Montessori Environment 6 - 12 months
At this stage children are moving about more and have developed strength in the neck, arms, hands and legs. Hopefully in the early months your child has had opportunities to move freely. This can be further implemented at this stage of your child’s development. Montessori believed that movement is associated with the development of the brain. So working with the hands can be beneficial for the development of the child.
At 6 - 12 months we need a movement mat that may be placed in the family room. If the child has had the freedom to move as he pleases, have had enough tummy time to develop strength, he/she and may have movement that will amaze parents, if we really watch and observe. We still need the wooden toys we previously had, plus a few more soft balls that the child may grasp, if it rolls, may motivate a child on their tummies to try to reach for it. This can be the beginnings of crawling. A child generally slithers and pulls up on average about 8 months. If it is later do not be worried, each child has their own blueprint of development. If children though are given the opportunity to freely move then they will never cease to amaze us with their abilities.
With the movement mat one can place a mirror in which the child can watch themselves and see their own reflection to learn more about their bodies and movement. When a child learns to create movement in their environment they will feel that they have control which in turn can later develop into a strong self-esteem.
As the child learns to move around the room and explores his own surrounding this is a time when the parents have the debate of safety versus giving the child opportunity to move. This can be assured by childproofing the home. This can be done by the parent being on the hands and knees and go around the room to have an idea from the child’s point of view. Be aware of anything that can be pulled down, wires, and table cloths, anything that is light enough to be toppled over- light tables, floor lamps etc., anything that things can be inserted in, power points, crevices in walls, sofas, etc. Make sure as well that the child may not find anything that they can swallow.
This is the time the household needs to be childproofed without the danger of confining the child into a small space (e.g. playpen). It is in this same philosophy (freedom of movement) that a child does not need to have cot/cribs. These can be constraining to the movement of the child. When a child wakes up, they feel confined and may cry to be “let out”. When a child is on the floor bed that they can get off themselves it gives them the freedom to play with any toy they choose when they wake.
The toys/materials that a child has can be placed in low shelves that will allow the child to have access to them and in small baskets that make it easy to clean and pick up. Do not put all toys in one large box as it does not have any order. It will also give children a hard time to look for things they particularly want if they need to rummage through a lot of other items.
Montessori ‘Toys’ and Materials
Have a low heavy table/shelf that a child can pull up on to. A low sofa will also do. A child will try to pull up on anything once they are able to. Try to make sure that they pull up on things that will not fall on them as earlier discussed in child proofing.
A weighted down wagon will be good as the child learns to pull up and maybe even practice to walk. They will also enjoy this material as the child gets older putting things in the wagon to transport toys.
Balls are wonderful things that every child enjoys to play with. Whether they are chasing it as they crawl, grasp it or roll it on the ground it is always lots of fun. Have a basket that will contain the balls. It will make it easy to contain and accessible for your child. A variety of different textured balls such as crocheted balls, rubber balls with protrusions, a soft beach ball, and practice golf balls are a few that can be used.
A child does not need a walker. There have been studies that children who use walkers may be delayed in learning to walk by a few weeks, and the child learns to walk on their toes rather than using their whole foot. There also have been accidents involving walkers as children are able to roll along them and hit objects/ walls. Let your child move around on their own in their own time.
Child constraining apparatuses need to be evaluated in use and benefit. Baby backpacks, slings, prams, carriages are good for temporarily transporting children as a parent may need free hands to do other things. As long as the child is not always placed in it, or contained in it for long periods of time that the child is rarely given opportunity to move. Baby swings, jolly jumpers, baby seats are not good for the development of the child as they allow for the child to be placed in it and forgotten while the parent is busy. They allow for the child to passively observe their surroundings rather than actively exploring their environment.
It is around this age that the child may start to be weaned. Some advise 6 months but you can observe your child as to when they are ready. It can be as simple as the child watching adults eat.
To help in this process Montessori has a few tips. Let the child to have a consistent area with which they will eat so that they will associate and area with the mealtimes. At mealtimes a young child may eat earlier than the family but may still be part of the family meal times sitting up on a high chair pushed up on the family table without a small table confining him to his own space.
When introducing the first meal choose a time that you are not in a rush and the meal can be enjoyed in a leisurely pace. This will make the experience a positive one.
The language at this stage is that children are starting to talk back, and experiment with their vocalisation from the sound that they hear. It is important then to communicate with the children. The dance of communication can be that the adult talks silence then the child talks. This is to model to them how communication happens. The adult may imitate what the child has said or say something else.
When talking to your child there is also no need to talk in a high pitch voice talk to him/her like you would another person, in a clear well-articulated manner. There is no need for baby talk for the child to learn real language. They will learn language from how we speak to them, so speak to them the properly. Talk to them about how things are around you; describe what they are seeing, and not just instructions of what you want them to do.
When reading a book, point to objects one a time and name it. This will teach children that each thing has a name and they can learn that if repeated to them constantly.
Respect the child’s sleeping patterns. When they are sleepy or tired let them sleep independently. This means that do not let your child have sleeping associated with something like a pacifier/dummy, blanket, or being rocked or swung. It is best to get your child used to sleeping independently earlier rather than later. One may sit with the child or leave them on their own to fall asleep.
Montessori also advices that children need not be wrapped, or be placed in a sleeping blanket as this hinders their movement. A child also need not be in a cot and can be placed in a low bed on the floor, as mentioned earlier. The child can then choose when or not they want to sleep or play in their own room.