori philosophy is respect for the child, and this includes the way in which we interact and talk to children, as early as birth. Rather than try to quiet or distract a baby, we acknowledge their needs and feelings.. For me, respect means slowing down and taking the time (when possible with two littles) to nurse in a quiet spot, and giving Baby S affection and attention while he gets his nourishment. It also means talking to him about what I’m going to do before/as I do it. For example I might say “It looks like you have a wet diaper. Let’s go get a fresh one on.” and then when he gets upset during a diaper change, “I know it feels cold when I take this diaper off. I’m just wiping your bottom and now we are putting a clean diaper and clothes back on. Now you are dry and warm - that feels better, doesn’t it?” I don’t narrate every part of our day, but I try to talk to him when we are doing something together, like starting to nurse, change, or when he’s alert and looking at me. Janet Lansbury’s book Elevating Childcare elaborates on ways to speak respectfully to babies, and is a great book about respecting babies and toddlers in general.

Montessori from Birth - Montessori in Real Life

While in these first few months Baby S spends a lot of his time on or with me nursing and sleeping, I also make sure he has plenty of time for natural movement throughout the day. I set up his primary “movement area” in our living room, where he can rest or wiggle around on his topponcino and gaze around the room. From there he can see his family, our movements, and the environment that he will call home. When he lies on his back here, he is completely unrestricted in his movements. He is free to stretch his arms and legs, suck on his fingers, and turn his head side to side. Other times I will carry him on his topponcino outside or into another room where we are spending time, so he can join us while still having that freedom of movement and ability to see what’s going on around him if he’s awake.

Montessori from Birth - Montessori in Real Life

Though he is unswaddled and free to move in the day, we do swaddle him at night to help him sleep for slightly longer stretches. The swaddle is so useful for the first few months when babies’ startle reflexes are strong, often waking them up unintentionally. My favorite swaddle with Baby S is the Ollie swaddle, which is easy to put on/take off and keeps him safely tucked inside. He also spends time in the day in the K’tan baby carrier, when we take walks or I need two hands and he wants to be held close. For us, it’s just about finding that balance of cozy mama time, restful time, and uninhibited movement time.

Montessori+from+Birth+-+Montessori+in+Real+Life

As Baby S’ awake time increases, we have and will introduce a few traditional Montessori materials to encourage his concentration and capture his interest. For the first couple of months this includes mobiles, high contrast (black and white) images, mirrors, familiar faces, and the sights and sound in nature. Already he has begun to spend a few minutes each day gazing at his Munari mobile as it slowly spins with the air circulating. As babies can only see up to 12 inches in front of them, and only in black and white, this is the first mobile to encourage eye tracking, concentration, and visual development. It is beautiful to watch him watch the mobile. :)

Wooden gym and mobile from Monti Kids**

Wooden gym and mobile from Monti Kids**

* If you are interested in Montessori materials for babies, my friend Bridget of Montessori in Motion and I launched The Montessori Guide this year, which includes month-by-month activities and links to materials to help you set up a Montessori environment for your child. You can read more about that here!

** If you are looking for a full Montessori subscription box for your baby, with materials delivered straight to your door, you can also check out Monti Kids! Use code REALLIFE for $30 off your first box.

Montessori from Birth - Montessori in Real Life

Note: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of these links, you won’t pay anything extra, but I will get a small commission, which helps keep this blog going. Thanks for supporting Montessori in Real Life!

What is Montessori for Babies and Toddlers?

Theresa

When people ask me to briefly describe Montessori and why it’s different, I usually stumble over my words. My husband says I need an “elevator pitch”, and I’ve yet to make one. If anyone has a great one, let me know! What I can do is try to describe Montessori in bullet points. I’ve been getting a lot of questions about the Montessori philosophy in general, and suggestions for further reading on the topic. I hope that by describing a few of the key elements of Montessori and including some resources below, I can provide parents new to Montessori a little more insight. And please let me know what else you’d like to know in the comments section! I also always like to add that while I am obviously a big proponent of Montessori, do what works for your family, and remember that there is no perfect way, or perfect parent!

6 Key Elements of Montessori Philosophy for infants and toddlers:

Respect for the child: This is the most important element of Montessori, and parenting in general. Respect for infants and toddlers comes in many forms in a Montessori environment. It includes a beautiful and inviting space for our child to play in. It also includes making children feel like important and contributing members of our family or community. Respecting the child means speaking and interacting with our child in a gentle and loving way, and in words they can relate to. Lastly, this includes respecting each child’s individual development and pace/style of learning, whether at home or at school.

Montessori in Real Life

Observation: Taking the time to observe each child allows us to assess their individual needs and interests - social, emotional, and developmental. These observations give us the information we need to prepare a proper environment for each child's development, and to rotate materials and activities as they grow and their interests change. We might notice that our baby is constantly making animal sounds, especially the dog and cat. To take advantage and expand this interest, we can find materials such as wooden puzzles, books, and animal figurines of pets for our baby to explore. Observation can especially come in handy when our child is “acting out”. For example, if our toddler is throwing all their toys off their shelf, that tells us that 1. we might want to simplify their shelf or reduce the number of materials and 2. give them other opportunities to throw, such as balls into a laundry basket.

Montessori in Real Life

Preparation of environment: Maria Montessori said, “the greatest sign of success for a teacher... is to be able to say, 'The children are now working as if I did not exist”. Instead of the teacher or parent at the center, Montessori describes a triangular interaction among the adult, child, and environment. The adult is the connection between the child and their environment, inviting them in. This is in part why teachers are called guides in Montessori. With a prepared environment and carefully chosen materials, the child can explore their environment (at home or school) and use their materials with minimal assistance. This kind of environment promotes curiosity, concentration, and independence early on. 

dynamic triangle.jpg

Order: In a world that is so big and often overwhelming, infants and toddlers are usually happiest when they have order and structure to their day. This includes organization of their environment and routines. In Montessori classrooms and homes, all of the children’s materials have a specific place in their environment, and there is a consistent daily schedule. The idea is that infants and children come to know what to expect and feel more secure with that knowledge. With that security, the child has the confidence to seek out independent play and take on new challenges. Of course we can’t always keep our environment perfectly organized or our days structured (nor should we), but the more we can do, the more calm and confident our child will feel.

Montessori Home

Independence and Choice: Whenever possible, children are given a chance to do things for themselves before the adult steps in. A common quote in Montessori communities is “help me to do it by myself”. We, as adults, are there to model and guide, but not to take over our child’s work. Giving infants and toddlers time and opportunities to exert their independence promotes their self-confidence and self-reliance. You can see the delight and pride on a toddler’s face when they put their own shoes on for the first time. One simple way to give your child more independence is to give them choices rather than directions. For example, “Would you like to get in your pajamas or brush your teeth first?” rather than “It’s time to get ready for bed”.

Montessori in Real Life

Intrinsic Motivation: In a Montessori environment, adults try to acknowledge accomplishments rather than praise or offer rewards for doing something “good”. For example, an adult might say “You stacked those blocks really high!” or “I see you worked really hard at putting on your coat” rather than “Good job!” or “I’m so proud of you!” The idea is for children to learn how to take pride in their own accomplishments, rather than only put in effort for adult praise or external rewards. Acknowledging the effort they put into something rather than the end result also encourages children to seek out challenges more often, and to do activities because it feels good rather than because they want praise.

Montessori at Home
What is Montessori for infants and toddlers?

Note: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of these links, you won’t pay anything extra, but I will get a small commission, which helps keep this blog going. Thanks for supporting Montessori in Real Life!