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Maria Montessori spoke extensively on the great potential of the child. She explains the amazing ability children have to absorb everything they experience in the first years of their life. She also wrote about the Sensitive Periods they go through, which highlight each child’s perfect moment for mastering a skill- from great feats like walking and speaking to achievements in independence such as potty learning or self-dressing.
The chart I have made follows the sensitive periods for movement and language from birth to 18 months old. It is a month-by-month guide, sharing some of the things children do during these months and a few Montessori activities which are appropriate during each stage of development.
However it is important to remember that every child has their own perfect timing to learn to turn, crawl, walk, and talk. As always in Montessori, our purpose is to follow the child.
When we are aware of all the things our little ones can do, it makes it possible for us to truly trust them and give them the space they need to grow and the opportunities they need to apply their full potential.
So what can we do to help our babies?
We know that Babies and Toddlers are happiest when they have a stimulating environment that challenges them, but doesn’t overwhelm them, which offers understanding, and allows them to have success and also feel joy from their accomplishments.
1. We can offer a safe space for them to learn and discover.
~ for newborns and small babies we set up a movement mat on the floor and a low mirror which allow them to see and feel their unrestricted movements, clearly.
~ when they start crawling and walking we clear the floor for them so they have enough space to move around. If possible we prepare a whole room or part of a room which is completely safe to let them explore freely.
The key to this is trusting your child and also trusting that the space you have prepared for them is truly, completely safe.
2. We can provide activities that help Baby learn and perfect new skills.
I will give one example for the newborn, baby, and toddler stages:
~ newborns train their eyesight with Montessori visual mobiles
At birth babies can only see high contrast and they can’t change their focus. Mobiles like the Munari , which are black and white and move naturally with the air in the room, are slow enough for them to follow and see clearly.
~ A couple of months later babies are improving their grasp and release with ring on dowel activities of increasing difficulty.
They start with one large ring on a stable base around 6 months old and eventually work up to several small rings of graduating size in a basket next to a stable or rocking base around 14 months old.
~ and walking toddlers grow their independence through practical activities like washing hands and slicing bananas.
They are very interested in taking care of themselves and taking care of their environment so we set up activities for dressing for self feeding, food preparation, cleaning, caring for plants, and lots of other exciting opportunities so that they can have success in these daily tasks which are so fascinating for them.
3. We can remove any obstacles which might be holding Baby back from taking steps in their development.
The most common obstacles I have found in my work with children are clothing, interruptions, and safety.
~ I mean so say clothing that is too loose or too tight is a common obstacle that’s very easy to remove – literally.
When a baby is learning to crawl, they really need to have their forearms and legs open to make contact with the floor and move forward or backward successfully. When they are learning to walk long pants can actually trip them or socks can be slippery and cause them to fall down which is not very encouraging to a child who is trying to learn to move.
~ interruptions like distracting sounds or movements prevent many babies from being able to enter a concentrated state of learning and repetition. Some children are more distractible than others so it’s important to be mindful of this.
~ Safety is the biggest obstacle babies face in their development because if we, the adult, see a potential danger we are likely to stop them from touching that thing instead of finding a more appropriate place for them to explore it.
In Montessori we see any state of repetition as a sign that the child has a developmental need which MUST be perfected. So if you notice your baby doing something over and over again, we HAVE to allow them that privilege, but in an appropriate place.
Thank you for reading! I hope that you found this discussion to be useful, whether you’re a parent or a teacher and that we can be reminded to trust in the amazing potential the child has and let them use their Absorbent Minds from the very, very beginning.