Imagine how much of an impact developmentally appropriate toys can make for your baby. They can encourage mastery of all these abilities in a positive and constructive way. Luckily, the Montessori curriculum begins at birth and offers baby learning toys that will support this development.
What developments do the best Montessori toys for babies support?
Vision Your newborn baby opens their eyes and sees the world for the first time after they are born. It’s an incredible moment! Light, dark, shapes, and movement are all a part of this experience. Now they must learn to focus on what they are looking at and to be able to follow the object in their vision. By the time they are 12 months old, they can see things both near and far pretty well, and they can follow quick movements with their eyes. So, what can you do for your baby to support this progression? Montessori’s specially designed mobiles are ideal for this time period. The first mobile (the Munari mobile), which you can give right after birth, is black and white, to take advantage of your baby’s interest in high contrast visuals. It moves slowly in the natural currents of the air so that your baby has a chance of keeping their eyes with the floating elements. Montessori mobiles then progress through various colors and shapes to allow your baby to develop all aspects of their vision. Once they are familiar with colors, the mobiles present the primary colors, and then a gradation of colors.
Gradually, the mobiles take on elements that will move faster in the currents to allow their eyes to practice moving faster. And finally, the mobile will be composed of solid enough elements that it can withstand having your baby reach out and bat at an object. The mobiles do much to support the development of vision when your baby is small.
How baby toys support motor skill development
When your baby is first born, they have a reflexive grip. They will hold on tightly to anything that you put in their hands. They have no control over this grip – –it happens automatically and they cannot let go. Likewise, they have no subtlety to their grip. Your little one will hold anything you give them in the same way and with their entire hand. Over the next year, they will lose this newborn grip, and begin to develop a mastery of how they operate their hands. Montessori rattles are the best toys to support your baby’s development in this area. These rattles are designed to initially take advantage of the reflexive grip. The first rattles come in different shapes so that the same grip will feel different depending on the size and shape of the rattle. As your baby loses their reflexive grip and becomes more purposeful in what they want to hold, you can give them slightly more complicated rattles. These rattles may have two or three different parts and move in different ways when your baby manipulates them. Some are designed to be used with two hands so that they can practice moving it from one hand to the other. All of these learning toys allow your baby to develop their fine motor skills and support the use of their hands.
How baby toys encourage the development of gross motor skills
In the first year of their life, your baby will go from laying down to crawling to standing up and walking. What learning toys will best help your baby with this? Montessori has various balls and other rolling toys that will encourage your baby’s movement. There is a basket of balls made of various materials that you can place, one ball at a time, in front of your baby to encourage them to scoot. Rotate through the balls to offer a variety of visual and tactile experiences and to keep them motivated.
The balls move slowly enough that your baby will not be discouraged when they are slightly out of reach, and your baby has a chance of success as they work to coordinate their movement, and graduate to scooting and crawling. You can also give your baby the Rolling Drum, a cylindrical toy with wooden balls in it that will roll slowly away and inspire the same movement.
Experiences with these learning toys will support the development of your baby’s gross motor movement in the first year of their life.
How baby toys encourage hand-eye coordination
This ability connects what your baby is learning about their vision and their movement. Montessori offers so many specific learning toys for your baby to practice this ability during the first year of life. Hand-eye coordination begins with the final sturdy mobile, which allows them to bat and kick at its elements with success. Then you can offer a grasping ring, a ring hanging from an elastic string for them to practice grasping for. Once they lose interest in the ring, replace it with their various rattles, and they can keep practicing reaching for their toys and utilizing their developing hand-eye coordination. Once your baby has mastered this and is sitting up, you can give them Montessori learning toys that slowly increase the challenge for hand-eye coordination. First the Shape Fitting Toy, a ball that fits perfectly into a cup, then the Object Permanence Toy, a ball that goes into a hole, and then a variety of toys that offer different shapes and sizes to fit accordingly. Giving your baby these learning toys gives them opportunities to develop their hand-eye coordination during their first year.
There is so much that your baby will learn in their first year of life. Montessori toys help set your baby up for success during these rapid changes. Montessori learning toys will support your baby’s development in all of these areas.