During our training we spent a good deal of time learning about the Anatomy and Physiology of the Human Body in order to have a clear understanding of what aids to give the child throughout his or her early years. Our five senses begin to develop in utero and specifically the eyes begin to experience some light and darkness influenced by where the mother lives, the time of year, etc. but that is about it.
At birth, the child can only see approximately 30cm/12 inches in front of him or her. Amazingly, that is the exact distance from the mother’s eyes to her breast! I was truly blown away when this was pointed out to me. Nature is so wise.
For the first two weeks we allow the newborn an adjustment period and after that we begin placing him or her under the first Montessori mobile, the Munari. One of the special key factors about the Montessori mobiles is that we offer them to the child when he or she is awake and alert. More commonly, you see commercial mobiles hanging over the area where a child sleeps. For us, the purpose is to help the child learn to focus, track, and develop his or her visual sense so he or she needs to be actively engaged and not in the process of falling asleep.
The Munari is a black and white mobile made from 2 dimensional geometrical shapes. All the shapes and dowels are balanced off of a glass ball which reflects the light. This mobile moves very slowly in the environment (just by natural air flow) which allows the child to observe it with great concentrated energy. The newborn is unable to see colour so the Munari is black and white in order to give the child the greatest contrast in shades. Also, as the newborn visually studies his or her environment, he or she picks up that objects are made from linear and curvilinear figures so the Munari offers these geometric shapes to the child.
Because I have twins (and my husband only let me put one hook in our ceiling) I placed both boys under the Munari at the same time. It was hung from the ceiling to land approximately 30 cm from their line of sight and not directly above them – more so they could look at it on a slight angle. I found this time very special (once R was ok spending more time on the movement mat) and really enjoyed sitting back and observing them while they concentrated on the mobile. They became fascinated with it for longer and longer periods of time and of course they couldn’t move yet (except for random non-voluntary flailing of arms and legs) so this became a time when I could also grab something to eat and have a cup of coffee! Definitely a win-win situation.
I kept this mobile up for almost 2 months. When I observed that the boys were disinterested in it after a period of time, I would simply hook it up against the wall so that they could still stay on the movement mat and I would introduce another activity such as listening to some music, looking in the mirror, or grasping one of the rattles. Right from the beginning we try to encourage only doing one thing at a time in order to help with the development of focus and concentration so each of these activities was done in turn. Eventually, it was time for the Munari to be replaced with the next Montessori mobile in the series and it now hangs ready to be loaned out to another family with a newborn.
The Munari mobile is not too difficult to make (I did a mobile making workshop with an upper elementary class and they each made one in about 2 hours) and here is what you will need:
- Three thin wooden dowels (painted black), a glass ball (ornament), shiny black poster board paper (white on other side), fishing line, scissors, and glue. I was able to find all materials at a local craft store we have here called Michaels.
- The Munari has three different levels. The fishing line attaches to the center of the top dowel and this will hang the Munari above the child’s movement mat.
- The top dowel is about 42 cm/16.5 inches long. From one side hangs the glass ball and from the other side hangs fishing line to the next dowel.
- The second dowel is about 2/3 the size of the top dowel. From one side hangs a black and white circle and from the other side hangs fishing line to the next dowel.
- The third dowel is about ½ the size of the top dowel. From either side hangs the two remaining black and white figures.
- The first thing you need to find out is the diameter of your sphere. This will be called ‘A’ in our formula.
- ‘A’ will also be the inner circle of the two dimensional circle. On one side the inner circle is white, the other side is black. The outer circle will be called ‘B’. ‘B’ is equal to A plus 1/3 A.
- The next shape (looks like two trapezoids together) starts as a square, which has each side equal to ‘B’. Measure the square half-way on each side and connect that dot with the two opposite corners on both sides. That will show you where you need to cut to make it the shape of the two trapezoids together (shortest length touching). You will do the same with the other one that goes on the back.
- The other larger one begins as a rectangle, with two sides ‘B’ and the other two sides being 2’B’. Do the same thing for the rectangle as you did for the square. First you cut the paper on the long sides, and then you trace the black and white for the middle.
- The shapes are attached to the dowels with fishing line. The length of the line for each shape will be determined by the diameter of the ball and the balancing point of each dowel.
Good luck and enjoy observing your child while he or she learns to focus and track while developing concentration and independence!