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.
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:
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.