The celebrated Montessori philosophy of child development and education can easily be applied to infants at home. Founder Dr. Maria Montessori believed that a child’s mental development begins at birth and grows with the greatest intensity during the first three years of life. While your child is in this “absorbent” state of mind, there’s no better time or place to foster your child’s education than in your home.
At Apple Montessori Schools, we offer some suggestions to create a Montessori lifestyle for your child at home.
1. Room with a view
For the nursery or bedroom, we recommend designing an environment that is simple, neat and calm, with lots of light and space. It’s important that your child be able to see their surroundings and have easy access to their play area. Having interesting objects in view, such as a colorful mobile above the bed, helps to spark a child’s natural curiosity. Also, try to avoid decorating with cartoon characters. Especially for infants, it’s best to outfit the space with realistic pictures and artwork that babies will see and experience in real life.
We also recommend storing toys and books on low shelves or bookcases so your child can reach and retrieve items independently, which helps further develop motor skills and encourage self-reliance.
2. Caring conversations
Your child absorbs sounds and language even before birth, so take every opportunity to speak to them thoughtfully—letting them what you’re doing to care for them, what you’ll be doing for the day, and asking about how they are feeling. While an infant may not understand the words, they will sense your gentle, caring tone—benefitting from the joyful bonding experience and emotional security of these close, continuous communications.
It’s also important to sing to your child. A University of Montreal report cites that singing keeps babies calm twice as long as talking to them. Lullabies and nursery rhymes are also scientifically proven to be an essential precursor to later educational success and emotional well-being, according to Sally Goddard-Blythe, director of the UK’s Institute for Neuro-Physiological Psychology.
3. Free movement
To help develop motor skills, including head and hand coordination, crawling, and walking, children need freedom of movement to explore and exercise their developing abilities. As in Apple Montessori classrooms, we recommend setting up a child-safe floor area with mats for learning to balance, sit up, roll over, and stand at their own natural pace.
We also recommend minimizing the use of pack and plays, jumpers, walkers and other devices that restrict a child’s movement. These items inhibit the child’s opportunity to cultivate their motor skills, which is one of the most important developmental milestones during this sensitive period of rapid growth.
4. Kitchen fun
While you’re in the kitchen preparing meals, keep your baby occupied constructively with a set of real, child-safe pots, pans, measuring cups, plates, and spoons on a safely-placed floor mat or on the tray of a baby chair.
We recommend using real materials rather than “toy” versions. We find that if given a choice of “play” tools or real-life utensils, a child will select authentic items because they see the real, useful purpose by watching you.
Your child will imitate your actions and have fun learning life skills such as preparing food, cooking, setting the table, and cleaning up. You’ll foster their innate desire to help and play an important part of your family and their world.
5. Me-time for babies, too
While it’s vital to spend lots of time communicating and bonding with your baby, it’s equally worthwhile to provide some independent play time. Under your watchful eye, give your child simple, non-electronic toys for discovering, exploring, and enjoying themselves without diversions for short periods of time. You’ll be amazed at how this activity builds confidence, creativity, and self-reliance as your child continues to grow and develop.
At Apple Montessori Schools, we believe that the Montessori philosophy of child education and development is a lifestyle that can be practiced in and outside the classroom. Together, we can create independent, confident children who are proactively engaged in exploring and learning about the people and world around them.