(quote photo via instagram)
Have you heard about Montessori… only for it to conjure up images of preschoolers in a classroom? Have you heard of Montessori but have no idea what that even refers to? Have you heard of Montessori but got the drift that it was something only rich people can afford for their children? Have you never heard of Montessori in your life, and don’t even know how to pronounce that word? LOL. I once answered “yes” to most of these questions.
Before I stepped foot into a Montessori program for infants, I had no clue that the Montessori approach applied to babies at all. Babies, as in, non-walking, can’t even roll over yet, 3-month-old babies who were separating from their moms for the first time in their lives while their moms went back to work, baby babies.
What did Maria Montessori think about babies? Dr. Montessori believed that education starts from birth. And she felt that if we wait until a child seems more “capable” or “aware” (i.e. the school years) to start supporting their development, we have lost out on critical windows of opportunity to actually optimize the child’s development and enhance their skills acquisition.
So what exactly can we do to “support” a baby’s learning and skills development? Other ways to phrase this question are: “what the heck am I supposed to do with this new baby of mine? They can’t even roll over yet…”; or, “how can a helpless baby transform into a Montessori toddler who can open locks with keys, or wash the dishes? … And then into a preschooler who can do division and write cursive… and then into the Google CEO of their generation? Because I want all of that for my kid!” (the founders of google were Montessori kids!).
Well it starts from birth. A healthy baby is born with all of its senses intact, and comes with a pre-downloaded “schedule” of milestones they are going to be trying to achieve from the moment they are born onward. These milestones will emerge at each child’s own pace, and there is nothing we can do to “teach” these basic skills to a baby. No one teaches a baby how to grasp, how to babble, how to roll itself over. The skills will naturally emerge for every baby, assuming their physiological health hums along as it should.
But the quality of a baby’s skill set can be enhanced with the right support, offered at the right time, offered in the right ways. It’s possible that with the right support, certain skills can be acquired noticeably ahead of the expected schedule; and with an undeniable quality of excellence. It is quite common to see a Montessori baby who can already put her own pants on, or who can already talk quite well at 18 months old. Or a Montessori toddler who can wash the dishes, or make their own orange juice from scratch by themselves.
I like the quote “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can” by Arthur Ashe. It describes perfectly what any baby can do.
They have… their senses. They have the ability to focus and concentrate. They are curious. They are watching, listening, and trying to make sense of the world around them. They have a level of determination us adults have completely lost. And they have the capacity and desire to engage with things in order to figure out how the world works.
Even a baby who cannot roll over can work on… their vision, their attention, memorizing familiar aspects of their environment, figuring out cause-and-effect, and figuring out what happens when they move their limbs. Montessori materials for babies, an appropriately curated selection of toys, and the proper support and interaction from the adults in their lives can enhance a babies’ attention, vision, cognition (how smart they are, basically), sense development, grasp, future speech development, body strength and body awareness.
Want to know more? Want this kind of professional support for your baby? Schedule an in-home Montessori advising experience with an AMI Montessori guide in the San Francisco Bay Area by clicking here Facebook.com/whatwouldmontessorithink. An in-home “consultation”, or as I like to call them, an advising experience, will cost you a fraction of the cost of sending your child to a Montessori program, that’s for sure.