As a parent or educator, you may have heard of Montessori learning but are unaware of its defining principles, benefits for babies, or how to implement it in your own home. The Montessori method is both a classic educational system and a child-rearing method and it can be used to foster intellectual growth even in infants! Montessori learning for babies is simple, inexpensive, and sets children up for a lifetime of learning.
A Montessori baby learns through unstructured playtime in a safe, prepared environment with little instruction or interference from his or her caretakers. Because learning begins at birth, Montessori parents begin fostering their baby’s growing mind from the start by providing an enriching environment for exploration.
But how can you help infants learn when they haven’t yet developed the skills to communicate and understand instruction? Montessori experts know that a little environmental stimulation from their caretakers will go a long way! Read on to learn how and why to make the most of the Montessori method for infants.
What does Montessori play for babies look like?
Montessori for babies allows infants to explore their environments, learn kinesthetically, and develop a sense of independence. Because babies learn by exploring with their five senses, activities for Montessori babies are designed to captivate their interest by stimulating their senses.
Toys for babies are often brightly-colored or in contrasting colors like black and white. Simple, color-contrasting board books, rainbow-colored stacking cups, and colorful flashcards are great examples of this. Babies are hands-on learners and Montessori toys are made from textured materials that encourage tactile exploration. Think wooden blocks, ribbon mobiles, and sensory bins filled with sand, water, or dry rice.
Learning materials should be as interactive as possible for infants yet simple enough to allow easy, independent play. Toys with screens, flashing lights, and batteries are discouraged because they allow for passive play with less child interaction. Since babies learn through oral exploration, all toys should be safe for baby to mouth- there should be no small pieces and quality materials such as wood are preferred over plastic.
See Also: Montessori Gift Ideas for Babies – Our Favorite Toys for Infants 0 – 12 Months
What do you need for a Montessori baby?
If you want a convenient introduction to Montessori baby toys, you can purchase one of the many starter kits available on Amazon, Etsy, or Monti Kids. For example, this kit contains a variety of wooden grasping and sensory toys. This set contains a series of fabric strips that can be folded and inserted into a “tissue box”. Infants can pull the fabric tissues out and explore the colorful fabrics. Both toy sets help babies learn object permanence and cause and effect through hands-on, independent learning.
But Montessori play for infants does not need to be expensive. There are many Montessori-inspired activities that you can make with materials that are already in your home! Fill a large plastic tub with water and give your baby a basket of water-friendly items- cups, balls, rags, and so on. Let your child explore the toys and how they interact with the water. He or she will learn that cups can scoop and dump water, balls may sink or float, and washcloths absorb water.
If your baby is unable to sit up independently, set up a play mobile over your child and attach different items that will stimulate your baby’s senses. For example, items with different colors, textures (furry plush toys, sticky rubber items, and hard wooden rings), and sounds (bells, rattles, crinkly foil). Just make sure all items are within your baby’s reach so he or she can properly interact with them! Since “auto-education” is an important pillar of Montessori learning, setting up simple activities like this gives babies a chance to explore and learn for themselves.
Another important pillar of Montessori learning is “educating the whole child”. This means that learning should not be limited to academic matters; instead, it should enrich all parts of a child’s mind. An easy way to incorporate this idea into your baby’s life is by simply including your baby in your daily routines, chores, and activities.
- Folding laundry? Let your baby crawl through the clean laundry and explore the different colors and fabrics of your clothes.
- Cooking? Let your older baby pour, scoop, or mix ingredients when you can.
- Washing dishes? Give your baby a small tub of water and some non-breakable kitchenware. Since small children learn through imitation, don’t be surprised if your child begins “washing” his or her dishes, too!
Practical activities like these help educate the “whole child” by teaching them about daily life and setting them up for skills they will use in the many years to come.
Why begin Montessori education early?
Simply put, learning begins at birth. Parents and caregivers need to begin providing the most enriching experience they can for their children as soon as possible. Montessori education also focuses on specific “sensitive periods” in a child’s life; these are periods where children are interested in and particularly receptive to learning about different things.
Sensitive periods begin at a child’s birth and areas of sensitivity for infants include movement, language acquisition, and early mathematics (such as counting, quantities, addition, subtraction, and basic shapes). The earlier a child is exposed to such subjects, the better and sooner he or she will be able to understand them.
Dr. Maria Montessori believed children (from birth to approximately age six) have “absorbent minds” and can learn fully and effortlessly simply through exposure to new concepts and hands-on experience. Because even newborns have absorbent minds, it is never too early to take advantage of their incredible brains and begin age-appropriate Montessori education with your baby!
Is the Montessori Method right for my baby?
As a parent or caregiver, you know your family best. There are a wide variety of educational and child-rearing choices you can make and most parents make the best choices they can with the resources they have.
The Montessori Method offers children a kinesthetic, self-led learning experience and promotes natural learning from the time a child is born. Montessori learning for babies does not need to be extravagant or expensive. Get creative and find new ways to capture your baby’s attention by finding activities that incorporate movement and engage their senses. Infants spend every waking moment learning about the world around them. All they need is a little stimulation and an adult to nudge them in the right direction.