Category Archives: 6-12 Months

Setting up the Home: The Bedroom

By Christie

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!

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

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Filed under 0-3 Months, 3-6 Months, 6-12 Months, Bedroom, Christie

Communicating with Your Baby

By Rubi

“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.”

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Filed under 0-3 Months, 3-6 Months, 6-12 Months, Language, Rubi

Developing Concentration and Independent Play

By Carrie

  • A small toy shelf with a few carefully chosen, good quality toys
  • A place to play where child can do so without interruption and without having to block out other noise or activity going on
  • Time to play

Doesn’t seem too difficult does it?  Except that it is.  Our homes are filled with music, TV, and bustling activity.  We need to get started on the next activity, go to our next appointment, or meet up with a friend.  Which toys should we choose?  If we do know, the desire to offer more amazing toys often grips us.  The list goes on of why simplicity is difficult to achieve.

It starts with being intentional about respecting your child’s developing concentration before your baby arrives.

It’s fun planning for the baby to arrive.  A whole new world of enticing and fun baby products!  Most seasoned parents will tell you that you don’t need half of it.  I encourage you to think about what your child doesn’t need, and to take this further, what harms his/her developing concentration.  What will that brightly coloured play mat or flashing toy bring to your baby’s world?  Bright colours are often marketed to stimulate babies but too many bright colours can be too much stimulation.  A plain, solid coloured play mat will serve the function perfectly (a blanket that you already own will work).  Even a pattern, although beautiful, can be distracting and over stimulating.  With a plain mat the baby will be able to focus on the toy you choose rather than the mat.  We chose to get a solid coloured fitted sheet over a mattress topper.  A flashing toy to give your child feedback of their actions?  A pot with a wooden spoon will also give your child feedback of their actions.  A rattle where the child can see the bell that is making the sound is another example.  The child will be able to see the cause and effect, whereas with a toy with batteries, the child is unable to make the connection as they don’t physically make it happen with their muscles and they are unable to see it.  For a toy hanger we purchased an inexpensive wooden one from Ikea and removed the brightly coloured discs on the sides.

The fun of setting up a place for the baby to play is also important.  Background music or TV is pretty much standard these days that we don’t even think about it, but to a baby it is another activity.  We chose to move the TV to another room (much to my husband’s dislike as it is difficult to change our habits, but our daughter’s developing needs come before our habitual desires).  We chose to not listen to music all day long, only at certain times of the day and sometimes I don’t offer her toys, only music to listen to.  Baby nurseries are often brightly coloured rooms and children’s play spaces are often filled with multiple pictures covering the walls or huge toy shelves.  It is important to keep the colour of the walls a calming colour and to limit the pictures on the walls.  These pictures can be rotated.  Set up a quiet, calm place to play.  A small toy shelf with only a few toys will sustain your child’s attention much longer than a huge toy shelf filled with many, many toys.  Again, these toys can be rotated.  Here is a wonderful article on “Toys for Children: Less is More.”

When your baby is starting to have awake and alert times that last longer than a feeding session and time to gaze into your eyes before falling asleep again, then you can begin to offer time to play.  Offer a place that your baby can do so independently while you do something for yourself (like most new moms it revolves around eating and actually showering).  It is important that you establish playtime for your child to do something on his/her own.  Sometimes your child will want you to be near to him/her and other times you can be in the other room.  When your baby is finished, he/she will let you know.  If you need to remove your baby from this before he/she is ready, it is important to wait until your baby has finished focusing on whatever he/she is doing.  If your baby is busy engaged with a toy or looking intently at something: WAIT.  Although A. can stay engaged with one activity for a long time, when I go over to her she will usually look up at me in a few minutes.  I choose to respect her developing concentration and wait until she stops and looks up at me.  Very rarely will I be in a situation where I simply cannot wait a few moments.  It does happen  though and in those rare situations, I acknowledge and apologize to her: “I know you are focused on looking at the picture but we really have to get going now.  I’m sorry to disturb you.”)

When you place your baby in the play area, offer only one activity.  Offer only one picture (on the wall or in a book) to look at.  Or offer one mobile to gaze at.  Or offer one toy to play with.  Or offer music to listen.  All of these are examples of one activity at a time.  Babies are unable to take things in quickly so they need time to process.  If we offer too much stimulation at one time, the baby cannot distinguish what is important to take in, and takes in all of it.  It ends up not being clear for the child and feels like a jumbled mess.  TV has so many quickly changing images and sounds that a baby simply cannot process it.  The child may become overwhelmed and cry.  Or the child quietly shuts down and doesn’t take it in as there is just too much.  With too much stimulation, the baby is unable to take in the good opportunities to learn and develop.  As A. gained the ability to move towards a toy she wanted, I began offering her a choice between two toys.  She would move to one, explore it briefly, then move to the other toy and explore it briefly.  She would then settle on one toy and contentedly play with it, eventually going back to the other toy and then playing with it contentedly.  Thinking that it would sustain her longer if I offered three toys, I did so but consistently she would bounce between the three toys, not staying with any of them for a decent length of time.  I went back to offering only two toys and watched her determination and concentration increase as she engaged her muscles to reach for and play with the toys, one at a time.

While my experience has only been with A. (who is currently 7.5 months), I think all this preparation and simple steps to carry it through has worked quite well.  A friend recently commented on how independent A. is.   She often likes to be able to see me but doesn’t need me to provide her with new activities.  She will look around for me (and I can be engaged in my own activity) and then she goes back to playing independently, discovering something new about the toy or moving her body in a new way.  Some days she is fussy and wants more of my attention.  I do spend those days reading more stories to her, singing to her, and giving her more cuddles or putting her in a baby carrier if I need to get something done.  As she gets older, these days/moments are less and less.  She will often play independently for at least an hour, concentrating on playing with the toy, the movement of her body, listening to the sounds, or looking at something.  I just let her play.  Another friend whose daughter also has great independent play said it feels like lazy parenting.  Personally I don’t feel lazy.  I feel that I am watching her, delighting in her as she is given the space, time and respect to concentrate and develop at her own pace.

Last words: cleaning up.  Once A. has finished playing with a toy or it is time to move onto the next activity (such as nap time), I put the toy away with her present.  Now that she is moving around and getting into many toys, I let her take out whatever toys she wants and then when it is nap time I let her watch me put away the toys (even if she is cranky and crying).  I hope this helps her learn to put away toys when she is finished with them.

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Filed under 0-3 Months, 3-6 Months, 6-12 Months, Carrie, Independence, Play Area/Toys, Relationships

Books for Babies

By Christie

When we think about what books are best for children under three, we need to keep in mind their developmental level.

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These children are in the process of adaptation, which means they are learning how to relate and become a part of the world that they see around them.  Children between birth and three possess what Dr. Montessori termed an unconscious absorbent mind, meaning they will pick up every single detail of their surroundings without any preconceived ideas or judgement.  Because of this, the books that the child looks at need to represent this reality.  The books need to do with the life of the child and be culturally appropriate.  It is important that the images in the books are based in reality and if possible not have images of things that don’t really exist like smiling or talking animals.  This characteristic is very hard to find as the majority of children’s books possess friendly looking creatures that are generally smiling and/or talking.  There is definitely a time in the child’s life where these make-believe books are encouraged, it is just not for the child who is under three years old.

 

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The first books that we introduce to the children are books with one object per page.  Then, they slowly increase in content to include one object with the name per page, then two objects with names per page, etc.  The process continues to more objects with a short text (ex. Today is my birthday.  I will have a party.).  The pictures in the books move from real images to drawings, however they still need to be realistic.

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At home or in the classroom it is important to have a small selection of books out at one time (ex. 4-8 books).  These can be on a little bookshelf for the child to access.  It is recommended to rotate the books every week or two from your larger selection.  Show your child how to manipulate the book and turn the pages.  If you handle books with respect and model this for the child, he/she will do so as well.

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Here is a selection of books that I have in my classroom (and at home) which generally fit this criteria:

Real Pictures:

Baby Basics – Animals                                                 www.priddybooks.com

Trucks – Bright Baby                                                   www.priddybooks.com

Animals – Early Learning Fun                                  www.priddybooks.com

Things That Go – Early Learning Fun                   www.priddybooks.com

Words – Early Learning Fun                                     www.priddybooks.com

Baby Faces Board Book – Smile!                                Grobel Intrater

Families – Babies Everywhere                                     Star Bright Books

Carry Me – Babies Everywhere                                  Star Bright Books

Eating the Rainbow – Babies Everywhere             Star Bright Books

Cuddle – Happy Healthy Baby                                  www.freespirit.com

Move – Happy Healthy Baby                                     www.freespirit.com

Hands Can                                                                   Hudson, Cheryl Willis Bourke

Sizes – DK Flaptastic                                                      www.dk.com

Cuddly Animals – DK Touch and Feel                    www.dk.com

Christmas – DK Touch and Feel                                www.dk.com

Welcome Song for Baby                                             Richard Van Camp

Wild Animals – Amazing Animals                           Vision St. Publishing

Sea Creatures – Amazing Animals                          Vision St. Publishing

Emergency – Mighty Movers                                    Vision St. Publishing

Diggers and Dumpers – Mighty Movers               Vision St. Publishing

Baby’s First Word Book                                               Nicola Baxter

Maybe My Baby                                                               Irene O’Book

First 100 Things That Go                                             Make Believe Ideas Ltd.

Things That Grow                                                           Snapshot Books

In the Wild – Baby Animals                                        Kingfisher Publications

On the Farm – Baby Animals                                      Kingfisher Publications

Illustrated Pictures:

Bathtime for Twins                                                     Ellen Weiss

Playtime for Twins                                                      Ellen Weiss

Everywhere Babies                                                     Susan Meyers

Mini Masters Artist Series                                       Julie Merberg and Suzanne

Good Night Our World Series                                David J. Adams and Anne Rosen

Big Red Barn                                                                 Margaret Wise Brown

Baby Animals                                                               Gyo Fujikawa

In My Tree (Pond/Den/Ocean/etc)                  Sara Gillingham & Lorena S

Wiggle! March! – Indestructibles                       Kaaren Pixton

Little Helpers                                                               Innovative Kids

Poems to read to the very young                        Eloise Wilkin

How Do I Love You?                                                Marion Dane Bauer

The Garden – First Words                                     Flying Frog Publishing

Food – First Words                                                   Flying Frog Publishing

Baby Beluga                                                                  Raffi

Machines At Work                                                     Byron Barton

Who Lives Here?                                                        Paula Croyle

 

Look forward to having you add to the list!

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Filed under 0-3 Months, 3-6 Months, 6-12 Months, Christie, Language

The Relationship of Feeding

By Carrie

I settle into my nursing chair, breast-feeding pillow comfortably on my lap, feet up on the ottoman and lay A. down on the pillow.  “Would you like some mommy milk?”  She eagerly begins to nurse then looks up at me with her big blue eyes and reaches her hand up for mine.  The love hormones wash over me in this moment.  It is wonderful!   This is what I waited for. 

Prior to A.’s birth I did a lot of preparation, especially when it came to breastfeeding.  My husband and I attended a prenatal class that had a session devoted specifically to breastfeeding, we attended our local community breastfeeding class, I read this book on breastfeeding, and I observed (during  our required hours of observation for our training) many women breastfeeding to know a proper latch.  Having a few friends who were unable to breastfeed (due to different circumstances), I knew that despite the preparation I did, breastfeeding itself might not work out.  So while my preparation helped me to feel ready for the mechanics of breastfeeding, my Montessori training had prepared me to focus on the relationship with my daughter during feeding, breast or bottle. 

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“the child will receive not only the food to satisfy his hunger but also the loving presence of the mother.  He will be offered information as to how to fill an empty stomach and how to enjoy a human relationship with its many sensory inputs (such as a face to observe, a voice to listen to, the warmth of bodily contact), which become food for the mind.”  ~ Dr. Silvana Montanaro, Understanding the Human Being

It was important to me to focus on the relationship with my daughter that would unfold as I fed her.  While I feel that breast milk is the best food for an infant, breastfeeding is not about the food itself.  Feeding her was also about nourishing her psychological needs.  Feeding my daughter provided me an opportunity to bond with her that no other situation would offer us.  It is an intimate time for the two of us to share.

During her first few weeks I fed her skin to skin as we got to know one another.  She was able to get to know my smell, be close to my familiar heartbeat that she heard while in-utero, feel my warmth, and be close to hear my voice.  We were able to examine each other’s faces, staring into the eyes we had been waiting to meet for nine months.  The first couple of months, the symbiotic period, was an essential time in our relationship to bond with each other.  By the end of the symbiotic period, I knew we had a strong, trusting, loving bond together and attribute much to our time spent as I nursed her. 

Holding Quote If the child is deprived of a mother who is fully present while eating, he/she will not be able to gain a full understanding of a relationship with another human being.  The relationship with the mother is the child’s first relationship and it sets the stage for all other relationships.  If all we offer is food and not our full attention, our full love, our desire to get to know this other human being – then relationship will only have empty meaning to a child.  Relationship will be about the mechanics, not the warmth of intimacy. 

“the nursing mother should be comfortably seated in a quiet place and feed the child while looking at it.  Although it is technically possible to offer the breast and read a book, talk to someone or watch television, we must realize that, in this way, we detach psychological nourishment from biological feeding.”  ~Dr. Silvana Montanaro, Understanding the Human Being

Those first few months with A. were so special.  I was so excited to be a new mother that I fully devoted my attention to A. while feeding her. I was present with her in mind, body, and soul.  But then came the book with the information I was craving to get through a challenging part of motherhood and I couldn’t put the book down.  And the text that came flashing in so I continued the conversation while feeding A.  I checked my e-mail in the morning to ensure there were no pressing matters to deal with for my school.  I justified this thinking “she’s so focused on eating, she’s not paying attention to me”, “it’s just for a moment, then I’ll turn my attention back to her”, and thinking that other things were more important than spending quality, uninterrupted time with my daughter while feeding her.  I hesitated to write this post as I don’t want to be hypocritical.  But having the intellectual knowledge, the emotional understanding and desire to do things, and carrying it out in reality can sometimes be very challenging.

A few months ago A.’s weight gain was minimal, not in a concerning manner but in a ‘let’s keep an eye on it’ manner.  I immediately went into protective mommy role: “Am I doing all that I can to provide for my daughter?”  I thought back to the hormones involved in breastfeeding.  I thought that perhaps if I wasn’t fully engaged in the moment with A., how could my body be deeply connecting to this experience?  I took the books away from my nursing side table.  I stopped bringing my phone to the nursing chair.  I remembered to be fully in the moment with A.  I started holding her with both hands to be more engaged with her while she ate.  I let our eyes deeply meet again throughout the entire feed.  I don’t know if this made a difference to her weight gain, but it helped me re-focus on all of A.’s needs: food for physical development and my loving, fully-engaged presence for her psychological development.

While I still sometimes struggle to not bring the phone with me to text or check e-mails, I definitely limit it while I did not a few months ago.  I try to keep in mind how it feels when someone I sit down to share a meal with pulls out their phone and ignores me.  “I thought we had an important date.”  I feel hurt.  I do not want my daughter to feel this way.  No matter how many times a day I feed her, or for long, I need to bring my full attention, full acceptance, full love to that important time with her.  I recently read this article that specifically focuses on the negative effects of texting while breastfeeding.  It reminded me of a correlation I made during my training.  The images of mothers suffering from depression and unable to connect to their baby (who was desperately trying to get the mother’s attention) looked a lot like the mothers who were watching TV, talking to a friend, or on the phone while breastfeeding.  In both cases the mother was not engaged with her infant.  While suffering from depression is not a choice (and I do hope anyone who is suffering from this is able to recognize it and get the help they need), feeding a baby while texting, reading, watching TV, talking to others, etc. is a choice.  I need to make the choice to be fully with my daughter when nursing her.  I can choose to engage with others or read my book afterwards.  I can quickly check my e-mails prior to feeding her so I won’t be mentally distracted.  Our Montessori trainer, Chacha, said “The child does not need the perfect adult, but an adult who is willing to become a better human being.”  I know that I only have one child and those with multiple children have an additional challenge to stay fully engaged with their infant.  A friend with multiple children said to me, “With my third, nursing was the only time I was able to fully focus on her.”

bottle-feeding

A special note regarding bottle feeding.  The question arose during our prenatal class for myself who was worried that I would not be able to breastfeed and for those that were choosing not to breastfeed: Is it possible to have the same psychological connection with your baby using a bottle?  Our instructor was wonderful in encouraging us to simulate many of the same scenarios.  Feed your newborn with skin-to-skin contact.  Have the mother exclusively feed the newborn for the first couple of months (symbiotic period) to establish their relationship (or at least limit others feeding the newborn during this time period).  Hold the baby in a similar manner to breastfeeding, switching sides for each bottle feeding.  Set aside all distractions so you can focus on your newborn.  If the father or other caregivers are feeding then it is important that they too spend uninterrupted, focused time with the baby while feeding.  The relationship of feeding can be deep, wonderful, and intimate if you bottle feed or breastfeed. 

“When we hold a child, we must understand that a special life project is in our arms awaiting our assistance in order to develop fully. … Proper “holding” must convey to the child our joy for this intimacy, in addition to our love, respect and admiration for its being.” ~Dr. Silvana Montanaro, Understanding the Human Being 

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Filed under 0-3 Months, 3-6 Months, 6-12 Months, Carrie, Food/Feeding, Relationships

The Importance of Movement and the Impact of Clothing

By Rubi

Some of our blog’s readers expressed interest reading about clothing; since I love talking about movement I thought it would be interesting to share a paper I wrote a while ago when taking my Assistant to Infancy training. I also wanted to see if my ideas had changed after I had a baby, to my surprised I feel exactly the same way as I did before.

Movement

Maria Montessori explained that Humans have a tendency for movement. Indeed this movement begins in the womb, (humans have an inclination, a need, a strong desire to move and explore, movement is hardwired into them, and they are born with it.) Babies, in fact, spend nearly half of their waking time moving, either kicking, bouncing, or waving their arms, crawling, standing, etc. While it may appear all this activity is just for the sake of moving, it’s important to realize a baby is never “just moving” or “just playing.” Every action extends the child’s development in some way, this movement could be voluntary or involuntary, it doesn’t really matter they need to move in order to continuing wiring their brain. Repetition of movement is one of the keys for healthy brain development.

“In order to develop his mind a child must have objects in his environment which he can hear and see. Since he must develop himself through his movement, through the work of his hands, he has need of objects with which he can work that provide motivation for his activity.” (Maria Montessori, The Secret of Childhood, pg. 82)

Thanks to new insights in brain research, we now know that early movement experiences are considered essential to the neural stimulation (the “use-it-or-lose-it” principle involved in the keeping or pruning of brain cells) needed for healthy brain development.

Not long ago, neuroscientists believed that the structure of a human brain was genetically determined at birth. They now realize that although the main “circuits” are “prewired” (for such functions as breathing and the heartbeat), the experiences that fill each child’s days are what actually determine the brain’s ultimate design and the nature and extent of that child’s adult capabilities.

Neurophysiologist Carla Hannaford, in her book, Smart Moves: Why Learning Is Not All in Your Head, states: “Physical movement, from earliest infancy and throughout our lives, plays an important role in the creation of nerve cell networks which are actually the essence of learning.” She then goes on to relate how movement, because it activates the neural wiring throughout the body, makes the entire body not just the brain the instrument of learning.

“…the development of movement is found to be connected with sight.  The first step in movement is that of grasping or prehension; as soon as the hand grasps something, consciousness is called to the hand, and prehension is developed, that which was at first instinctive becoming a conscious movement.  At six months it is fully intentional.  At ten months, observation of the environment has awakened the interest of the child, and he wants to catch hold of everything, so prehension is now accompanies by desire.  He begins to exercise the hand by changing the places of things around him, by opening and shutting doors, pulling out drawers, putting stoppers in bottles, and so on.  Through these exercises, he acquires ability.”  (Maria Montessori, Education for a New World, pg. 42)

What else does movement do? Movement contributes to children’s fine and gross motor development, builds physical strength and stamina, enhances perceptual motor skills, attention span, improves circulation, and helps maintain muscle tone and thus postural control, etc. Now we know all the things infants and children are missing when they are being held by the adult or being confined in a crib, play pen, bouncer, car seat, carrier, stroller, bouncer, walker, exersaucer, or something as simple as wearing the clothing that restricts their movement.

Restriction of Movement

Continual restriction of a child’s movement may have negative consequences for the child’s motor and cognitive and emotional development in later years. For instance if the baby cannot crawl to the toy she or he sees across the room, s/he tent to forget about it. If s/he forgets about it, s/he cannot explore its shape, texture and shape. In short if s/he cannot physically explore something, then s/he is not engaging his/her mind to learn about it.  Children cannot take the information from the environment just by looking at it. In order to absorb information, young children need to hear, look, at, move toward, touch, and feel all the various stimuli.  Maria Montessori called the child during the first three years of life “The Sensorial Explorer”

Tara Losquadro writes in her book Why Motor Skills Matter, “When parents provide an environment full of possibilities and understand the basic principles of physical development, they can enhance their child’s gross and fine motor skills and his speech development, among other things, In turn; these enhancements benefit the child’s emotional well-being and the development of higher self-esteem. With higher self-esteem comes a greater ability to take charge of situations, and to thus feel more secure.” We need to provide them with different sensorial experiences always remembering to provide the right amount of stimuli, never too much because this would cause over stimulation.

Still, recent evidence indicates that infants are spending upward a large amount of waking hours a week in things like high chairs, carriers, car seats. The reasons for this trend are varied. From what I have observed, part of the problem is that infants in some childcare centers; where there may not be enough space to let babies roam the floor. Or, given the number of infants enrolled, there may be little opportunity for caregivers to spend one-on-one time with each baby. This means, in the morning, an infant is typically fed, dressed, and then carried to the automobile, where she’s placed in a car seat. She’s then carried into the childcare center, where she may spend much of her time in a crib or playpen. At the end of the day, she’s picked up, placed again into the car seat, and carried back into the house, where she’s fed, bathed, and put to bed.

Clothing: Why is clothing so important when babies or toddlers move?

Clothing may restrict the child’s movement when extending his/her arm, practicing batting, reaching movements, crawling, walking and movement in general, even lessening the child’s desire to move. The child when moving a specific part of his/her body is being restrained by a piece of material, and s/he assimilates that piece of material as his/her own ability to extend his/her limbs, or his/her own ability to move. It’s important that we choose clothing for our children that is comfortable to wear, appropriate to the environment they will be in, age appropriate and designed to accommodate their greatest variety of movement. It must also be the right size. Hand me downs can be great but if they are too big or too small they might thwart the natural movement of the child or encourage bad habits and posture. A friend gave me an example of this when she was looking after a 7 year old. The pants were too big, always falling down, the boy consistently pulled them up, tripped over them, underwear exposed, etc. He is a very active child and has the necessity to move. Wearing this type of clothing can be dangerous and also draw continuous or negative attention from adults; because of these inadequacies his self-esteem and desire to move may be affected.

What is it that parents look for when buying baby clothes? Is it appearance; is it durability, aesthetics, price, brands, trends, fabrics, fashion, personal style or all of the above?

Examples of clothing that allow for movement

I have only one request for you, when looking for baby clothing try to image yourself in that specific piece of clothing and think how functional or practical it is going to be wearing that piece of garment all day long, including visits to the bathroom. See if it feels comfortable when moving arms, legs, stretching, bending, crawling, etc. If it is too tight or too loose, that you may fall down if you step on it, is it easy to put it on and take it off, how long would it take for you to put it on and take it off, what kind of clothing aids in freedom of movement (this is if we want to encourage independence in toddlers). Young children like to be independent and try to dress and undress independently, don’t kill the desire to do it by buying clothes with complicated fastenings. Try to use clothing that is easy to slip on, pull in and out and stretches when take it off.

Remember people who make baby clothes are not necessarily childhood development specialist; they are designing clothes that catches the eye of the adult, so next time you go baby clothing shopping take into consideration the importance of movement development and its consequences.  What is more important, being in style or being able to move?

My Experience with my Daughter

Here are some pictures of F wearing clothing that in my opinion allows her to move freely. I love seeing my daughter in little dresses but she can’t really crawl or move in them, so I’ve decided to wait until she is older to wear them if she wants to. If she really has to wear a dress for a special occasion (e.g. wedding) I tuck the dress in her pants so she doesn’t trip when crawling or pulling to stand up.

 

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Filed under 0-3 Months, 12-18 Months, 18-24 Months, 2 years +, 3-6 Months, 6-12 Months, Independence, Rubi

Outdoor Nature Experiences for Your Baby

By Carrie and Rubi

I love having wonderful AtoI friends where we swap ideas to aid the development of our children.  The other day Rubi was telling me about her daughter spending time outdoors exploring moss and then says, “I need outdoor activities.”  What?!  You’ve just been telling me about this fabulous sensorial, nature experience your daughter has been having and you need more ideas?  So I took a moment to reflect on her question as I hadn’t really given this topic too much thought for my own daughter other than going outside daily.  She’s not capable enough to get to many places independently or do the myriad of outdoor practical life activities that an older child might be doing.  Rubi’s question made me wonder how we could provide more opportunities for our babies to experience nature outdoors.  Here’s what Rubi and I came up with.

Daily walks

When A. was younger she went for walks in her bassinet style stroller so she could fully stretch out her body.  A car seat places a child in a propped up position and straps the child in.  In her bassinet stroller , she could stretch her arms above her head and kick her legs around.  She could turn her head to look where she wanted, including looking at me as her point of reference, but mostly she slept.  She also greatly loved being cuddled up close to our bodies, so for many months she went for a walk being carried in the Beco.  Now that she is older she enjoys being awake for most walks and sits up in her stroller to take in all the sights.  We mostly go for walks in our neighbourhood so she can enjoy many flowers but we also go to the woodland park near our house.  I think this bit of daily fresh air is good for all of us as a family.

     

Laying outside

While we don’t always go outside everyday, we definitely do so multiple times a week.  When A. was younger I would place her outdoors in the cestina or on her topponcino in the Moses basket.  By the time she was two months, I mostly placed her on a blanket and she would listen to the birds or listen to me read her stories.  She would also enjoy tummy time outside.  We mostly did this in our backyard.  Rubi did the same with F., often bringing a basket with a few toys outdoors.  Rubi has also provided F. with a wind chime to listen to.  Rubi reminded me that blowing some bubbles for a baby to observe is also a lot of fun.  Having a sprinkler for the baby to experience water would be fun too.  During the summer I would often go for picnics and I would try to place A. in the shade of a tree so that she could watch the movement of the branches and leaves in the wind.  She was also able to observe the clouds, flowers, and whatever is around.  I was thinking that going somewhere with a river or stream would be a lovely experience.  Enjoying food outside (nursing or solid foods) is also a different experience for a baby.

  

Exploring with items from Nature

Rubi provides items from nature for her daughter to play with when outdoors.  Her daughter explores with various items such as grass, sticks, and moss.  F. is developing her pincer grip by picking up small pieces of moss.  I am enthralled with the sensorial experiences F. is receiving as she touches the various textures and, of course as babies do, puts the items in her mouth.  Rubi has also provided a bucket of rocks for F. to place rocks in and out of.

Many mornings A. and I will go for a quick “garden tour” before her morning nap to check out the plants that are growing.  It has been great fun with a vegetable garden as I talk to her about the various plants we have growing and allow her to feel them.  She has had the opportunity to feel smooth pea pods, prickly squash leaves, and bumpy broccoli.  Since my conversation with Rubi, I have been encouraged to let A. have time on the grass.  Often this occurs prior to dinner.  She has greatly been enjoying the opportunity to sit on the grass, pick grass, and experience it by eating it. Outside of the daily experience in the backyard, I think it is great to expose your baby to sandy beaches, swimming in a warm lake, and whatever other natural places happen to be in the area that you live.  As long as your baby is able to see, hear, smell, taste, and touch items of nature!

 

Playground

For an older baby, it is fun to go to the playground.  If you can find a playground built for toddlers this is even better.  Once your baby is able to sit independently, then he/she is ready to enjoy going on the swings.  Carefully observe your baby for signs of enjoyment and distress as sometimes this experience is not enjoyed by babies, or the enjoyment can quickly change into distress.  F. has a lot of fun on the swings and at the playground.  She crawls around on the equipment and on the wood chips, greatly enjoying exploring the wood chips.  She is now pulling up, cruising along, and trying to climb up on much of the equipment.  She also enjoys going down the slide.  While it may seem obvious to go to the playground, often F. is the only baby at the playground!  Rubi commented that it is because other parents don’t want to bring their child who is not yet walking because the child will get all dirty.  Appropriate clothing meant for play is important for children of all ages, including babies.

 

Experiencing Weather

Most of us tend to be fair weather lovers.  Instead, most of us live in places where it gets cold, hot, rainy, snowy, sunny, and windy.  I believe that there is no bad weather, only bad clothing choices.  Both A. and F. were born in the winter.  We bundled up our babies and took them outside.  During the summer A. was too young to wear sunscreen so we sought out shade and covered her up when spending extended periods of time in the sun.  One particular rainy day, F. went outside and played in the rain and puddles.  What a delightful experience!

We hope you have fun outdoors with your baby, cultivating a love of nature right from birth!  Do you have more ideas to share with us?

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Filed under 0-3 Months, 3-6 Months, 6-12 Months, Ages, Carrie, Nature/Outdoors, Rubi

Crawling – Part Two: The Prepared Environment

By Rubi

Each stage of development goes so fast that it’s important to be prepared ahead of time in order to help the child achieve each milestone. My husband and I decided to set up our home in a way that would allow F to explore her surroundings freely. We believe that having the ability to explore the environment enhances cognitive and motor development, since the child sees something across the room and is able to crawl, creep, roll over or walk towards it to explore and manipulate it. If the child is placed in an exersaucer, bouncy seat or play pen the child has to wait for an adult to place a toy in front of him/her and play with whatever he/she was given.  This doesn’t allow the child to play, move and most importantly, it doesn’t give him/her the opportunity to choose what he/she wants to play with.

Playing with spinning top

In Montessori we pay a lot of attention to preparation of the environment and the selection of the materials (toys). We believe the prepared environment gives the child the best opportunity to develop the different stages of development; therefore, it is necessary that the adult spends time to carefully select and choose what is best for the child.  When choosing the materials (toys) we have to make sure they are child size, they are beautiful and have an intelligent purpose.

We chose toys that would help F enhance hand-eye coordination, help her develop attention and concentration, give her a sense of accomplishment, develop visual skills, encourage her to coordinate her movements, help with balance and eventually help her develop the process of independence.

As well as covering the plugs, removing poisonous plants and materials with toxins, securing cabinets, etc. we made sure that there is something interesting and safe throughout the house for her to see, touch and learn from.

Here are some toys that we chose for her room for this stage of development (crawling):

  • A box with a tray and ball to help her with the process of object permanence (something that is out of sight doesn’t mean it is gone forever), the ball disappears briefly then comes back; this material also enables her to work on her hand-eye coordination, cause-and-effect.
  • On a different corner there is a basket with different balls of various textures, sizes and weighs for her to touch, roll, explore and compare (with this activity she is choosing, comparing, tactile input, measuring size, texture, colors, etc.).
  • A little wood boat with two wooden toys that she takes out of the boat and tries to put back into the wholes. She is working on her fine motor skills, hand eye coordination.
  • A basket with different musical instruments a rattle, egg shaker, bells. With this activity she is able to refine her hearing and explore the different textures and sizes of the musical instruments.
  • A box with balls to push, her favourite toy in the room. She loves pushing the balls down and watching them go out of the tray. This toy is strengthening the muscles of her hands and fingers; as well as, developing her hand-eye coordination, it also helps her understand cause and effect when she pushes the ball down is goes through the hole and falls down.

In the dining area I have another shelf with:

Shelf with Materials

  • A low shelf with a book.
  • A wooden toy (egg and a cup) helps her with hand-eye coordination and to cross the midline.
  • A xylophone for hand-eye coordination and music appreciation.
  • A basket with known objects: a wooden rattle, interlocking rings (metal) a little brush (I name the objects and explore them carefully, we are working on her language skills using concrete objects to associate word and object)

In the kitchen I have another low shelf:

Shelf with Materials

  • A metal top, a little metal basket with a fabric flower that she takes in and out, a toy with pegs and rings. All of them help her with hand-eye coordination and refinement of fine motor skills.
  •  I also placed some cube magnets on my husband’s metal desk that she loves. All of the materials listed above are changed slowly, after she loses interest or masters a skill or moves on to a different milestone.

Objects to encourage walking:

  • Low furniture, such as our sofa, an ottoman, etc.
  • She has a beautiful handmade wooden chair that she uses to pull herself up and holds on to the sofa while practicing standing up and sitting down. She is on her way to cruising (walking along furniture).

The outdoor environment:

 

  • There is a wind chime that she enjoys moving as she crawls by.
  • A bucket with some rocks that she places in and out of it chews on them and manipulates.
  • Bubbles
  • Most important, she explores the grass, the stone path, and the plants.
  • A low lounge chair for her to practice standing, cruising, pulling up and sitting down.

By nine months a baby understands the purpose of an object: a cup is for drinking, a rattle is for shaking, etc. by letting her manipulate different objects we are allowing her to make the appropriate associations.

It is a lot of work to prepare and maintain the environment but  I enjoy looking at my daughter everyday choosing her favorite toys, crawling from one shelf to another or ignoring a shelf or a toy because  she is too busy picking up a tiny little dog hair that she has found on the floor.

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Filed under 6-12 Months, Play Area/Toys, Rubi

The Celebration of Weaning (Introducing Solid Foods)

By Carrie

Montessori lingo calls the introduction of solid foods “weaning” so I’ll refer to it as weaning.  Confusing as when I mention this to others they think I’m cutting A. off of breast milk.  Definitely not the case.   We’re just starting with foods other than breast milk.  I don’t know when the completion of weaning will take place, but I’ll share with you the start of weaning.

How did you decide when and what to first feed your child?  Or is this decision still ahead of you?  I took a long time to decide what to do.  I love the Montessori approach to first introducing foods!  The pre-weaning was such a success that I wanted to continue following the Montessori philosophy.  I was also attracted to “Baby Led Weaning” (BLW) which seems to be quite popular in Montessori circles.  Kylie has done a comparison that is often referred to as it well written.  After thoroughly reading my albums, “Understanding the Human Being“,  “Baby Led Weaning“, and whatever else I could find on the internet, I decided to do both approaches.

I had prepared A. for both approaches by offering her the pre-weaning juices seated at her weaning chair and table after her morning nap and by offering her the pre-weaning juices and fish pâté seated in her high chair during our family dinner time.  The Montessori approach is to have the weaning chair and table in the child’s room (or wherever your usual location for nursing your baby is) but I skipped this as I figured I’d already helped her make this psychological step by first starting the pre-weaning juices in the nursing chair and changing that to her future eating locations.

I prepared myself for “weaning day” by first really researching it and knowing that it was the right time for A.  Montessori says to look for the Sensitive Period for weaning, usually present around 5-6 months.  Signs to look for include:

  • ability to sit with support
  • ability to grasp things with the hands and coordinate by putting things into the mouth
  • teeth beginning to emerge
  • excessive saliva (due to digestive enzymes now being present to digest starch)
  • a strong interest in the external world, specifically in food and watching other people eating

With the exception of teeth, A. showed all these signs.  Anybody eating around A. in the weeks prior could definitely attest to how interested in eating she was!  By observing her signs I knew when she was ready for it, which helped me fully embrace this new step.  It is an important psychological step away from Mom to embrace solid foods.

I also prepared in practical ways by obtaining small dishes, spoons, and forks.  The dishes are breakable and the flatware is stainless steel, just like what we use.  One of my Montessori trainers (instructors) gave me the tip to try to find clear dishes with sides so the child can stop the spoon at the edge and lift up the spoon instead of scraping the spoon up and off the side of a curved dish.  We went to World Market and this is what we came up with. 

The middle (bamboo pattern) flatware is my favourite as they are lightweight, the scoop of the spoon is shallow, and the tines of the fork pierce well

I already had a special place mat that I made for her during my training and we had many bibs given to us as gifts.  I went out and bought her beautiful flowers and placed them in a special vase.  We waited until Saturday when Daddy was home from work.  I prepared her rice cereal, fish pâté, and puréed apple.  The Montessori approach is to prepare cream of rice (or semolina) cooked in vegetable broth, or rice cereal with a bit of tomato and parmesan for flavour (Stephanie has done a great write-up of how to make the rice dish) but I was unable to find cream of rice or rice cereal so I opted to do the common approach of baby rice cereal mixed with breast milk.  The fish pâté and apple were foods she had already been introduced to so I knew she did not have any allergies.  I was excited that I was able to offer her a full meal for her first weaning meal, not simply bland rice cereal or one puréed food.

Not her first meal as I was so excited to offer it to her that I forgot to take a photo but this is from later in the week. The ramekins are the serving dishes and the small square dishes (stacked up) are the eating dishes. Bib goes on, hands are washed with the cloth and food is offered. First course is rice cereal mixed with breast milk, second course is fish (salmon here but sole was her first meal), and third course is fruit or vegetable purée (here is it peach but apple was for her first meal). We wrap up the meal with some water.

First Rice Cereal

Weaning – a true celebration day!

Weaning Day had arrived!  She was a week shy of 6 months.  After she woke up from her morning nap I dressed her in a pretty dress and approached her first meal as a real celebration!  In honesty, I wasn’t expecting much other than a few tastes of each food.  Instead she completely surprised me and took an hour enjoying it all!  She enjoyed the experience of sitting at her special weaning table and chair and eating food from the spoon.  She enjoyed grabbing the spoon with each bite.  She enjoyed dipping her fingers into each dish of food.  She enjoyed being distracted with the second spoon, covering it in food too.  (For future meals I ditched the second spoon as she was only distracted by it and was self-feeding by grabbing the one spoon for each bite.)  She enjoyed each of the foods I prepared for her.  She enjoyed being introduced to the little glass and drinking water from it.  I couldn’t believe how much she had enjoyed it all and how long it took!  She was so focused on each new part of the whole experience.  I made sure to approach each spoonful as something I was offering and not feeding her.  I started the first few spoonfuls with the tiny pre-weaning spoon and then introduced her to the weaning spoon.  She didn’t eat a lot that day but a decent amount, definitely much more than I was expecting.  Afterwards I offered her breast milk as usual.

Feeding herself mashed banana (with assistance)

We have continued in this manner since then and she has only approached food with more gusto.  She will often feed herself mashed fish using her hands, making a real mess.  For cereals and mashed/puréed fruit or vegetable she will grab the spoon and bring it to her mouth demonstrating keen interest in almost all foods.  She is gaining a greater ability to use the glass independently everyday but really struggled with it at first as her wrists could not make the rotation necessary to tip the glass.  I tipped it for her for the first few weeks.  I often use small pyrex dishes instead of the ramekins as serving dishes as whatever she doesn’t eat one day can easily have a lid put on and saved until tomorrow.  As she is eating more, I will sometimes also use the ramekins as eating dishes.

Feeding herself mashed fishDuring weaning we should always remember to offer food that the child can take by himself, such as little pieces of bread, banana, or vegetable.  Of course, the child can also be given a fork and shown how to use it.  Do not intervene if he uses his hands to help.  The child watches carefully how we do things and, if we eat well, as soon as he is able to manage it, the child will be willing to copy us. ~Dr. Montanaro, “Understanding the Human Being”

So along with her “meal” after her morning nap (which has turned into lunch time) I decided to do some BLW at dinner.  We started with steamed bean and roasted carrot (again she had been introduced to these through pre-weaning juices) and introduced her to steamed broccoli.  These were all vegetables that we had grown in our garden.  The BLW book indicated that babies mostly play with the food for the first few months so I didn’t approach this with such excitement, more in a casual way.  Before we started with food, she was sitting at the table with us in her Tripp Trapp high chair playing with toys.  So instead we gave her food to play with.  Well, it didn’t take long for her to catch onto really eating the food.  She absolutely loved feeling the textures of each food and eating.  She especially loved the salmon and chicken.

   

It hasn’t been easy when she gags on the foods.  I’m poised on the edge of my seat ready to whip her out of her chair and whack her on the back, thankful for my first aid training.  I decided not to use the straps as I figured I wouldn’t want to be fussing with the straps in a state of emergency.  Of course I’ve never had to do that.  I try to be calm and encourage her to keep coughing.  So far she’s always been able to cough it up, no matter how big or small the piece is.  It seems to me the first time she has a food she tends to gag on it a little more.  She has also gagged less and less as she learns to eat.  I decided to use plates and dishes for her at dinner time, along with a fork as this seemed more Montessori to me: treating the baby the same as us.  There have been a couple of broken plates but no broken glasses so far, although I’m sure there will be in the future.  The wrist and hand development that occurs while taking a slice of peach out of a dish or figuring out how to hold the chicken drumstick is amazing!  She finishes each meal with some water, giving her the opportunity to develop this skill twice a day.  She is now able to pick up the glass and drink from it but is definitely still learning as she will miss her mouth sometimes and sometimes tip too much and cough on the water.  I continue to be amazed at her progress in such as short period of time.

Drinking from glass

I’m really happy with how things are going.  It’s been about a month and despite the huge amount of work it has been planning and preparing for all these new meals, A.’s enjoyment of it all makes it completely worthwhile.  There have also been huge changes to sleep (through the night) and poo (in the potty).  When and how to cut back on breast milk was my other dilemma.  A. has done this herself by increasing sleep through the night and taking longer naps.  Each of the meals usually takes at least half an hour, so more time is spent eating in general.  It has all unfolded pretty naturally.  Now, if only it could all be done with a little less mess!

BLW vs. Montessori Mess

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Filed under 3-6 Months, 6-12 Months, Carrie, Food/Feeding

The Wholesome Language

By Yvonne

Warm greeting to everyone, how’s everyone’s week so far? I hope you are all enjoying your adventure with your little one.  I had the privilege of taking the Assistants to Infancy course when I was pregnant with our first daughter E. for the first summer of our training. I was witnessing what I learnt in action when we did our prenatal timeline chart. I was eighteen weeks pregnant; I felt for the first time a little bubble with E. when she made her first interaction with me during my pregnancy.  During our training, we learnt that the first six weeks of their life after they are born is very important to make a strong bond with your child. I used the first six weeks to have intimate time with her to guide her, care for her and talking to her about the new world around her.

With my ethnic background as Asian, I have set in mind when I have my own children, I will be passing on the Mandarin language to my children while my husband, A. speak Cantonese to our children. Furthermore, during our training, we learnt to have intensive conversations with them. I have made a simple tune for each of my daughters. I started singing the song to them since my pregnancy. Furthermore, I found out after they were born that this is one of the tools I can use to calm them down. It helped assure them that they are safe and I am here for them and with them.

ReadingWhen E. was about two months old. I decided to annunciate the Alphabets with their phonetic sounds. I saw E.’s face light up as she study intensively as I pronounce each sound. I can also saw E. was trying her hardest to communicate with me by moving her mouth and making cooing sound. We continued to communicate this way for the next couple months. On our Second Wedding Anniversary date when she was eight month old, she called “mama” looking at me intensively and with meaning.  Some parents use sign language as a tool to communicate with their child. I also tried that with E. However, I suggest you follow your child’s developmental stage. For E., I introduced two signs to her, but she was making up her own way of communicating with me with her own consistent made up sign of her own. Furthermore, every time she was making those signs, she was telling me exactly what she want me to know by words. Therefore, I did not continue more sign language with her as she was showing me the urge to communicate with me starting with two words, then four words then it continue to evolve.  She continues to learn how to speak in Mandarin, Cantonese and now English as she is enrolled in an English speaking Montessori preschool. It was amazing to see her continue to gain vocabularies each day. Moreover, she knows to switch to speak to me in Mandarin and Cantonese with A.

When H. was born, I continued to use the same method with her in her language development, but I have keep in mind to not to have any preconceive idea of how H. should be with her language development as she is another individual human being with her own set of developmental agenda. I also make sure, E. and H. has the equal rights to speak for themselves instead of having E. speak for H.

As the second child in the family, H. learns to speak from all of us including her own older sister E. She started communicating with us and sang songs like her sister. H. has the urge to be heard and her rights to be understood. Therefore, her language skills took a roller coaster ride starting from eight months old. She also developed the skill of able to switching the language “’channel” in her own mind. For example, one sunny afternoon, we were at my sister in-law’s house having a great afternoon; one of the ladies who have not seen H. for over a year and she said to her “wow you have grown so much into a little beautiful girl”. H. was a year and four month old. She replied to her all on her own in English “thank you”. I was as surprised as everyone there as she was not formally introduce to the English language, but her absorbent mind like the sponge was helping to take in all the information around her world in everyway possible.

As I have mentioned before and strongly believe; follow the child, your own child and take in all the information you gather, but see what your child can do in his and her own time as they are all uniquely created individuals. Happy sharing everyone.

Enjoying the story

Admitted that the child is born with the sense of hearing, so that he hears the human voice, why among the millions of sounds surrounding him does he pick out those only for imitation?  It is because human language has made a special impression on the sub-conscious mind, evoking an intensity of feeling, an enthusiasm, able to set in vibration invisible fibres for the reproduction of those sounds, while others cause no such living thrill.  So exact is the child’s absorption of this language is that it forms part of his psychic personality and is called his mother-tongue.  ~Maria Montessori, “Education for a New World”

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Filed under 0-3 Months, 12-18 Months, 18-24 Months, 2 years +, 3-6 Months, 6-12 Months, Language, Yvonne