Part 2: Montessori for infants (6-12 Months)
This is the Part 2 of our multi-part series on Montessori From Birth.
Children aged 6-12 months have begun to move around more and develop strength throughout their body. They have begun to develop more coordinated movement of their hands. Your 6-12 month old has more control of their movements from their head to their toes and are consistently improving those skills and building those muscles. With the opportunity you have given them to move freely up to this point, their brain has certainly had plenty of opportunity to expand as well. Maria Montessori believed that movement enhances learning, mentioning that work is inseparable from movement. And since the child’s work is to learn, we must incorporate purposeful movement into his learning.
The same mat that we suggested you place in the center of the family room for the child to observe the happenings around them in Part 1 of this series (from @gathre) will still be an important tool for your 6-12 month old. Allowing your child that special time on the mat to move freely and develop their muscles through tummy time will surely leave you amazed at just how capable your little one is at achieving things on their own. Children are naturally determined and driven and that is fun to observe during these months. While playing with the toys we have introduced in the first six months, the child learns on their own how to manipulate them even more. While playing with a wooden toy car or an easy to grab ball, for example, the child may push the toy away from them. This will send the toy rolling out of their reach requiring the child to problem solve and figure out a way to move their body closer to the toy. This motivation is the very beginning of crawling.
Image courtesy of gathre.com
We are not fans of being strict with your child on developmental milestones. It breaks our hearts when parents stress over their child being “a month behind on walking” (or whatever the milestone may be). It is not tough on the child, but rather weighs heavily on the parent. Granted, it is good to keep the average age in mind to make sure your child is on track developmentally, but it is so important to remember that each child is an INDIVIDUAL. No two are the same. They will all develop on their own terms and at their own pace so rest easy and take the milestones as a guide and nothing more.
With that said, many children are beginning to scoot and pull themselves up around 8 months. I can’t stress enough how much allowing a child to move freely will quickly increase their abilities. You’ll be amazed. Adding a small mirror (this mirror is especially made for infants) nearby will allow the child to watch themselves and use their reflection to learn more about their bodies and movement. As your child begins to move around more, be sure to provide a safe environment for them to explore. Be aware of items that can be pulled down, topple over, small objects that can be a choking hazard, etc. It is much better to childproof your home than to confine your child to one small space (like a play pen).
Photo courtesy http://belleandbeaumontessori.blogspot.com.au/
This brings me to my next point - the child’s sleeping arrangement. When a child is confined to a crib or playpen, they may become upset with the fact that they are unable to move around freely - thus, crying to be let out. If you provide a “floor bed” for a child, it will give them the freedom to explore their safe environment freely when they wake. What works well is a simple mattress on the floor outfitted with a fitted sheet. We started our daughter off with this arrangement at 6 months of age and she absolutely thrived. Place your child’s toys in small baskets and on low shelves. The idea is that everything is within their reach. Make sure “everything has a place” and order is evident so that the child knows where certain items belong and where to find them. For extremely young children, the idea of a floor bed may seem to be a hazard because of the opportunity the child has to roll off the mattress and onto the floor. To ease your mind, you can place pool noodles under their fitted sheet to provide the barrier they need.
Your child is now at an age where they are realizing that they can make things happen! These toys will encourage your child to learn about cause and effect and inspire other learning through play as well.
A heavier weighted wagon is a wonderful toy for a young child because they will be able to use it to pull up on and later transport their toys around. Make sure the wagon has some heft to it so it doesn’t run off while the child is trying to pull up onto it. We have this one (pictured below), and she still plays with it 2.5 years later.
Balls are a wonderful toy for a young child. Children adore balls of all sizes and textures. You can even offer a basket of balls to your child. Eventually, a great game for a child 6-12 months of age to play with the balls is to move them from the basket into each compartment of a muffin tin.
Children learn so much through their sensory experience. Offering a basket full of different textured fabrics is a fun way to encourage learning and growth. Textured fabrics can be used in more activities later down the road. We will discuss that in subsequent parts of this series. For now, offer a handful of different textured fabrics for your young one to explore. They’ll be happy you did.
Wooden blocks are wonderful, especially if they are different sizes and shapes. They allow you to introduce more vocabulary to your child like bigger and smaller, cube and triangular pyramid, or top and bottom.
A shape sorter is wonderful for helping your child make connections between words and concepts by talking about colors and shapes: “That's the big yellow cube.”
Babies love cause and effect and musical instruments such as xylophone, drums and maracas are the perfect toy that creates a sound or experience. With just a simple action of moving their hand, the child has success. We like these musical eggs.
Keys are wonderful for children. They adore the different sounds and textures. We recommend purchasing a few blank keys so your child has her own special key ring, that will stay a lot cleaner. This is a wonderful way to introduce early role play as well.
To foster awareness of cause-and-effect relationships, let your child turn a light switch or a faucet on and off and see how her actions make things happen.
We also like to avoid baby swings, jumpers and seats for your child. Overall, they seem encourage the child to passively observe the environment around them rather than actively explore it.
Weaning and Food Introduction
Many children begin to discover foods other than milk around 6 months of age. Though, as previously stated, this is only a ballpark age and can vary greatly. It is encouraged that you observe your child to see when they begin to show interest in trying other foods. This usually begins with your child watching you eat with great interest in his or her eyes. With mealtimes, it is important to establish a consistent area with which you and your child will eat. This will allow the child to associate the area with meal time. Young children tend to eat more often and thus might have different meal times than the ones traditionally held by the family. This is okay but it is important to still include your child in the family meal time also. Rather than confining him or her to their own area or “child’s table”, use a high chair to pull up to the family table (or one of these that hooks right up. Our 3 year still sits in hers by request) your child can enjoy meal time with the family. When transitioning into shared meals with your child, be sure to leave plenty of time to allow your child to enjoy and explore their food. This will allow for a much more enjoyable mealtime experience.
At 6-12 months old, your child is likely learning to talk back and experiment with the sounds that they are able to vocalize. Remember, As your child plays, talk to him about what you see and hear. He'll enjoy the sound of your voice, and you'll be helping develop his speech as well. We can’t stress enough how important it is to communicate with your child. Describe everything that you’re doing, “Oh, that sound was the doorbell. Let’s get up and see who has come to visit!”. Talking in a high pitched voice is unnecessary when communicating with your child. They will much more appreciate you speak to them in a well-articulated tone as you would anyone else. The child will learn from how we speak to him, so speaking properly is paramount. When reading a book, walking through the grocery store or driving down the road, you have so many opportunities to help your child associate certain items with the name associated with them. Teach your child that everything has a name by taking the time to stop and point to certain objects and name them.
That's it. This age is easy and incredibly fun. Be conscious with your actions and words and know that little sponge of a child is soaking everything up.
Thanks for reading!