18-21 months, 22-24 months, 6-12 months, Montessori philosophy, Motor development, Practical Life, Under 1 year

You’re doing it wrong, keep it up!

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If, in your travels on Pinterest and Instagram, you see a beautiful photo of a tiny toddler carefully/peacefully/confidently lifting a little jug of water to pour himself a glass, here’s what you may have missed:

  • a baby experimenting with different grips on a weaning glass
  • a baby pouring water down his shirt
  • an older baby throwing a full glass of water in the general direction of his face
  • an older yet baby taking a few sips before dropping a half-full glass into his lap
  • a one year old pushing a glass off the edge of the table — repeatedly
  • a one year old who reaches for a cloth after taking a drink
  • a one year old says “uh oh” when a glass breaks and his mother sweeps it up
  • a thirteen month old grabbing the pitcher to pour for himself
  • a fourteen month old pouring a puddle of water immediately beside his glass
  • a fourteen month and one day old getting a little more water into his glass
  • a fifteen month old who uses a cloth on the little puddle of water on his placemat
  • a sixteen month old who pours a glass a water
  • a sixteen month old who an hour later completely misses the glass again
  • a seventeen month old who pours all of the water from the pitcher into and over and around the glass, long after it’s full

Maybe all of this seems a bit much, but the point is this: each of these opportunities builds on the last, as the child learns through his own real life experience how to hold a glass of water.

Through repetition, that is, through repeatedly doing something “wrong”, he learned how to meet his own goal (to get water from one vessel into another).

In the early days of incorporating Montessori into our own home though, I’d be disappointed when I introduced a new activity or material and it seemed like my little guy just couldn’t get the hang of it. My expectations were based on things I’d seen other kids do online, or read about in a book, or seen in a film (and one really simple error I occasionally made as a first time mom was not understanding the very real difference between, say, a 17 month old and a 20 month old).

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At this point in the journey, I’ve come to realize this: if you offer a child an empty glass and an appropriately sized pitcher of water for the first time ever, and they have no problem pouring a glass without spilling a drop, you’ve waited too long.

Spills, messes, challenges, frustrationit’s all part of the process, of learning, of doing hard things. Fear of failure? It’s got no place here.

A parent doesn’t need to say a thing — that wee genius knows what he’s attempting and whether it’s been successful. “The teacher should never intervene in an action when the impulse prompting it is good, neither with her approval nor with her help nor with a lesson or correction,” Maria Montessori wrote in Some Words of Advice to Teachers.

Today’s challenge: let’s offer opportunities to our kids (and to ourselves), to try something and not quite get it. To pour the water on the floor, to climb up the wrong side of the slide, to put their shoes on the wrong feet. And then let’s smile and watch them try again.

Do we follow each other on Instagram? Let’s! Click here for an Instagram video of a very wee Jasper pouring himself a drink a long while back, and hit follow while you’re there.

 

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6-12 months, 6-8 months

Baby’s first bites

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Around these parts, we all love to eat. Well, Jasper is going through a deeply suspicious food, but the foods he likes — blueberry pancakes, roasted chicken, and sliced apples — he really likes. Our dining room table is a gathering place, a place to reconnect, a place to enjoy nourishing our bodies.

Sage has been joining us at the table almost since the very beginning, tucked into a lap. Though she was exclusively breastfeeding, she was still able to be a part of the family circle and take in all the sights and sounds that family dinner-time has to offer.

Now that she’s a little older, she joins us for dinner, sitting in a booster seat on a chair, pulled up to the table.

toddler and baby weaning table

For breakfast and snacks, she and Jasper usually sit together at a smaller weaning table, with a safe and supportive weaning chair just her size. Some Montessorians choose to let a baby eat at the weaning table for every meal, but time spent sharing a meal together is an important part of our family’s culture.

We all use ceramic dishes and real glassware, modelling safe and proper usage, while allowing the kids to learn that things can break (rather than introducing glass for the first time later, and watching a four year old have to learn that he can’t toss glass around the way he’s done for years with his plastic cups). At ten months, Sage drinks from an open glass with a bit of assistance holding it to her mouth.

We use a small bib, which attaches at the front shoulder, so that in the coming months, Sage can remove it herself, to signal that she’s finished eating. For now, we use baby sign language for “more” and “all done.”

With both Jasper and Sage, we’ve followed the self-feeding or baby-led weaning method, meaning that rather than pureeing food and spoon feeding it, food is offered in larger pieces that the baby then feeds to herself. It’s safe, simple and allows the baby to decide when she’s had enough to eat.

At around 8 months, as her dexterity grew, we began offering a spoon (often pre-loaded) for her to use, and currently using cutlery is a big focus of hers at meal times. `

Independence in eating comes with a bunch of benefits, from healthy habits to less time in the kitchen, but there is one big trade off: it’s a messy business. If you’ve got a dog who likes to clean up under the table, they’ll be in heaven. I haven’t got a dog, but a three year old with a Swiffer mop is a pretty good substitute, and I’m counting down the days till summer heralds the season of dining alfresco.

If you’re starting to think about feeding your baby, I recommend checking out this post from How We Montessori, which compares the traditional Montessori method with baby-led weaning. For a full run-down of essentials, check this great post on Midwest Montessori.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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0-2 months, 2-4 months, 4-6 months, 6-12 months, Montessori philosophy

Put your baby on the floor. Like, a lot.


Montessori movement area
If I were to travel back in time to when Jasper was a wee baby, I might just give myself a seemingly crazy piece of advice. “Put your baby on the floor.”

He’s a September baby, and I have these memories of that first winter spent sitting there holding my baby. If he was awake, I was sitting there holding him, wondering what to do next. If I needed to do something that required the use of my arms, there was a stressful moment of tension as I tried to figure out “what to do” with him. I knew I didn’t want to rely on devices like the swing. But it never really occurred to me to put him on the floor unless he was having what I thought of as “floor-” or “tummy-” time. Ahh the little compartments we make of life…

With Sage, I still make sure to spend plenty of time holding, cuddling and carrying her while she’s so sweet and small. But I also give her plenty of time and space to explore and get to know her body and how it moves.

This work is best done on the floor. Here’s why:

  • her view is unobstructed. No crib bars, no pack and play mesh. Just a wide open view of the room and everyone in it.
  • she is free to move. With a lots of space to move, she does.
  • it doesn’t require putting baby into any position that she can’t get herself into or out of. It doesn’t give her an unnatural sense of her own capabilities. It doesn’t prop her up to sit before she can get there herself, it doesn’t dangle her into a false standing position. She is simply on her back until she rolls on to her tummy. She is reaching and stretching and eventually moving.

In the Montessori world, the environment for this kind of “floor-time” is called a movement area. A movement area might look something like this:

The key ingredient is lots of comfortable space. There will be a mat, a blanket, or something soft but supportive for baby to be on.  A few yoga mats side-by-side can work. I’ve found quilts are better for movement than other types of blankets (they lie flat while being crawled and squirmed on!).

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There may be a mobile suspended above a young baby to look at, or a bell, ring, rattle or grasping toy for babies who are ready to use their hands. At five months, Sage is rolling and creeping to move around, and I sometimes place an object (a skwish, or a open book with beautiful images) just out of reach for her to stretch towards.

Traditionally in the Montessori method, there is a wall mirror from the very beginning, which draws baby’s attention and allows her to watch her own body move. Our family chooses to incorporate the mirror later.

Montessori floor time and movement area

As baby begins to be able to move, there is a low shelf or basket offering a few objects to explore.

Also: if you start to worry about your babe, or feel he is not getting enough people time, or that she’s all alone on a big empty floor — hang out with your baby! Sit on the floor. Talk to your baby. Pick her up for a cuddle. Do some made-up yoga poses to stretch out that breastfeeding back. Sit with him lying between your legs. Read a novel while she rolls around. Talk some more.

It’s all about living life together, while giving your baby space and time to move freely. That’s it.

For more inspiring movement area images, check out this comprehensive post from Nduoma and this great round up post from How We Montessori.

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