[EN] On the side of the child:
A Montessori Guide to equipment your baby doesn't need


Objects shape the way we live and also our way we parent.

It's a key topic in Montessori and I finally decided to collect in a post all the bits of information that I often find myself giving to new parents. I hope that it will be useful not only to them, but also to grandparents and other family members who care for the child and who often find themselves purchasing items for them.

I hope that looking at some of the most commonly used objects from a Montessori perspective can help us overcome them and stand on the side of the child.

Maria Montessori invoked a return to a more natural way of parenting already 150 years ago. 
The separation of the child from the adult world is a deviation of Western culture, we know that it has not always been this way nor is it so today everywhere in the world.
But a more simple childcare is possible, it is not an 'alternative' choice.



We tend to take care and worry (still not enough) about the mother after giving birth, forgetting that the baby undergoes a huge change passing from the uterus to the external environment.
The change is so radical that we speak of birth trauma and exogestation, indicating the period of development outside the womb, which lasts for about nine months after birth and predominantly impacts the nervous system.

In many hospitals it is still common practice to take the newborn away immediately after delivery to 'let the mum rest' and for the doctors to give him an examination. Quick and unfamiliar hands wash and dress the helpless body and then return him ready to the mother, as if it were an inanimate object, without respect for the trauma that the child has also suffered.

However, If there are no reasons for concern and if the birth took place naturally all these things can wait for the mother to do them herself.
Or dad can take care of it if the birth was difficult. The bath then removes the vernix, that layer of sebum that protects the skin of newborns before and after birth, and it is therefore not necessary or recommended in the first days of life, until the umbilical cord falls.

No other animal species remains helpless for such a long period of time after birth.
During this period it seems that the child is not 'doing nothing', but he is actually receiving an enormous amount of information from the environment.
For this reason, we must pay close attention to the intensity and type of stimulation offered during the first year of life.
If we google 'newborn essentials' we get an overwhelming list of results. Emma's Diary, the resource to which the NHS here in the UK redirect new parents, will tell you that you will definitely need:

Cot (plus mattress, sheets and blankets), Car seat, Pram/buggy/travel system, Six sleepsuits/ long sleeved suits, Six vests/ short sleeved suits, Two cardigans/ jackets, Shawl or snow suit, Hat, mittens and bootees, Changing mat, Nappies, Nursing bra and breast pads, Bottles/teats/bottle brush (only needed if not breastfeeding), Loads of bibs, Plenty of towels/ flannels/ muslin squares (for bathing and dribbles!), Loads of kitchen roll and cotton wool pads, Hair brush, Moses basket/ crib (plus mattress, sheets and blankets), Baby bath, Baby box or bag, Sling, Bouncy chair, Baby monitor, Changing bag, Breast pump, Steam steriliser, Baby lotion, Baby wipes, Bath thermometer, Nail scissors, Nappy wrapper.

I got ALL of these things for my first child, spending an unnecessary amount of money.
In the first year after giving birth, I filled my house with items that I sold, gave away or threw in the bin within 2 years.
I wanted to raise my daughters the Montessori way from birth
BUT
the social pressure and the pressure from marketeers on new mums is huge.
Buying things contributes to our sense of readiness and it is considered a part of the nesting process.
I've been there and I understand that. Although what I know now is that readiness doesn't come with any item listed above. 

There is always time to purchase something that you realise you may need, but it's tricky when you already have filled the house with equipment that you feel you have to use.
It's exhausting to soothe a baby in the middle of the night sitting on a chair next to a cot, it feels crazy to lift a baby 20, 30 times a day because he wakes up the instant he touches the mattress, it's so stressful to watch a screaming child trying to free himself from that expensive high-chair or trio pram our parents gave us as a gift.
There's nothing wrong with us, nor with our baby. It's in the objects.

What I want to focus on here is not budget, 
nor sustainability, 
nor space in your home and decluttering strategies. 
Although our parenting choices have consequences on this too.

The point is: are these things necessary to our newborn baby?

What does an infant need in the first 12 months of life, 
and how can we best allocate our budget to better assist his development?

We will realise that most of the equipment and furniture items marketed as 'essential' 
are conceived to make adults life easier, 
but don't serve the developmental needs of the child. 

A baby only needs our arms to be ready really, and an open mind to be able to say 'no' to everything we see around as 'normal' and 'necessary'.
It's difficult, I know.
Generous grandparents start offering to buy things for the 'baby's room' when we are still in our second trimester, friends offer to give us their used and unused things during the third trimester.
Dust-catching toys, uncomfortable pretty little clothes, I-love-my-mummy t-shirts, and I've-heard-that's-a-good-one kind of books start coming in before we've even found the time to inform ourselves.


In the best of cases, new mums get to their due date with a short antenatal course and a couple of parenting books under their belt. One of which would often be Tracy Hogg's Secrets of the baby whisperer.
But the real life and practicalities of education are still quite far away.
For lack of better information sources, time or energy, parents spend the first months trying to make objects work, thinking that equipment can fix problems for them.

The first 12 months of life have a huge impact on our child development and in shaping the way we will parent in the following crucial years. 
So I'm here to say, take your time to inform yourself and think before buying anything.

I had everything, including an education.  Still, no-one prepared me for the exhaustion of breast-feeding and for the desperation of the sleepless nights. If someone had told me, I wouldn't have spent so much time trying to find magic answers in books or in pieces of equipment that wouldn't work, and I would have focused on my child instead.
There's no textbook that prepares us completely for motherhood, but what we can do is to inform ourselves about the psychic development of our child, so we can meet his needs.
Our home will not fill out with useless objects and, what's most important, we will have a (mostly!) happy and content baby.

Source: Healthline


Since they only communicate through crying, we tend to think of newborn babies as helpless creatures, that they mainly need to be fed and kept warm (and ideally asleep). 
But the newborn brain goes through some tremendous changes in the first 12 months of life.
Most items are intended for physical care only as if that was the only type of care we should offer, tackling parents greatest concern: 

To keep babies safe&still.

The rigid control of the adult over the movements of the young child comes as a reaction to babies' impulsive and disorderly movement.
But this type of movement is entirely physiological as the baby's nervous system is immature: babies can't control impulses and still lack fine and gross motor skills.

Soon we understand that babies LOVE movement, 
the sensitive period of movement  shows itself in infants at first 
with the impulse of grasping, letting go and moving objects from one place to the other, 
with no apparent purpose.

So we buy rocking chairs, bouncers and jumperoos, 
that keep the child safe&still, in a state of passive movement, 
then we block them in playpens, 
to avoid that they touch what's around them 
and only play with the toys that have been bought for them.

When we realise that little children love doing what we do, 
we buy pretend toys so they can imitate us,
but pretend play is a sterile activity, 
as it doesn't allow the child to develop what he wants,
an ability.

The baby starts from zero, he is completely new to this world 
and reality is his only interest, 
he puts all of his energy into understanding what's around him.
The child will only be capable of imaginative play as we intend it
  later in life.
Some popular items that restrict the child's movement 
or keep him in a state of passive movement





Babies live better in an uncluttered environment, in an environment that has been adapted with love to their needs with child-sized furniture and tools, so that they can gradually feel the home as if it's also their own, participating into the family life. That's their favourite thing to do.

So it is essential that we keep toys to nearly zero in the first year of life. 

MOVEMENT: Respond vs React

Human beings are born to move. Montessori education is primarily a matter of Education to Movement and Active Discipline.

It focuses on responding to the child's needs by offering from birth opportunities for making free choice and for movement, as these only will support the child in outgrowing that kind of disorderly movement and develop self-discipline and self-confidence.

So anything that restricts the freedom of movement of the child is considered an obstacle to their natural development that should be removed.

I am not going too much into the science behind this here, as this is supposed to be a practical guide, but i will leave a reading list at the bottom of this post.

- You may say that a newborn doesn't move, and that the priority is to keep him safe-

But that's not correct: the priority for a newborn baby is to be safe&close the carer/parent. 

As soon as his sight is developed enough and the baby starts to roll (which happens at around three months) the baby needs a safe and suitable environment to explore.
Most nursery bedrooms and homes do not allow that. 

The environment is hugely important important in Montessori: we have talked in other posts about how the child from zero to three absorbs information from the environment and by interaction with it and NOT by direction of the adult. 

By setting up the right environment for the baby, we set up some important information we are giving,
the type of stimulation that want to offer and the opportunities of free exploration that we give.

So let's see try to see some of the traditional must-buys for new parents under a different light and let's se the Montessori-aligned alternatives in the three main areas of care: SLEEP, SELF-CARE, EAT and PLAY.

Sleep


A cot with bars may feel like the safest option for a baby, and it's most definitely the most popular and easily available on the market. But it has multiple cons in terms of independence and convenience, also for the parents.

The baby needs to be constantly lifted up and down in the cot, which is very tiring for parents as they soon discover that babies don't stay asleep for long stretches of times, and that very often they wake up AS SOON AS you put them down on the surface of the hard mattress that's recommended by the rigid SIDS prevention guidelines.
Although we need to be aware of these guidelines and they obviously serve an important purpose in some cases, we also need to be aware that they go completely against nature.

Babies don't like:
- being quickly lifted up and down;
- being cold (they can't regulate their body temperature, that's why the temperature in the environment (not the clothes) and skin to skin are so important;
- being on their back a hard mattress without a containment, as this is hugely different from the conditions and position he lived in for 9 months in the womb.


Dr. Montessori stressed the importance of keeping the baby close in the first months of life. She had the privilege to travel, live and work in several countries including a long period in India, where she could observe the benefits of a more 'natural' parenting approach where mothers would sleep with their babies and wear them carrying them with them everywhere, as opposed to the cold, distant relationship between child and parent common in Western countries.
There is a common misconception that the focus of the method on independence would apply to sleep patterns as well, but Montessori has nothing to do with controlled crying.
To offer opportunities for independence in all areas including sleep is very different from expecting a newborn to consistently fall asleep independently, and to do so alone in a separate room.

I will not embark in a dissertation on sleep, the above is just to
Therefore, these explain why the bed options considered here for the child 0 to 12 months are intended to be placed in the parents bedroom.

The Moses Basket

It usually works up to 5-6 months depending on the size of the baby at birth: This can be kept next to the parents bed and also moved, although I wouldn't recommend doing that on a regular basis. Babies benefit from order and routine and should ideally have a consistent sleeping place that they can start recognising as such.

The Fabric Pod

like the Sleepyhead (but there are many brands) that can be kept in the parents bed if they co-sleep or as a containment on a single bed (or whatever bed we will use as 'toddler bed') that can fit next to the big bed. Again, this has the advantage to be moveable, although I would recommend to limit doing so.
3. A wooden floor pod, which is a common option in Montessori infant communities. It is conceived to let babies free to crawl out of bed.

The Floor Bed

This can be as easy as a mattress on the floor, or a futon on a tatami or a mattress on a wooden base (base + mattress shouldn't  be more than 20 cm high). A tatami or wooden base can be a better solution in terms of hygiene, aeration of the mattress and convenience when cleaning the floor. 

Sometimes parents get stuck trying to find solutions that are specifically marketed 'for children', but remember that a regular low bed would basically work in the same way. 
If you have enough space, I'd strongly recommend that you get a queen or double size bed for the baby's room. 
When the parent can lay down with the child at bedtime, he also develops positive associations with the environment and a sense of safety,  with no need of night excursions into the big bed.
It is also very convenient for breastfeeding and night wakings. 

Most families (especially those who decide to breastfeed) will end up with a typical set up in the first months after birth: mum in the master bedroom with the newborn, and dad on the sofa or in the guest room, because the baby room would have a baby or toddler bed. 
Why not setting up a double bed in the child's room straight away, so everyone can sleep in their own bed from the beginning? 
The parent can co-sleep with the child when needed as the child grows, and then go back to his bed.
Meanwhile, the child develops a routine, a sense of safety and  positive associations with the bed and the environment, as this is also a space for mum and day to stay, not some new space he is eventually sent to alone.

Meanwhile, we avoid buying: a crib, a cot, a toddler bed, a full size bed. 
We also save our child multiple painful bed transitions.
A heavy bolster or breastfeeding pillow (those filled with buckwheat hulls) can be used to make the bed cosy and smaller for children under 2.



A sling or a soft-structured buckle carrier 

Choose a type that allows the baby to sit in a frog-legged position, with the knees higher than the bum and the back slightly curved, as they are in the womb (Babybjorn does not allow this)
This is the only natural, really ergonomic position for a baby to be into when carried (it can't be kept in front-facing carriers). 
Babywearing is not essential for all parents, not everyone feels like giving it a go, especially in the western culture, but everyone who does try it declares that carrying their baby has been an invaluable help.
Babies love to be carried, it makes sleep, digestion and exploration much easier on top of the emotional benefits that come with closeness to the carer.
If you do try to baby wear, put yourself in the condition for success: inform yourself about types of carriers and slings online, contact your local baby wearing consultant, or watch good tutorials online, like these ones.






Final note on car seats:  babies should not be consistently left to sleep in car seats, no matter if they seem to 'like' them. Even the new styles by Cybex, which are very popular now and sold as an alternative to traditional prams, are not good options for sleep.
Despite the claims of being 'ergonomic' these devices restrict a child's movement, they block the spine into a position out of which they cannot move and should only be used for transportation purposes.

I appreciate the fact that little babies often fall asleep in the car and that parents want to keep them asleep when moving them from the car to the destination, but that shouldn't become a regular way and place to let a child sleep or used as chair. 
Children should sleep onto a completely flat surface and they should be allowed to move their head and body freely when exploring the environment.

Source: Cybex




Self-care

When a first baby arrives, the bathroom would often be the one room that most dramatically fills up with clutter.
Bulky changing tables, baby baths in multiple sizes, accessories, new toiletries, lotions and soaps that we buy exclusively for the baby. Then of course bath toys of all sorts.
It doesn't have to be that way. 
Bath time is such a delicate moment in the routine of a newborn baby: babies can love a warm bath but they generally hate being undressed and taken out of it, both because of temperature drop and because we quickly lift them from the bath onto a changing table, if we have one, where we then manipulate them again to put nappy and clothes on. All of this can be a very stressful experience for them.

So for many families bath time can turn into a nightmare and some parents don't feel like incorporating it into their daily routine.
However, bath can be a great way to set up a bedtime routine, which is essential for the infant to start developing an understanding of time and also to wind down at night.

Let's try to make it right.

Bathtub

If it wasn't because I know that holding a newborn in the water can be stressful and uncomfortable, I would just recommend to be sustainable and avoid getting a new piece of plastic. If you have experience and are comfortable holding a tiny baby, use a normal basin or the sink, Then move onto just using the bathtub with non-slip shower mat.
If not, Stokke has designed a foldable basin that can also come with a removable backrest for newborns.
When the child outgrows it at around 12-15 months, it can just be used as a leakproof container for anything else. Including your toddler water play. 
The Tummy Tub is also a popular choice. It allows the child to sit in the water in a position that's very similar to the one he was in the womb.




Nappy change & Massage

In many countries a changing table is considered a must-buy.
However it really is an unnecessary expense on top of taking up a lot of space. 
Many children will begin to resist lying on their back on a changing table as they begin to stand and walk.

It can also be dangerous: the baby can fall as soon as he starts to move and roll and this can happen as early as three months, forcing parents to pointless battles to keep the child on it. 
A changing mat is much more practical, comfortable and safe on top of being way less bulky.
We can store it and use it on a table if we like, but we can also put it on the floor when we take the baby out of the bath, to avoid lifting him and give the baby a massage after bath in complete safety.

It hasn't to be anything fancy, a little naked mattress, a travel changing mat or a Topponcino (see below will be enough.
Changing baskets, Etsy

Eat

The discovery of solid food is such an intense and exciting adventure for a baby.
For many months depending on the baby, food can primarily be a matter of exploration rather than nutrition and as parents we need to understand and respect that.
Babies are often propped into a seated position as young as 5 months to start weaning, especially in countries like Italy and France, where there still is the custom to feed babies fruit purees from 4-5 months, to then move onto babyhood following standard preparations.

The WHO guidelines, incorporating the research from the past 50 years, recommend to start introducing all solids foods, relevant to each culture, from 6 months,  in no particular order (if there is no familiar history of allergies), watching for signs of readiness in the child.
 
One of these signs is the ability of children to sit up independently and unaided. 
A baby naturally learns how to crawl first, and then to sit up. 
Why is it important to allow self-initiated gross motor development? 
Because it's natural and it's safe, as the baby only explores positions that his muscles, spine and brain can support.
Self-initiated gross motor development
Source: The Pikler Collection



So you see why we shouldn't rush into bulky high-chairs.
Observe your child and wait for him to be ready, if your work set up allows it.

For a 6 month old the sensorial exploration of food will comes with the exploration of gravity.
Babies throw food because they need learn through the senses and they don't recognise food as a source of nutrition, as something that can fill their tummy.
They like looking at it as it crashes on the floor, they like looking at our reaction when that happens.

It's entirely natural and I know it's difficult but don't take it personal.
Instead of getting frustrated for something that the child can not control, instead of blocking him with something like this:




let's consider changes in the environment and in the activities that we offer to the child.
We could support the child's interest in coordination of hand grip movement and find more opportunities to safely throw things and explore how objects move, break, appear and disappear. There are plenty of opportunities in nature and options of materials/toys conceived for this purpose.  
Then take some deep breaths and focus on the fact that it will pass.

Trying to teach a young child by blocking his movement is never a good idea.
Self-control only emerges when 
the repetition of the movement has fulfilled its goal: 
to create an ability.
Ability is only achieved through real experiences.
When we repeatedly block free choice and exploration, we experience
behavioural issues like power struggles, temper tantrums, whims. 
 
The mind of the child from 0 to 3 years
cannot be directed, he learns unconsciously. 
What infants learn in the first three years of life will not be remembered,
but as it shapes his psychic faculties, it will stay for life. 


The relationship with food is a complicated topic that goes beyond the scope of this post. 
There are many things that can affect it but a few things can most definitely contribute to healthier and more relaxing mealtimes: freedom and independence.

High-chair

The Tripp Trapp has been for decades the go-to options for Montessori parents. 
It has the advantage to allow toddler to climb on it and get seated independently, and it also allows to keep the child at the family table from birth using the newborn set.
Although I wouldn't encourage the use of the newborn seat for long periods of time, it can be a good compromise when we need to have our hands free and we want to keep the baby close and at our height level. 
To keep a baby at the family table avoiding trays is the best way to make him feel part of the family, and the best position for the child to look at what we are eating and to develop interest in food.

Sitting together at mealtime is important throughout life, but doing so in the weaning phase is crucial. 
So let's make an effort to adapt our routine to the baby's needs: instead of having the child sitting alone in a high chair with a tray, passively spoon-fed, let's see if we can offer a different, more active and interesting experience most weekdays and eat together.

Source: Stokke.com

Weaning table 

This is basically just a very low table and chair suitable for babies and toddlers, which has the benefit to allow freedom of movement  and independence at mealtimes. 
The baby can join and leave the table, exploring the boundaries of free will and learning basic tasks like setting up the table. This increases self-confidence and engagement in the process, engagement means fewer 'battles' (who is familiar with toddler kicking on a high-chair knows what I'm talking about). Weaning tables work well if there are siblings and if a parent also shares a meal with the child, to model behaviour and to share the same food.

Keep in mind that children outgrow these items rather quickly, like everything else.
Just like it is for us, it's essential for a child to sit and work comfortably to have a table and chair that are the right size for them. 
IKEA children's tables are cheap and may seem a great option, but most of them are really flimsy, they move when the child is trying to sit down, they move when they eat or draw, making the process messy and difficult.
Investing in a good-quality, sturdy wooden table with adjustable legs that can last years is a great choice.
If you live in the UK, Community Playthings makes outstanding furniture and tables for home and school settings. 
Toddler tables [Source: Sprout Kids and Community Playthings]

'Learning Tower'

A learning tower is basically a step tool with a frame that helps the young child stand safely to the kitchen counter adult to participate in whatever activity the adult is doing, typically cooking.
There are several benefits in engaging children in cooking:
- we get the cooking done (more slowly, but with some technique we get quicker) as we can keep the baby close as soon as he is able to stand;
- the child can independently climb on the steps and safely observe the parent while preparing meals,  and will more likely try new foods;
- as the child grows he can be involved in practical life activities in the kitchen.

There are many designs that you can find online, that developed from the first IKEA hack. Although the IKEA hacks are cheap, they also don't last for long enough, because the base is not adjustable.
If you have space and money to invest in a learning tower, do get one with an adjustable base, like the one below.



Play & Explore

Newborns go through a trauma when they leave the womb, and they take a long time to adapt to the outer world. We focus on the recovery of the mother (although not enough) but not as much about that of the baby. Humans are the only mammals born unable to move.  No other species remain helpless for such a long period of time.
The brain and nervous system continue to develop out of the womb after birth for another good 9 months,  that's what we call 'exogestation'. 
In this period, while it seems a baby is doing nothing, they are actually taking in an enormous amount of information from the environment.
Therefore, we should be very careful to the type and amount of stimulation that we should offer to the baby in the first year of life.
It is common to overestimate the need for entertainment, and to surround the baby with sounds, bright colours and battery-operated devices.
Cots often come with lights&sounds mobiles that are overstimulating for babies as well as can be coloured stickers on the wall and foam play mats.

Popular baby items in bright colours



Adults think that babies love sounds and bright, vivid colours, as their attention is so easily caught by them. 
For the same reason front-facing carriers are so popular. Babies who are carried facing forward are so stimulated visually that they are muted, and often fall asleep after a while.
We interpret all this as them liking the experience but they are actually overstimulated.
They turn towards a sound or a colour coming from the mobile or from polyester puppets hanging from traditional play gyms as we would  turn towards the window when hearing the sudden noise of a firecracker. 
It's no different. 

Also, the first objects that we put into a baby's hands are made of plastic, again because we feel it's safer and it comes in bright colours.
But plastic is of no sensorial interest for a young child. Plastic all feels and weigh the same.

If we wish to encourage concentration (vs distraction) and free movement, 
and we assume that these are the preconditions for a healthy development, 
we need to set up an uncluttered environment, 
with plenty of natural, soothing colours 
and just a few objects made of natural materials, 
which offer a varied sensorial experience.
Simple shapes for little hands to explore, like geometrical shapes. 
A good choice is to set up a cosy area on the floor 
with a black&white or wooden mobile and a low mirror, 
which the baby can use to look at himself 
and at the environment reflected in it.



Infant area at Greenleaves Montessori

Why on the floor?

I still remember my mother in law's shocked look as she first saw me putting her beloved grandchild onto the kitchen floor.

Many parents would allocate a specific time for tummy-time and they would use play-gyms, but they wouldn't choose the floor as the go-to place to leave their baby.

Thing is, if we are not carrying our baby, the floor is often the safer surface for a child to be.
It goes without saying that we wouldn't leave a child on the floor where he can only observe a white ceiling, unless it's an emergency.
From the floor, he is free to look around and movement is not restricted as it is in a bouncer. 
Yes the raised position of a chair allows to observe a portion of the surrounding environment, but the child is neither free nor encouraged to move to look around.
Source: The Pikler Collection


Also, before buying a bouncer, consider that not all babies like them.
If you definitely feel that you need a seat where you can safely leave your baby while you do something else, go for the Tripp Trapp infant seat.
Playpens are popular solutions once the baby starts to crawl although I wouldn't recommend using one unless strictly necessary for safety reasons.
Some approaches like RIE call it 'yes space' which means a space where the child is entirely free and safe to move, but to me playpen are still a type of restrictive equipment and the risk is to end up misusing them.
We should always make an effort to make the house safe for the child, to try engaging the child in whatever we are doing from the start, instead of leaving them in a separate space.
The skill that we will develop by learning how to do things with our children will lay the foundation for a relationship of trust and cooperation.


Play mat in natural fibres, a sheep skin or a Topponcino

The Topponcino is not very well-known but it's considered an essential item among Montessorians. It's basically an oval, very thin cushion that is used to support the baby when holding him or laying him down on the floor.

Sheep skins are used for the same purpose, although they don't quite work in the same way for holding the baby. Many parents also decide that they don't want animal skin for ethical purposes, so the Topponcino can be the right option for them.

A basic mobile: look up for the classic Munari black&white mobile (image below) on Etsy or you can make one at home. There are several options of simple wooden mobiles with geometrical shapes too on the market which may seem very dull to us but are actually great for babies.

Source: The Topponcino Company


Floor play area for newborns

Pikler Triangle

The Pikler triangle is a climbing frame specifically conceived for babies who start pulling themselves to standing and to support gross motor skills development. Climbing is a baby's favourite thing to do and it will remain so for a long time, so investing in this piece of equipment is a great idea.
Children will try to climb anything in the house anyway, so the point is to give them a safe place to do it.
Yes it takes up some space but if you plan to follow some of the space-saving advice above, you should have some room left for it:) Most Pikler Triangles are foldable, which gives you some flexibility.
You can browse products on Etsy (quality and design may vary) or purchase the Triclimb atBabipur.



A Triclimb, or Pikler triangle for gross motor skills [source: Etsy]

Play

I have mentioned several times that babies need very little in the first year: some good baby books, a good quality mobile, one or two balls in different materials, a Russian doll and a pop up toy will be enough.
Any Montessori teacher will tell you to focus on offering plenty of language and sensorial experience using objects from the home.
When it comes to babies, this basically means getting a wicker basket and filling it with safe, interesting tools and other objects taken from around the house. Because the child sees us using them every day these objects interest them like no toy could ever do.
A baby will always choose a real object over a toy if given freedom of choice.
Because of this, a final note goes to play kitchens, which are probably the most popular present given to children at their first birthday.
Play kitchen are pretty, and they seem harmless. They also look quite Montessori-aligned, as they involve some sort of practical kind of play.
The problem with play kitchen is that they are not real.
Cutting a wooden tomato is not at all like cutting a real one, pretending to pour water in a cup does not develop any ability.
The child knows it, the child wants a real tomato and real water to put, but he is left with objects that don't work.
A play kitchen could be a hit for a month or so, and our children may enjoy it when visiting our friends' homes, but it often ends up catching dust and taking space in a corner of the room.

- But children like pretend play and to imagine things right? So they will enjoy that - 

Imagination is important. But we start too early with it.
We tend to believe that imagination is the world of children, that they are born with it, that we need to support it and season reality with fantasy to make it more engaging.
We must remember that reality is enough for the young child from zero to six, because reality is already completely new to him, and because only when the child will have a sufficient understanding of reality he will be in the condition for developing abstraction skills and using imagination.

Reality is enough.
[Source: The Range]
A play kitchen is a popular present for a baby's first birthday.
Pretend toys are believed to be Montessori-aligned,
but they are actually in opposition with the Montessori principles.


Si instead of a highly-accessorised play kitchen that I promise you will regret buying very soon, why don't we set up a space for the child's kitchen tools and crockery, or, if we are brave enough, a water station?
You can IKEA hack or use a simple low shelf with one item per type: one glass or ceramic jug, a water dispenser (optional at first) one real child-size glass or cup, one child-size stainless steel cutlery set, one small sponge, one cloth for drying, one plate, one bowl.
This will keep your child busy whilst also promoting independence and supporting motor skills development.
Toddler Kitchens/Snack stations [Source: Three Minute Montessori, Montessori in real life]
- Is this messier than a kitchen? - 

Of course it is. Play kitchen are more convenient for us.
Children will spill water along the way, but who doesn't make mistakes while learning how to do something?
We do too. Mistakes are our teachers, and when it comes to motor skills, it is essential to understand that refinement of coordination only takes place with practice. 
Children go through a very powerful sensitive period for movement between zero and six: this means that they have a string interest in movement, and they not only can but they desperately need to practice motor skills. 
"The hands are the tools of human intelligence"

If we give them enough opportunities to do so in the first years of life, when they can learn effortlessly and develop very fine abilities, we will have given them a gift for life.
Let's not forget that children learn something else along the way, when they are allowed into 'our' world: they learn that they are capable, that they matter, that they are part of the family.
This lays the foundation for a 'growth mindset', for self-esteem and self-motivation.

So much hidden in objects!

Silks to explore object permanence and to hide [source: Mamaowl]





Find out more: https://aidtolife.org

Reading List

Montessori, M. and Foteva, L. (1988) The Absorbent Mind, From the original archives by M. Montessori, in partnership with AMI - ASSOCIATION MONTESSORI INTERNATIONALE (Montessori series Book 1), Kindle Edition

Montessori, M. (2017) Secret of childhood, The Montessori series vol.22, Amsterdam: Montessori-Pierson Publishing Company

Montessori, M. (2017) Education for a new world, The Montessori series, vol.5, Amsterdam: Montessori-Pierson Publishing Company

Montessori, M. (2017) The discovery of the child, The Montessori series, vol.2, Amsterdam: Montessori-Pierson Publishing Company

Honneger Fresco, G. (2013) Abbiamo un bambino, Verona: Edizioni del Baldo

Honneger Fresco, G; Honneger Chiari, S (2015) Una casa a misura di bambino, Milano: RED!Edizioni

Montessori, M. (2019) Tutto quello che dovresti sapere sul tuo bambino, Milano: Garzanti.














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