“The first essential for the child’s development is concentration. It lays the whole basis for his character and social behaviour. He must find out how to concentrate, and for this he needs things to concentrate upon. This shows the importance of his surroundings, for no one acting on the child from outside can cause him to concentrate. Only he can organize his psychic life.”
The Absorbent Mind p 202, Chap 22
I have always advocated for the belief that it is not the “stuff” but the experiences that are important to a child. A song sung by a loved one is just as stimulating as any gadget to a baby. However, I’m asked on occasion for ideas of Montessori inspired infant materials, so I thought I’d share a few.
At a basic level you are looking for something that will delight the child, but many would be surprised where that delight can come from.
From a Montessori perspective, the items would ideally be made of natural materials. This gives the child an accurate sensorial experience. Wood feels very different from wicker and cotton very different from steel, but all plastic feels the same. Loud sounds and bright lights offer little in the way of concentration and often overwhelm or overstimulate.
In the very early months, mobiles and mirrors that an infant can concentrate on are often all that is required for “toys”.
I love mobiles. There are a series of Montessori Infant Mobiles that can easily be made/bought, but it takes very little time to attach some items to a base and hang it from the ceiling. I made the above mobile by cutting out circles from some pretty paper I had and then stringing them into chains and hung it from a ring. This is not one of the Montessori mobiles, but is simple, beautiful and allows him to concentrate.
Black and white images printed onto cards are a favourite as well with younger infants. There are many out there. I love
Wee Gallery Art Cards. There are also many beautiful Montessori inspired options on Etsy.
In the background on Quentin’s first low shelves are some “Treasure Baskets”. When the child is more mobile, they love looking at, grabbing, mouthing, listening to items in a treasure basket. Both Deb and Kylie have great ideas for treasure baskets for young infants. Even at this age a child has a strong sense of order. Baskets are usually kept to a single idea. You can put anything in them. A kitchen basket may have a spatula, flipper and whisk. Or maybe sounds. Or colours. The possibilities are truly endless.
The brown box on Quentin’s shelves is a homemade Object Permanence Box. I made it out of a square post office mailing box and covered it with kraft paper. I made three: a large round hole and ball, a small round hole and cylinder shaped block and a small square hole and square block. These are a great challenge for older infants. He used them right up until just after his first birthday.
These were his first materials. We supplemented these with lots of books and music and outdoor time. Looking back a year later, it went so quickly. It’s often a huge stress for parents to provide the “right toys for optimal development”. I think what’s important to focus on instead is providing quiet uninterrupted time for the child to concentrate and explore their world.
4 Replies to “Montessori in the Home: ideas for infants”
What lovely mobiles and ideas for bubs!
Awesome. A friend made me a mobile like that! This is meshing so much with my intuition, and I do give F lots of time to just chill and observe his toys/environment, but at the same time I feel this immense guilt if I’m not constantly interacting with him – but I think I need to cut myself some slack, because I think there’s also benefit for him to just hang out in his bouncy chair in the kitchen with me while I make dinner, or do a bit of sewing. What does Montessori say about observing the parent do their regular activities? I often chat to him while I work, and narrate/describe what I’m doing… I suppose im just feeling insecure that I’m “doing it all wrong”… And yes, stressed about trying to provide him with toys/activities for optimal development! 🙂
Montessori said “A child is both a hope and promise for all mankind.” The Montessori Method is, at its centre, about honouring the child.
I have 2 posts for you to search if you are interested. “Everything you and I need to know about Montessori Part 1 & 2”.
There is no room for guilt in your busy life. As you will see in the post Montessori has little regard for “toys for optimal development”. Instead it is about offering children experiences. This means F will get more out of watching you make dinner than any toy you place in front of him. You don’t have to narrate your entire goings on all day long. Being held close while singing or storytelling are much more meaningful for an infant.
A simple DIY mobile and a mirror for him to lay next to and concentrate on, coupled with the amazing love you and M give him are all he needs for “optimal development”.