It’s not too late! Enter to WIN your own 5 Pack of Beginning Montessori Materials! Celebrate the 1 Year Anniversary of our blog!
It’s not too late! Enter to WIN your own 5 Pack of Beginning Montessori Materials! Celebrate the 1 Year Anniversary of our blog!
We’ve just about reached the end of our 1st Anniversary of Blogging Celebration. It has been such a joy to share with you our favourite Montessori resources and products. It has been a lot of fun reading your responses as you explore Montessori further. And our readership continues to grow! Thank you for following our blog! Thank you for sharing our blog with others!
If you haven’t already done so, don’t forget to enter to win a signed copy of The Joyful Child up on our blog until Tuesday, September 16 at 11:59PST.
As our 6th and final giveaway we are offering up a Five Pack of Toys from Beginning Montessori! This pack makes the perfect set of toys to get started with Montessori. I am a little biased about these toys as my husband makes them. This company was born right out of my AtoI Montessori training. As the course transformed me and how I saw infants, purchasing baby shower gifts became increasingly difficult. During our training we made many materials and I asked my husband to help me make the bell rattle. We had leftover dowel so my husband asked if any of the other women from my course would like a bell rattle. Well, the orders flew in! My husband then came to the training centre and checked out the materials telling me he could make many of the items. He was just as excited as I was! He grew up around wood crafting as his parents made wooden toys and he’s had lots of advice along the way as we developed our products. With his ability to make the toys and my Montessori trained eye for detail, with special attention for how it would aid a young child’s development, we developed our product line to include:
Amongst other materials which you can check out on our website. Since we’ve observed our daughter A. use these toys, we’ve tweaked a couple of them but most were already perfect. It has been such a joy for me to see A. use these materials! It has been such a joy for me to see all of the Montessori Moms babies use these toys! (From top to bottom you can see Christie’s sons R. and P.. my daughter A. with the interlocking discs, and Tomoko’s daughters M. and E.) It continues to be such a joy for me to see many, many babies enjoy these toys. I know at a deeper level how much the child is gaining through their usage of these toys so it just delights me! You can read a short description of each material on the website and in addition, each toy comes with a product card describing the purpose and usage of each toy. If you’re looking for cleaning information, please check our facebook page note on cleaning our materials.
This Five Pack of Montessori Baby Toys was designed to be a perfect baby shower or first gift for the child. The cost of the five pack is $48 and the giveaway includes free, international shipping. A few of the toys can start to be enjoyed within the first months of the child’s life. They will aid the child’s development, and continue to be enjoyed, throughout the child’s first year. These toys will also last for multiple children and in infant communities. They are great quality and beautifully made. They make great teething toys and you can be sure they are safe to be mouthed on by an infant as they are hand-made with natural materials. We hope you will enjoy them as much as we do!
To enter leave a comment on our blog telling us: What is your favourite post from the Montessori Moms Blog from our First Year of Blogging? Then click the link to enter a Rafflecopter giveaway and click the green button on the Rafflecopter form telling us “I commented!” There are also lots of additional ways to enter to get your name in multiple times. If you haven’t used Rafflecopter before it’s very easy to do so by just following the instructions. You can also watch this quick video to help you learn. (Sorry it has to be a form using the link. It still works!)
The giveaway will close on Monday, September 22 at 11:59PST. Winner must respond within 48 hours of being contacted. Good luck! The giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to Crystal G. on winning the 5 Pack of Beginning Montessori Toys!
Once A. was out of the newborn diapers and into the one size cloth diapers I felt they were gigantic on her! How was she going to learn to roll over with this huge obstacle (her cloth diaper bottom)? Thankfully a friend from my training had given me a bit of a heads up with her observation that cloth diapers may be an obstacle to development. So I had planned to give A. lots of diaper free time when she was on her movement mat and had a wool puddle pad underneath the sheet. I ended up putting a pre-fold diaper underneath of her a lot of the time and/or a plastic-backed change mat. I had also planned to start putting A. on the potty when she was able to hold her head up.
Despite reading many times that children using cloth diapers get less diaper rash, A. was easily prone to getting a diaper rash. Diaper free time was essential to help clear it up. When A. was 11 weeks and was having diaper free time she made this odd fussing noise. I checked and nope, she wasn’t wet. A little while later she fussed again and this time she had peed. Later that day the same thing happened: odd fussing noise, dry, but soon she was wet. The light bulb went off in my head that perhaps the odd fussing noise meant that she had to go pee. So again, she made the fussing noise and this time I was prepared with the potty right beside the movement mat. She fussed, I quickly put her on the potty and to my amazement – she peed! I did this a few more times before I became a bit more confident and then moved the potty to the bathroom. Nothing made my heart more full then realizing I had this type of communication with my baby. I really didn’t expect that my infant would communicate with me when she needed to go pee. It blew me away!
I can’t really recall how long this lasted for but it wasn’t for more than a month or so. I don’t know why she stopped making the noise or how I stopped missing her cue signs, but that type of strong communication was lost. It did make a positive impact as she associated the potty for going pee, and the occasional poo. So from then on, every diaper change and before her evening bath I would sit her on the potty. Sometimes she went pee and sometimes she didn’t. Most nights before her bath she would go pee. We kept one potty in the downstairs bathroom and one in the upstairs bathroom. I read Diaper Free Baby to do more EC (Elimination Communication) but I was never super successful at picking up on her signs. I did try to observe for signs of watery/glassy eyes or a sudden stillness or wiggly/fussiness, especially after she ate. We always did a diaper change when she woke up so she had the opportunity to use the potty at these keys times of day. Sometimes we communicated well and a lot of times we didn’t. I really appreciated how the book said that EC isn’t an all or nothing thing. Even a little bit is great.
We did use the cue signs as suggested “psss” for pee and grunting for poo. I’m not sure if either of these helped in reality but it made us as adults feel like we were doing something to encourage her to pee/poo. We chose to not read to her or really engage with her while on the potty. I tried to give her privacy as I like to have while on the toilet. Often I would use the toilet at the same time, which I think has helped. She usually sat there for a few minutes and I would take her off the potty if she became upset about it but I really can’t think of too many times when she has been upset. Recently she has taken to playing with her pants or underwear while on the potty, and sometimes I give her a square of toilet paper. She makes the motions of wiping herself and likes to put the toilet paper into the toilet.
Repetitions are needed to awaken his interest. To create a cycle of relationship. ~Maria Montessori, “What You Should Know About Your Child”
My hope by practising even some EC early on is that A. would begin to connect to her bodily sensations and have an awareness of going pee/poo. My hope of introducing the potty in her first few months of life is that she would create a relationship with the potty that this is where to go pee/poo. With many repeated opportunities to practice using the potty during her first year of life, my hope is that when toilet learning did begin that some initial steps would come much more naturally.
We chose to use cloth diapers right from the start. My husband was on board when he calculated how much cheaper it would be. I wanted natural fibres against my child’s most sensitive parts and felt it would help our child to have an awareness of wet/dry that would help later on when it came to toilet learning.
Many of our friends use cloth diapers so it felt very “normal” to us and we had lots of help answering the many questions that arise. What style? What brand? What detergent? How many? And so many more questions! Entering the world of cloth diapers is pretty overwhelming. We went to a cloth diaper workshop put on by a local cloth diaper company, Little Monkey Store, and decided to go with their newborn rental pack. (please note the company is no longer local and under different ownership in Edmonton) If you’re interested in learning more about cloth diapers check out Cloth 101 or any cloth diapering company. My experience is that they’ve all been very helpful.
If you are able to do a newborn cloth diaper rental I highly recommend it. (New and Green does a newborn rental program for those on Vancouver Island and in the Lower Mainland) Newborn diapers are smaller so they aren’t gigantic on your itty bitty newborn. It gives you an authentic, trial run so you are able to decide which type you feel comfortable using, or if cloth diapers are for you. It made the routine of washing diapers just part of having a baby, right from the beginning. It also gave my husband time to scope out a good deal for the diapers we purchased when she grew out of the newborn diapers. (Newborn diapers last until about 14-16 lbs.)
What I thought I’d like (fitted/pre-fold with cover) ended up being different in reality (All-In-One). Through our trial I realized I really didn’t mind putting in extra loads of laundry (takes me only a minute or two) but didn’t like the extra time folding the laundry and stuffing the diapers. The All-in-Ones were super easy to fold, no stuffing required (yay!), and I didn’t feel like I was spending a ton of extra time doing laundry. Most people are put off that All-In-Ones cost a bit more, but with some extra time using the newborn diapers we were able to wait until a sale came on so we didn’t end up spending extra money. We ended up purchasing Blueberry and BumGenius, with a mixture of snap and hook & loop closures. I loved how slim they fit, fast they dried, and the great colours and prints. It’s also been great having two different types as the fit and the absorbency are slightly different so have been great for different purposes or different stages of her growth.
And dealing with the poop? I was able to exclusively breastfeed A. so this meant just sticking the soiled diapers in a dry diaper pail, washing every second day, putting them on a drying rack (in the sun whenever the opportunity arose), fold, and put away. Once we introduced solid foods we chose to use flushable liners. Oh, and the poop has always been contained in the cloth diaper, with perhaps the odd occasion of a little leakage from newborn runny poops with some of the newborn cloth diapers (we didn’t end up purchasing those types). We also chose to use cloth wipes with just water. I do admit that it is an extra step wetting a fresh set of wipes each morning but again, it takes only a minute so once it’s part of your routine it’s not a big deal. Out of the three we purchased (Thirsties, GroVia, and Kissiluvs), we like the GroVia wipes the best. Cloth wipes are easy to sew if you wish to do so. By choosing to use pre-moistened cloth wipes it made changing a diaper like using disposables except we just put the wipe and the diaper into the diaper pail. We found cloth diapering when out and about was super easy as we just packed a wet bag, put the soiled diapers in the bag, and put both the bag and the dirty diaper in the diaper pail when we got home. No smell but yes a slightly larger diaper bag.
It is time for the six month check-up. We are excited to find out the new ‘measurements’ for our boys and see how much weight they have gained. However, what we felt when we left the doctor’s office was as totally different feeling; one that left me questioning my own knowledge and experience.
“The boys have not gained enough weight.”
“They have dropped to under the 5th percentile.”
“You may not be producing enough milk for the both of them anymore.”
“You should start introducing baby cereal.”
As a new mom I can see how the outside influence of professionals can make you change your ways in a heartbeat, no matter what you believe is the ‘right’ thing to do. Because for an instant, I did just that. In our training, we learned that the child will show us physical and psychological signs for weaning. The child will begin to drool, has cut his/her first tooth, and should be able to sit up with minimal support. The child will show an interest in people eating around him/her and start reaching for food. This was part of my mental checklist and because the boys were a month premature and were not sitting well on their own, had no teeth, etc. I had the right mind to hold off. But here I was, rushing out to Whole Foods to purchase Organic Baby Rice Cereal!
Then, I had to check in with myself (as well as vent and get reassurance from those around me).
Were my boys happy and thriving?
(R sitting with support in nursing pillow, looking at one of his favourite books.)
(First time P ventured off the movement mat.)
Were they sleeping well and through the night?
Did they show signs of distress or lack of food?
NO! (Big sigh of relief.)
I was introduced to Baby Led Weaning after my training, once I started my Parent-Infant classes. At snack time, one parent pulled out a whole apple, took a bite, and then handed it to her 9 month old to eat. I was in awe! I researched it and read the book Baby Led Weaning, which I thought was very interesting and sounded very much on page with the Montessori philosophy.
Some key components include:
So this is what we did.
The boys began with avocado, banana, steamed cauliflower, broccoli, apple, carrots, and pear. Yes, at first I was a bit nervous and so were those around me, especially when the boys gagged on the food! It took us a while to get into a groove and perfect the set-up (at their weaning table with the proper dishware etc.) but now they have all meals at their table (along with complementary milk feeds).
Overall, it is a very lovely experience for all of us. The boys are now enjoying many different types of organic food and I find it easier to prepare food for them as I do not have to do much else than what I already do for my husband and I. Some of their favourites right now include Ezekiel bread with avocado, homemade pancakes, chicken drumsticks, salmon, cod, meatballs, yams, sweet potato, banana, raspberries and blueberries. Unfortunately, the “broccoli loving babies” that I had in the beginning are no longer and this is when the “lovely experience” turns not so lovely as they very purposefully throw what they don’t want on the floor. I am very thankful for our dog on these occasions as she gets invited in to assist with clean up!
Every meal is finished up with a drink of water from a real glass (ours are shot glasses from Ikea) and in the beginning I poured only a little to get them used to holding the glass with two hands and tilting it up to drink. Now they have pretty good control and will hold out their glass for ‘more’, which I pour from a child-size pitcher. At the end of a meal they definitely show signs of being done, by pulling off their bibs, pushing their dish away, or by pushing their chair away from the table.
It is time for us to introduce the use of cutlery, which opens up a few more doors in terms of choice of food. I haven’t purposely held off, but with the boys approaching 11 months it is time! I have also started to encourage them the wipe their own faces, hands, table, etc….basically to help me clean up their mess. Not that they do this as of yet but the language and actions are there for the future. 🙂
So all in all this too has been a learning experience for me as an educator and mom. We are quick to give our opinions about what we feel is ‘right’ by the books, but every child and situation is different and what works for one family may not work for another. That is why Baby Led Weaning works for us, and it may (or may not) work for you!
“Actually we’re not going to use a crib. We’re just going to use the mattress on the floor.”
Oh the looks I received. Oh the comments. Probably the most common was that A. wasn’t going to sleep once she started crawling. Or that she was going to fall off. Like many parts of our Montessori training, I had no idea what reality would look like with my daughter but thought I’d give it a try.
For the first few months I had a cestina loaned to me by Montessori Mom Yvonne who had made it for her daughters. I also had a Moses basket that I used with a topponcino. While A. slept peacefully during the day in her Moses basket, night time was a completely different story. She slept in our arms while we slept in the nursing chair. She never did sleep in the cestina but greatly enjoyed playing in it and just observing her world during the day.
One night my body had enough of sleeping on the chair so I set up a fold-out mattress beside A.’s crib-sized mattress. It was firm and happened to be exactly the same height. A. then either slept on me or beside me, laying on her side. Mostly cuddled in the crook of my arm. It was a slow transition from beside me, to on her own bed. Her startle reflex was still quite strong and she woke up if she was on her back but kept sleeping if she was sleeping on her side and “startled” into me.
Around 3.5 Months we made a few changes as she was crying for 2-3 hours every night before falling asleep. It was exhausting for both of us. We introduced the soother, started a solid half-hour bedtime routine, made a firm bedtime, and introduced probiotics. I think everything helped her but I believe the most dramatic change was introducing her to probiotics. Within 3 nights of introducing them, it was like I had a different baby. She didn’t cry every single time she fell asleep for naps and she didn’t cry for hours at bedtime. She either didn’t cry at all or the crying was very minimal. During the day for naps she mostly slept in a baby carrier (ring sling, Moby wrap, or Beco carrier).
Up until this time I had been sleeping with her all night long. Around 4 months she started falling asleep peacefully and I changed to just laying with her until she fell asleep. As she was already in her own bed, I didn’t have to do the “put the baby down” dance. Eventually I just took away the mattress that I slept on. I would lay on the floor until she fell asleep. For a long time she struggled with “the 45 minute intruder” so my husband or I would go lay with her until she fell asleep again. During the night she would wake once or twice for a feed and then go back to sleep. If she was crying in the middle of the night (not for hunger) we would lay on the floor next to her until she fell asleep again.
Within a month she learned to “slither” off her bed in the morning and was able to roll to get to her toys. She never rolled off her bed either at night time or during daytime naps. Around 6 months she started army crawling. Mornings would start with her army crawling off her bed to her toy shelf and she would begin playing her maraca and opening the drawer. She would do so after naps too.
What about daytime naps with the crawler? Did she actually sleep?? She would army crawl around her room and fall asleep on the floor when she got tired. Sometimes she would use the firm nursing pillow as a pillow. Often I would check the video monitor and when she fell asleep I would transfer her to her bed as I found she took longer naps on her bed and I also thought it would help her learn that her bed was for sleeping, not the random spot on the floor. It took a couple of months but she eventually started crawling back onto her bed for naps. There was a transition of sometimes using the bed as her pillow while sleeping on the floor. At evening bedtime she would always stay on her bed.
Soon after she began crawling on all fours (8.5 months) she stopped crawling around her room. She preferred to sit on her bed after her nap or in the morning. She would play with her blanket, her soother, or her one book beside her bed. She would do so happily for at least half an hour (I usually went to get her by then). It has only been quite recently, around when she turned 12 months and has begun the process of dropping her second nap, that she has started crawling around her room again. Instead of sleeping she happily plays in her room. She has started to play with her toys when she wakes up in the mornings again too.
Sleep hasn’t been an easy part of my motherhood journey. Those first few months were very difficult. I feel the floor bed really helped to make a gentle transition for A. sleeping with me to sleeping independently. Since she was a month old, she has slept on her own bed at night, so strongly associates sleep with her bed. Throughout her first year it hasn’t always been independently. We have snuggled her all night long, as she fell asleep, and in the middle of the night when she needed. We have also given her some time to cry a little as she learned to settle herself to sleep. She is now able to independently fall asleep for naps and at bedtime. Very occasionally she still wants some snuggles in the middle of the night, but for the majority of the time she sleeps independently throughout the night. After a year of using the floor bed it seems so normal to me that I do a second glance when I see a crib. I have to remind myself that yes, some babies still sleep in cribs. If you haven’t checked it out already, Aid to Life has a great explanation, photos, and video of the floor bed.
The sketches made during our training, the dreams, the room without a purpose – all turned to joy when I became pregnant. I knew what elements I wanted to have in the baby’s room well before I became pregnant so when it came time to set up the bedroom, I just had to search out where to obtain each item. My husband (ever the frugal one) made sure I didn’t spend too much. We ended up getting most of the major elements from IKEA as it was affordable and convenient for us to do one-stop shopping.
The Floor Bed
No expensive crib required! One less decision to make. I waffled on if we should spring for an organic mattress, but decided to use a simple crib sized mattress from IKEA and use a wool puddle pad. As I was worried that A. would roll off (she never did), I placed a folded up blanket beside A.’s bed when she was younger. I removed it when she was confidently able to crawl off. The pillow is for me when I read her stories or lay down next to her to cuddle her. I remove the pillow from her bed when she sleeps. I also keep her book that I read to her at bedtime hidden behind the pillow. It is the only “toy” that she has beside her bed so that there are minimal distractions for sleep. Many of my friends use sleep sacks but I couldn’t figure out how they were compatible with providing the floor bed so A. could be mobile around her room. I was a little worried that she would suffocate under the blankets (yes, new mom worries), which of course never happened. I put a blanket on her and tuck her in. Often she wriggles out but is quite warm, even in the middle of the night. The blanket was lovingly made for A. by a friend.
The Change Table/Dresser
We did spend a little more on this item as I wanted something in particular. I really wanted a dresser with a door that A. could open when she is a bit older. Currently there are shelves but I hope my husband will be able to install a rod inside so that A. will be able to choose her clothes when she is a little older. With a low rod at her level I can set out a couple appropriate options for her so she can choose her clothing. I chose not to have a separate change table and a friend passed on her changing mat (a Cooshee Changer). I really like it as it is very easy to clean and it is temperature neutral (not cold, just room temperature). I like that there is no extra laundry if she goes pee or poo on the change mat. The dresser is quite large so has lots of space inside the top drawer for all the diaper supplies. With a large dresser and wanting to change her diaper by looking straight at her (meaning by standing at her feet, not at her side), this necessitated where we would place it in the room. The diaper pail (a plastic garbage bin with a washable pail liner) was beside the dresser until A started pulling up on it, opening it up, and taking out all her dirty diapers. It quickly got moved into the closet. Her dirty laundry basket is also in the closet. There are some clean-up jobs that would be beyond my daily patience level so I keep them out of her reach.
I chose to keep the changing area quite minimal in decoration so that nothing would distract A. during a diaper change. I know it is most common to distract a child with mobiles and other toys during a diaper change but I chose to not distract her but involve her in the diaper/clothing change as I wrote about in “Time for a Diaper Change.”
Feeding Chair & Side Table
My husband really wanted a rocking chair/glider for the nursery. I insisted upon a stationary chair so that eating would be about eating and comfort activities like rocking would be separate. Christie did a lovely write-up of why in “Setting up the Home: The Bedroom.” I wanted to find a chair with a higher back but couldn’t find one that I wanted within my price range. I settled for this one from IKEA that had a matching ottoman. A higher back chair would have been nice for those late nights when I slept in the chair.
I really wanted an ottoman so that when she reached the stage of pulling up and cruising she would be able to do so. The ottoman provides a different opportunity for cruising than along a couch or the bar as the child needs to go around an object, so learns to move their feet in a different manner. A. has now begun doing so and I find it fascinating that her first cruising steps have been around objects, not along objects in a lateral movement. I am also really glad I had an ottoman to rest my feet as this has been a very comfortable position for me to feed A. When I used a nursing pillow, the ottoman was the perfect place to lean the pillow on so that it was always handy.
A side table has been essential for me. I always keep at least one water bottle ready on it, her Vitamin D drops, and some snacks inside the drawer. During the early days of breastfeeding I would pack a special middle of the night snack before I went to bed each night as I was so hungry at 2am. In the early days I kept meticulous records of her feeds so a side table was essential to have this paper and pen handy.
One of the unique aspects of where I placed my nursing chair was so that it looked outside. Most often I see nursing chairs stuck in a corner of a room (for good reason, they are rather dominant in a baby’s room) but I wanted mine to face the room and the outdoors. I have really enjoyed this as I connect to the outdoors and enjoy seeing and listening to children playing at the playground. I also chose to hang some pictures that were beautiful and inspiring to me. I have spent many, many hours in this chair so I am glad that I took the time to find something comfortable and created a beautiful space for me to enjoy.
The Play Area
We have our main play area, or movement area (I’ll share in a separate post), in our living room so the bedroom only has a few items. When A. was a newborn I placed the topponcino on the carpet and as she got older I placed a small quilt on the floor. Both of these were what I used as a “movement mat” or play mat when we were out and about. Once A. was crawling around I removed the quilt. I chose a small toy shelf for her room and have a matching one in the living room. The toy shelf is low making it easy for her to choose her own toys and low so that she can pull up on it. The toy shelf only had a few grasping materials for a very long time. This was convenient for quickly packing a few in the diaper bag when going out. Now that A. is crawling around and plays in her room a bit more I have more toys on the shelf. These are different than the toys she has in the living room. She loved to play her maraca whenever she woke up from a nap and so I just decided to put all her musical instruments in her bedroom. As I mentioned, the ottoman is part of her play materials. The side table has also been part of her play area as she loves to open/close the drawer.
Until she was about 5 months I just didn’t get around to putting pictures on the wall at her level. I finally did so only to have her begin to crawl around and pull them off the walls within a few months. It has been a struggle to keep the pictures on the wall. I have rotated the pictures a few times, always choosing a single animal or type of flower on a white background. I just printed off some photos from the internet to keep it simple for me, although I know there are better quality available. The name sign was a gift, as was the hanging, pull-toy soldier.
Pulling it All Together
I don’t feel I have one of those gorgeous baby rooms filled with gorgeous little details that I handmade (I really love all those rooms). I just want to show you the essential elements to consider when setting up your baby’s room. We really kept her room simple. We didn’t paint it. We decorated with a few pictures and items we already had or were given (with the exception of a few IKEA frames for her pictures and my pictures). We purchased only the furniture we didn’t already have. I didn’t even have it all together when she arrived. We did choose a bedroom set that was gender neutral, soft in colour, had natural elements, and was playful. We used what we had and we filled it with gifts of love from friends and family. Our Montessori trainer, ChaCha, always wanted Montessori principles to be accessible to all. The actual elements are up to you. Just ensure that the whole room is safe for exploration. Most importantly, I love it! It is a calm, beautiful, functional place that both A. and I enjoy.
The koala was made for me as a child by my grandfather so it is really nice to have a part of his love in A.’s room as he passed away years ago. We chose to place it at her level so she can enjoy the tactile experience of the yarn and see it clearly. She loves it! It is also strategically placed for when she is older and begins to open the door on her dresser not so smoothly and the door handle will hit the soft koala and not damage the wall.
With low pictures in her play area and pictures up high in the feeding area and changing area, I wanted something to tie it all together from child eye level to adult eye level. The tree wall clings were perfect! It fit in with the room theme, were affordable, and easy to put up. While I had visions of painting natural elements such as the tree, grass, etc. on her wall, my reality is far from that and I am really happy with the wall clings.
When A. was a newborn my husband and I decided forgo a baby shower and have a “Welcome A. Party” with all our friends. Everyone wrote a blessing for A. on a tag and hung it on her “blessings tree” After the party I didn’t know what to do with it as I loved it too much to pack it away, so I stuck it in the corner of her room and I absolutely love it! I’ll read her some blessings before bedtime or I’ll read them to myself while I nurse her (and to her after she finishes eating). The blessings bring so much love into the room.
Developing a strong bond with my daughter is very important to me. While I shared with you the importance of allowing babies to develop independence in this post, time together is also very important. Rubi’s post on language development stimulated me to share with you an important part of fostering that strong bond: changing her diaper. Rubi shared that times of caring for your child’s physical needs, such as bathing, can be times for language development. These can also be strong moments of togetherness for you and your child.
According to Dr. Silvana Montanaro, there are 3 aspects of togetherness that are important in the mother-child bond: holding, handling, and feeding. By handling she is referring to when we care for the infant’s physical needs such as changing a diaper, dressing, or bathing. While she specifically refers to maternal care in her book, the same principle applies for all adults who interact with a baby. Perhaps it seems odd that changing my daughter’s diaper is one of the most important ways I have fostered our bond but it is an important time of togetherness for us.
Too many parents and adults still miss this point and handle a child solely with the aim of accomplishing, as soon as possible, the more obvious, physical tasks: changing, dressing, bathing, etc. The parents may be well-trained, efficient and capable of doing good work but they fail to use this time to have an encounter. To use it as an occasion for meeting and expressing feelings. There is not much personal involvement, because the idea is solely to accomplish an unemotional routine. ~Dr. Silvana Montanaro, Understanding the Human Being
Speaking with a friend she boasted about her infant’s bottom never seeing the light of day as she could change a diaper so quickly. Many adults approach changing a diaper with disdain, they keep “score” between mom & dad, desperately try to distract the infant from what is happening to them, or assign a lack of importance to it saying to their child “you can go back to playing soon” and thinking for themselves what they would rather be doing.
So we tend to do these routines quickly instead of slowly. We tend to avoid the movements instead of repeating then in order to let the child try to understand what is happening. What we should do is to explain our actions to the infant, in a simple and short way, touch the different parts of his body gently, name them and ask him to collaborate with us. This collaboration can begin from the moment of birth, but it requires a little more time and the basic trust of the child, who is an intelligent human being, eager to interact with us. Only when we become able to give maternal care with the child’s collaboration are we really doing things “with the child” and not “to the child.” ~Dr. Silvana Montanaro, Understanding the Human Being
When A. finishes one activity and I am not interrupting her (often after she finishes eating), I’ll sing a little ditty “Time for a diaper change, time for a diaper change, time for a diaper, diaper change.” I wait for her to respond to me. She gets a smile on her face and I tell her “Up you get” as I pick her up. (I always try to tell her what I am doing to her, even simple things like picking her up) Recently she has started stretching out her arms for me. As I carry her to the change table I might continue singing the ditty or talk to her about what she was just doing. I tell her, “Down you go” or “Lay down” as I lay her down on the change table so that I am directly facing her and she can properly see me while we connect. “Let’s take off your pants,” I say as I take off her pants. This “let’s” begins the routine of doing it together and not doing things to her. “Undo your onesie,” as I unsnap her fitted bodysuit. “Let’s see what’s inside,” as I unsnap/undo her diaper. “Oh it’s a poop” and really try not to make a disgusted face or sound if the smell is bad or the poo is quite large, although I may acknowledge “Oh my, it’s a big one!” Or I’ll say “Just a pee” depending on what the occasion calls for. She lifts her bottom for me to wipe. I take out a wipe and tell her “wipe, wipe, wipe” as I do so.
I put a clean dry cloth under her bottom and pick her up “Time to use the potty.” I place her on her potty and give her some time. Sometimes I just let her be, sometimes I sing another ditty “she goes pee pee in the potty, pee pee in the potty, pee pee in the potty: A!”, sometimes I’ll use the toilet to model for her, and sometimes I’ll use the cue sound we used when we started doing EC (Elimination Communcation) with “psssss.” After a short period of time I’ll give her a pat/wipe dry with the cloth (if she urinated) and carry her back to the change table.
“Down you go” as I lay her down. “Let’s put on a clean, dry diaper” as I choose which diaper to put on. (We use cloth diapers but during this photo shoot we had to temporarily switch to disposables) Sometimes she will lay there watching me and listening to me, and sometimes she will roll over and now sometimes sit up. I keep a hand gently on her for safety and talk to her about the diaper I’m choosing, “It’s your pretty, pink diaper. You look so beautiful in this shade of pink.” If she is on her stomach or sitting up I lay her down again, “You need to lie down so I can put your diaper on.” Sometimes she is squirmy and sometimes she lays there watching me. I talk to her as I put on her diaper, “This diaper matches the pink sweater you’re wearing today. Your great-grandma made that sweater. Let’s do up the snaps on your diaper: ooonnne, twwooo.”
Usually she watches me as I talk to her and she coos back but sometimes she is very squirmy. She is often very squirmy if she has just reached a new stage of development, such as now when she often tries to climb off of the change table. If she is very squirmy I place my hand on her stomach and lean right over to place my face very close to her face to focus on our connection. “A., I need to put your diaper on now. I love you very much.” Sometimes I kiss her tummy and this usually puts a smile on her face and helps to reconnect her to what we’re doing and remind her that this is our time together. “Time to put your pants back on.” She sticks out her leg, “One leg. The other leg.” (or right leg and left leg if I’m really on the ball) “We’re all done” as I pick her up and give her a cuddle.
Does this take a long time? You bet it does! It is an important relationship to spend time on. Do I honestly say all this absolutely every time? No. Sometimes my mind is elsewhere or I’m so tired, but by talking to her like this for the majority of diaper changes I usually realize when I’ve gone silent and snap out of it. I certainly wouldn’t want you to think this is an exact script to follow as it is important your bonding come from your heart. Do I call my husband to change diapers? Of course. I really enjoy listening to him interact with our daughter during diaper changes.
Why did I just spend so long writing about changing a diaper? Changing a diaper, dressing/undressing, and bathing are very important parts of living life together with a baby. For adults we enjoy spending time together talking, sharing a meal, going for a walk, or reconnecting at the end of our work days. This is what living life together means for adults. For a baby these moments of “handling” are often over-looked as important times to bond with a baby and for language development. In reality, diaper changes is what living life together means for an adult and baby. I encourage you to re-think how you approach that next diaper change, outfit change, or bath to really connect with your child.
What is a good social life if not the joy of passing the time with others, accepting them in our environment, talking and smiling together and sharing each other’s company and activities? In a sense, we invited the child to our house when we decided to give it life and he must feel how glad we are to have him with us. “Handling” in maternal care is the right moment for a happy social interaction that teaches the child the great benefits of social life. ~Dr. Silvana Montanaro, Understanding the Human Being
The boys turned 6 months last week and it is amazing to think that they have been a part of our lives for half a year! Time flies and I love that we are able to document their development on this great blog, sharing our routines and methods with those people out there who are curious as to how things are done the Montessori way. My hope is that from reading our personal stories, you may in some manner feel more comfortable incorporating even a little bit of this theory into raising your children!
Photo by Felicia Chang: www.feliciachangphotography.com
I would like to continue on from one of my previous posts on setting up the home and this time let’s talk about preparing the child’s bedroom. Please keep in mind that the fundamental principles incorporated are as a result of my AMI Montessori training, however some slight adjustments were made based on space and the logistics of having twins (and some personal choices).
I was so excited to start setting up the room as we had painted it a beautiful yellow colour and just got new carpet laid (part of our ongoing house renovations). The room had two large windows which let in lovely light, however I had become obsessed with finding black out curtains in order to aid the boys in healthy sleep habits! I ended up hanging blinds (so we could have them closed and the room would still remain bright during the day naps) and black out curtains on top, purchased from Canadian Tire. We had them shortened as I knew the boys would be spending a lot of time on the floor in their room and I wanted it to be safe for them. I was also focused on having the room pitch black at night so I attached industrial Velcro to the bottom of the curtains (and the underside of the window sill) and Velcro them shut before bedtime every night. Seems like a bit much, I know, however R and P are great sleepers and I believe all these factors add up!
I knew that the room had to be flexible and practical, and that it would change based on the boys’ developmental level. The first stage was to prepare the environment for a child from birth to 5 months. After this time, certain key factors needed to change due to the introduction of solid foods and the child’s development of movement.
There are 4 key areas to keep in mind when setting up the child’s room for this age:
Area for Movement:
As discussed in my previous post, we chose to place the movement mat, mirror, and low shelf out in the family area as opposed to in the bedroom (as it is suggested in our training). This is generally where they spend all their awake and alert time, however we have a lovely sheepskin on the floor in their bedroom where I place them as I change or dress the other one on the changing table. Because they are both not officially crawling yet (rolling and slithering don’t count) I have not had to think too much about setting up some toys for them to play with in their room. I am sure it will happen before I know it and I will need to adjust their room accordingly.
Area for Changing:
When we are changing or dressing our child, it is such a wonderful time to engage with him/her. We are typically fully present and close to our child’s face to participate in a conversation and provide a lot of eye contact. We recommend not hanging mobiles over the changing table (as sometimes done) because we want this time to be special between the adult and the child. In my case, we have a double dresser which we have turned into a double changing table. So when there is an extra set of hands, both boys can be changed simultaneously. I find changing/dressing to be quite enjoyable as it gives me some one on one time with each baby. We are able to have at least a few minutes gazing into each other’s eyes, having a conversation, completely uninterrupted.
Area for Feeding:
Carrie wrote a lovely post about the relationship of feeding your child and it starts by creating a space in their bedroom that meets everyone’s needs. You need a comfortable chair, nursing pillow (double in my case), a place to put your burp cloths and water, and a foot stool. In our training it is suggested to have a non-rocking chair as when you are feeding your child you are focusing on one thing and it is an active experience. The rocking motion of course lulls the child off to sleep (which you may choose to do) and I chose to separate the two experiences for the boys. In the beginning we were focused on getting their weight up so I had to work very hard to keep them awake while I nursed. I remember having to blow softly on them, tickle their feet, rub their heads…anything to keep them sucking! That definitely changed around 2 months (once out of the Symbiotic Period) as I began to put a routine in place which had R and P eating right after they woke up (bedtime is an exception).
Area for Sleeping:
When I tell people about how I have set up an area for movement with a mat on the floor and low mirror, they look at me with great interest and ask more questions. However, when I tell people that I use low beds instead of cribs, they look at me like I have lobsters crawling out of my ears! It is ‘against the grain’ and quite hard for people to accept but I hope that at least one of you reading this will have the courage to try it with your own child. We don’t claim that this is a fail-safe method. Rather, you will come across some challenges (like when your child starts rolling and crawling) however the hope is that the principles that you are instilling in your child from such an early age (independence, respect, confidence, good self-esteem, healthy sleeping habits) will make it all worth it!
For the first few months we have the child sleep in a bassinet, and then transition him/her to sleep on the low bed. In our case, we kept the two bassinets in our room until the boys started sleeping longer stretches at night (which was the best thing in the world at that time). This happened around 3 months, which was pretty much when they started hitting the sides of their bassinets so I knew it was time to make the transition. I had them sleep for one week in their bassinets on top of their low beds in order to create a point of reference for them in their bedroom. Then, it was time to make the switch! I was so nervous that first night and barely slept. I have a video monitor set up so I spent a good deal of night checking it. And guess what? They survived!
It was a seamless transition and all was good…..until they started rolling. The day P learned to roll I was woken up that night to a “Thump. Waaaaaa!” And P had rolled off his bed and was stuck between his and R’s mattress. Back to sleepless nights for me! This happened a couple more times before I decided to add a pool noodle under the edge of the fitted sheet so it would bumper my rolling children. And sleep was good again. So, I have made a small adjustment to what we learned in our training and I will reassess once the boys start crawling. I want them to be able to get on and off of their low beds and believe that the bumper won’t hinder this (not very high) but only time will tell.
So, in closing, I also have to keep in mind that their environment (and me) must remain flexible and practical. I love spending time in R and P’s room and believe they do as well. When I put them to nap, or when they wake from their naps they have the chance to look around at their space without the restriction of bars. Both boys have pictures above their beds of our family which I find them observing, or they like to stare at the wall decals. I enjoy watching them take their time looking and learning from their surroundings!
Please feel free to ask questions about any part of this set-up or the routine. I had also previously written an article here: http://mariamontessori.com/mm/?p=921 about the benefits of using a floor bed instead of a crib.
Until next time!
“During his first year, before communication with words is possible, a baby’s only hope of summoning help is to let out a piecing cry. Cry is an ancient alarm call that humans share with many other animals, and it produces a powerful parental response. Amazing baby, Desmond Morris, page, 107
Before babies are able to produce meaningful words they produce different sounds (speech) and find different ways to communicate their needs, wants and feelings. They communicate through crying, bubbling, smiling or body language (movement), etc. F was very determined to communicate from day one and didn’t stop until her needs were met. When she was born she let us know (as every new born does) with different types of cries that she was uncomfortable, overwhelmed, tired, bored, frustrated, lonely and hungry. It took me a long time to identify all the different types of cries, but now I am able to identify when she is in pain, hungry, frustrated, tired, etc. through the different sounds that she emits.
Language as well as movement is a crucial milestone in a baby’s development. It is important to talk to our babies in a respectful, rich, and clear way in order to help them in this process of communication. Language has to be present at all times; it also has to have a correlation with our actions and emotions so the child can be coherent when using language later on in life (means what he or she feels or says).
What is Speech and what is Language? A definition of these two words is given by Patricia McAleer a Language and Speech Therapist.
“Speech refers to the sounds that come out of our mouth and take shape in the form of words” Childhood Speech, Language and Listening Problems, Patricia McAleer Hamaguchi, page 8
“Language refers to the content of what is spoken, written, read, or understood. Language can also be gestural, as when we use body language or sign language. It is categorized into two areas: receptive and expressive” Childhood Speech, Language and Listening Problems, Patricia McAleer Hamaguchi, page 9
Language and physical care
A newborn’s vision is not very developed, yet, he or she has a very strong point of reference, his/her mother’s (father’s) voice which allows him/her to feel secure in this world during the first days of his/her life. While in the bath, hearing mine and her dad’s voice, , was the only way to get F to calm down and relax. Long before the child is able to speak or express him or herself he/she is capable of understanding. From the beginning I began to describe the actions I was performing to her e.g. I am undressing you because I am going to give you a bath (I talk to my daughter in Spanish since it is my mother tongue). In fact our best moments were at the change table, when she would look at my face while I talked to her for a long time, even after she was all dressed I would continue talking to her.
I didn’t do all that talking just because I like to talk a lot, I did it because I strongly believe that she was absorbing all that knowledge even though she wasn’t able to express it at that early stage. Now I am rewarded every time I talk to her and she shows clearly that she understands what I am saying to her for example when I say: I am going to rinse off your hair, please put your head back then she moves her head back or when I say: I am going to brush your hair; she tilts her head forward (most of the time when she is not too busy crawling around). When I say: It is time to change your diaper; she cries or crawls away because she doesn’t like to get her diaper changed.
Language and the environment
The environment is a rich tool to help our children develop language, since we can relate the words with the objects this helps the child associate complex words with concrete objects. Every time we walk around the house and F wants me to carry her I take advantage of this situation to name things that she cannot see when she is crawling or on the floor playing e.g. “Look, that is a rectangular mirror” or “Mom is opening the fridge, what do we have in here?” etc. Always taking my time to allow her to absorb what I am saying. When possible I allow her to touch the objects that I am naming, sometimes she smiles, sometimes she just stares at the objects for a long time. Now that she is repeating all kinds of sounds it is interesting to hear very accurate imitations of real words, such as gracias (tastas) Zeus (oosh) our dog’s name. mas (ma) more in Spanish.
Language, books and music
Music and books are very important for language development. There are many elements in music that are involved in language such as rhythm, tone. We sing to our daughter all the time, in fact when we are in the car and she is bored, lonely or tired we sing to her and she either sings back (makes sounds) or falls asleep. She absolutely loves musical instruments. It is interesting to see that she engages and plays them for a long time. Her favorite instruments now are the triangle and the xylophone.
Books are very important for language development (please read Christie’s blog post for reference of how to choose books for young children) since they provide a rich vocabulary and the images allow babies to associate words and objects. F loves looking at books, paintings and magazines. When she was 3 months old she loved to stare at our big Mexican painting full of red, green and many other vibrant colors. Now she points at the picture as l name the objects for her. She still loves it except that now she makes different sounds when she looks at it.
When choosing books for F I make sure that they have stories about family life, books with language that has a special rhyme, rhythm and poetry, and books that allow her to experience nature.
“Babies need someone to interact with them and encourage then in a loving way…..A baby needs to be actively engaged with people in order for the communication experience to be meaningful,….. The receptors in a child’s brain need to be stimulated, particularly during the early learning years. These receptors are stimulated when the child is touched, spoken to, and shown pictures, objects, places, and people. Without proper nurturing a child may experience learning delays, or speech, language, or listening disorders.” Childhood Speech, Language and Listening Problems, Patricia McAleer Hamaguchi, pages.11-12.
As Dr. Montessori stated in her book The Absorbent Mind “Man himself must become the center of education and we must never forget that man does not develop only at university, but begins his mental growth at birth, and pursues it with the greatest intensity during the first three years of life.”