What is the Montessori approach for babies?

You may have heard of the Montessori approach in schools, but did you know that there are benefits of using the Montessori philosophy at home, even from birth?

The essence of the philosophy is ‘help me to do it myself’, based on the view that knowledge isn’t passively gained, but is gained through a child’s experiences in the surrounding environment.

The first three years of a child’s life are critical in terms of development, with 85 percent of the brain being formed by age three. This period lays the foundations to future learning, the way they explore, and is when they develop their sense of self and their place in the world.

The idea of using Montessori at home for your baby might seem daunting in an already overwhelming and busy time, but there are a few simple things you can do if you’re interested.

What is the Montessori approach for babies?

You can use the Montessori ideas from birth in the way that you talk to your baby, touch them, set up your home, and how you respond to their efforts of communication.

The six key elements, according to Montessori in Real Life, include:

1. Respect for the child

This can take the form of creating an inviting space to play in, speaking and interacting in a gentle and loving way, and respecting a child’s individual development.

Babies understand a lot, so communicate with them by asking them questions, showing them things, letting them know what is happening, using rich language, responding to their attempts to communicate, repeating the sounds they make, reading books, and asking permission before you handle them (for example, letting them know you’re going to change their nappy).

2. Observation

Observing your baby allows you to assess their individual needs and interests. This provides the information you need to create and change their environment depending on their unique stage of development.

If, for example, they lose interest in a toy, it may be too difficult or too easy. If they’re starting to roll, offer more opportunities and space to roll. If they’re grasping for your hair, offer toys that allow grasping opportunities.

3. Preparation of environment

With carefully chosen materials, the child can explore their environment with minimal assistance, promoting independence and curiosity early on.

Less is more, let them explore household items (such as kitchen utensils and containers), and try to offer natural materials, such as wood, fabric, paper, rubber, and metal.

4. Order

Infants are often more calm and confident when they have order and routine in their day. All of the materials have a specific place, and clutter is at a minimum.

Little ones can crave predictability and consistency, so you might like to establish a flexible daily routine that works for your family. This is different to a schedule, and is more a sequence of predictable events.

5. Independence and choice

Giving your baby opportunities to do things for themselves promotes their self-confidence and self-reliance.

As well as plenty of time of connection, provide independent play time, which might be them playing in their play area while you sit nearby and observe (resisting the urge to join in or showing them the ‘right’ way to use something.

6. Intrinsic motivation 

Acknowledging accomplishments rather than praising or rewarding them for doing something ‘good’, the idea is for children to take pride in the efforts they make in the process.

Instead of saying things like ‘great job’ or ‘I’m so proud of you’, you might say ‘you stacked those blocks high’, or ‘I can see you worked really hard to grasp that toy’. It encourages them to seek out more challenges because it feels good.

Tips for preparing a developmentally-centred nursery or play area

  • Keep it simple, orderly, calm, ideally with plenty of open space and natural light.
  • Many Montessori families opt for a floor bed, rather than a cot. This gives them the ability to get in and out on their own when they’re able to.
  • A simple rug or mat for the play space, often with developmentally-appropriate mobiles hung above.
  • Usually there is a mirror in the play area for babies to be mesmerised by their own reflection.
  • Low shelves are often used to store baby’s toys, so the baby will be intrigued and eventually roll or crawl over to select a toy themselves.

Montessori-inspired toys and decor

We have carefully selected a range of toys that you might love!

1 Wooden Puzzle Shape Box

COTTON ON BABY Wooden Puzzle Shape Box

2. Wooden Stackable Tower

Cotton On Baby Wooden Stackable Wooden Towers babies

3. Sorting Box

Micki Sorting Box

4. Wooden Stackable

Cotton On Baby Wooden Stackable Blocks

5. Koala Playmat

Mister Fly Koala Playmat

6. Quilted Playmat

Cotton On Baby Quilted Play Mat - Babies

7. Rabbit Teether

Purebaby Rabbit Teether

8. Bunny Baby Rattle

Nanna Hutchy Bunny Baby Rattle

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