As the social media manager at Monti Kids, having recently given birth to my second baby, my perspective on parenting has profoundly changed since my first son was born. My older son was well into toddlerhood when I joined the team at Monti Kids, and it was about a year before I’d give birth to his little brother, during which time I logged hundreds of hours reading about and watching videos of Montessori learning in action.
In my first weeks of work, I was blown away by videos that poured in on social media of babies crawling to a shelf, engaging with a toy and then (gasp) putting it away all on their own. That certainly hadn’t happened in my home! I quickly immersed myself in learning everything I could about Montessori, and was lucky enough to have (very patient) experts from the Monti Kids Learning Team at my fingertips to answer any questions along the way with gentle guidance.
I’m sharing my experience in hopes to help other parents who are also new to the world of Montessori.
Designed for Baby… Not Mom!
When it comes to making purchasing decisions for my children, I’ve shifted my mindset. Before I was exposed to Montessori, I subconsciously looked for products that appealed to me, while thinking they were also geared to my child’s development. The more cute animal mobiles, sounds, and colors the better for development – right? My son appeared to be engaged with some of these toys, so I thought I was on the right track.
I later learned that Montessori materials are simple by design to challenge a child to grow a particular skill, while eliminating distractions.
Let’s consider the registry staple for most first time moms – the activity gym. My older son’s activity gym was soft and colorful, with animals that hung in every direction. Looking back, it was too easy for him to come in contact with the mobiles. Many times, it was purely accidental. There was really no purpose behind the mobiles. They didn’t hang at the correct level for optimal development of vision, nor were they the ideal colors for this stage of life. This particular activity gym lacked opportunities to challenge his grasp or kicking – which is a precursor to walking. It was static – meaning it didn’t evolve with him as he developed new skills.
As my younger son works his way through Monti Kids Level 1, I can see that just having one mobile or hanging toy to focus on promotes his development with intention. For example, it’s been amazing to watch him with the grasping ring. From initial frustration, to batting at it, to grasping his little fingers around the wood and cooing in delight at this accomplishment, I can truly see he’s learning perseverance at just three months old. I believe this growth mindset will serve him well in life.
Baby’s Perspective is Key
The same design perspective applies to my sons’ rooms. My first baby’s room was a traditional nursery, featuring hanging art prints that appealed to me – at my eye level. As our Monti Kids founder Zahra Kassam highlights in her TEDx talk, an adult should get down on all fours in their baby’s room, to see what their child will see. Armed with this perspective, my second son’s room includes a low shelf, low-hanging artwork, a basket of books, and low mirrors. I can be confident knowing this environment will serve him well as he grows and learns.
Independent Play is Great for Development – Yes, Even for Babies!
Looking back, I was constantly chatting with my first son as he would play. I thought that was what I was “supposed” to do for his development. I now realize that I was breaking his concentration. Yes, language and having conversations with your baby is incredibly important, but I have learned that when they are focused on a task, it is the adult’s role to protect that “bubble of concentration,” by leaving him be. This piece of knowledge has truly been a win-win as I can feel confident letting my second baby spend time under his mobiles to focus, while I have some moments to get a few things checked off my ‘to do’ list – or even just sit to enjoy a cup of coffee! He often engages with his mobiles for 30-minute blocks of time! It’s a true game-changer, as I can drop the mom guilt.
Rotate, Rotate… and Rotate More!
Toy rotation has changed my life! When I started working at Monti Kids, I was guilty of incorporating large baskets of toys in my family room, which invited “dumping” by my toddler. This led to a cycle of dumping, cleaning, and dumping again. It was overwhelming! I took the advice from our learning team to incorporate a low shelf with 6-8 toys in the room.
I was unclear what to do with my son’s toy vehicle collection, which he loved. I’m not alone in that – this question comes up all the time on our Monti Kids Instagram page, so I wanted to share our learning team’s advice.
(All Monti Kids subscribers get access to advice from the Learning Team via Facebook, chat, or a phone call. I am just lucky that I have a direct line!)
Stacy, who has 15 years of Montessori teaching experience (and three children!), suggested I keep “collections” on his shelf, but in a small basket, which would count as one material. The same could be true for books, musical instruments, or other collections.
Now, I observe throughout the week to see what he’s engaging with, and what’s being ignored. I rotate out the neglected materials, while adding a few new toys or activities from storage. What’s old is new again! This not only keeps my son’s interest, but with everything in its place, he can be an active participant in maintaining the order of his environment. I’m implementing this process with my baby as well.
It’s Not All or Nothing
While I love the Montessori philosophy, I’ve learned that it’s OK to take bits and pieces that work for your family. For example, with an active big brother, and energetic dog – I wasn’t ready to incorporate a floor bed into my baby’s room, so we stuck with the crib. I took Stacy’s advice to heart when she says, “We’re big fans of what works for individual families, and supporting them in that process.”
Although I wish I would have been exposed to Monti Kids and the wealth of information that comes with my job earlier, I’m grateful to have a new take on parenting. I’m looking forward to seeing Luke grow and learn – and sharing with the Monti Kids community as he moves through our program.