“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.