Tag Archives: baby play area

Bedroom Tour

By Carrie

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  

floor bedNo 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.

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The Change Table/Dresser

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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.

DSC_0041 (2)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

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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.

DSC_0029 (3)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.

DSC_0040One 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

play areaWe 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.

DSC_0045  IMG_0925 IMG_0935  IMG_0954Until 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

view from A's bed

A.’s view from her bed

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.

DSC_0035-cropThe 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.

DSC_0031-cropWith 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.

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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.

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A special gift for A. was “A New Heartbeat” by Roy Henry Vickers.  She would often look up at it with such intensity after she finished nursing.  I love the accompanying story.DSC_0072

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

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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Crawling – Part One: Tummy Time

By Rubi

When taking the Assistants to Infancy training we studied the development of movement (voluntary and involuntary). Among the voluntary movements there are many important milestones, including one important one that my own child has just mastered, crawling.

One of the most important preliminary exercises that will assist a baby to learn to crawl, is tummy time.  The importance of tummy time cannot be understated as it leads to the strengthening of a baby’s core, back and neck muscles, eventually strengthening the shoulders, forearms and wrists; all contributing factors to a baby’s physical development and ability to crawl.

The Area for Movement:

In Montessori we have a place for everything and everything has a place, therefore we have a specific area for babies to exercise, (which of course includes “tummy time”), and we refer to it as “The Area for Movement”.  The Area for Movement consists of a movement mat, a mirror, and a low shelf with different material (toys) as well as some pictures on the wall and mobiles hanging from the ceiling.

The movement mat is an important tool to use since it will allow the infant to develop voluntary movement in a safe and comfortable place.  This place also encourages the infant to be independent since he/she is able to explore different objects, observe mobiles or just practice some rolling on his/her own while mom is observing from the distance.

The Area for Movement could be placed in the infant’s room or in the living room, whatever is most suitable for your family’s space and preference.  We chose to arrange the area in our Daughter’s bedroom.

The movement mat should be approximately 75” x 40” made of dense foam or a soft yet firm material.  Ours was purchased at Ikea and was originally sold as a “mattress top”, however many options are on the market.  For more information on setting up your Area for Movement, please read Christie’s blog post on setting up the home environment

How I introduced Tummy Time to my baby:

Putting my Montessori education into practice with my child is not always as easy as I would hope.  We introduced tummy time to our daughter about two weeks after we brought her home from the hospital, which at the time was quite easy to do as she seemed to prefer sleeping on her stomach (not doctor recommended due to a higher risk of SIDS).  After a month or two she became very fussy when we put her down on a flat surface such as her movement mat.   Our daughter would become very upset if we left her on the movement mat for more than a minute or two and I struggled to find a solution to this problem.

The solution that finally worked was quite simple:  We started placing our daughter on her stomach for a very short time (about 20 seconds worked for us, but each baby is different so if you baby is more comfortable on the mat you might go longer), once or twice per day.  While she was on the mat, my husband or I sat with her and showed her various materials such as rattles and pictures.  She slowly became more comfortable spending time on her tummy and as she did we increased the amount of time from 20 seconds to 30, 40, etc. and gradually increased the number of tummy time sessions to 3-4 per day. This process took a lot of patience, but it worked.

If your baby is having a lot of problems with Tummy Time, I would also suggest that you experiment using firm pillows to prop your baby up in a more comfortable position.  With our daughter we found that a nursing pillow worked well, as shown in the following picture.  We started using the nursing pillow in this way at around 3 months until she was comfortable without it:

At 5 months my daughter started sitting up on her own and wanted to be in this position at all times, but I still managed to encourage tummy time every day.  At six and a half months she started creeping backwards and rolling to places to get around; at seven months she was on her hands and knees, a good sign that she would be crawling in a month or so. She stared crawling a week before she turned nine months and I was the happiest mother ever as all of my efforts, and hers, had been rewarded.

Happy with Tummy Time

For more information on your babies growth, care and development in the first year, I recommend the book: Baby Day by Day, by Dr. Ilona Bendefy, DK Publishing.

For more information on how to improve your child’s physical development, I recommend the book:
Why Motor Skills Matter, by Tara Losquadro Liddle, M.P.T., McGraw-Hill.

I also highly recommend the following article about the importance of crawling: What’s So Important About Crawling? 

Don’t forget to enter to win the Five Pack of Toys from Beginning Montessori by commenting on our blog or our facebook page with something you’d like us to write about in future posts.  Entries must be submitted by Saturday, August 24 11:59PM PST.   (Contest has now closed.)

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Setting up our Home

By Christie 

When we found out we were having twin boys I thought to myself, “Now this is REALLY going to put my Montessori theory to the test!!”  It was finally time for me to put my many years of experience with other people’s babies into practice and I was ready for the challenge.

A huge factor in the Montessori philosophy is preparing the environment.  This is a fancy way of saying that you must spend a good deal of time getting your house ready for the child/ren in such a way that you take into account their needs at each developmental stage.  By creating a beautiful, calm, simple space for the baby with the right amount of stimulation it is hoped that he/she will form a secure and healthy attachment to his/her new family and world.

My husband and I have a fairly small house so we really needed to be mindful of how we were to set up the space for not one but two babies!  Setting up their room was so exciting (to be discussed in a future post) however one of the components which we term the area for movement (aka play zone) I chose to create outside of their room and make it a part of our common living space.  I wanted a visible area where I could put the boys down and they would be able to entertain themselves while I made a much needed cup of coffee!

So, I needed to prepare such an environment.  What did I need?  A movement mat, mirror, cabinet, shelf, and materials.  Please keep in mind that we were on a budget so the items that I bought are not the top of the line but still serve the purpose.  I wanted the space to be beautiful, calm, and simple and not have my house overtaken by baby items so had to be selective with what I chose to buy.

The movement mat that I purchased is a mattress topper from Ikea similar to this one and I covered it with a rubberized flannel pad and a neutral bed sheet (also purchased at Ikea).

The mirror I got was from Canadian Tire.  Ideally it would not be framed and you need to make sure it is secured to the wall.  I LOVE using these Velcro-type strips for all the things I hang for the boys as they can easily be removed when they grow and when the height of the pictures etc. need to be adjusted.

I had the hardest time finding the right cabinet with enough shelves and glass doors but not too large in size.  I finally found one at Winners/Home Sense however this is the one that I am still on the hunt for (although totally out of my price range).

Now, what to put in the cabinet?  Well, I was lucky!  Since I had been running Parent-Infant classes for a few years now, I was able to simply bring my materials home from school.  What do I mean by materials?  Basically they are toys.  I am sure you have noticed by now that we have a particular lingo in the Montessori world.  We choose to call them materials as they all have a specific developmental purpose however simply put, they are educational toys.  I purchased the majority of mine from: Beginning Montessori and Michael Olaf.  I occasionally find nice items at places around town, keeping in mind some key factors like the toys need to be small, preferably made from wood or another natural substance, and purposeful.

In the first few months you don’t need much except a few small grasping materials, a music box or other source of music, and a selection of mobiles.  We hung one of those plant hanger hooks in the ceiling above the movement mat (my husband was not too happy about this) and this is where the mobiles are hung.  The specific toys were placed on a small low shelf (actually a shoe rack from Canadian Tire).

The space was ready! Thank goodness because the boys chose to arrive almost a month early! 🙂

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Don’t forget to enter to win the Five Pack of Toys from Beginning Montessori by commenting on our blog or our facebook page with something you’d like us to write about in future posts. Entries must be submitted by Saturday, August 24 11:59PM PST.  (Contest has now closed)

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