Having moved to another country on the other side of the world and not having my mum around to give all the advice that you sure need when you have your first baby, looked like a very hard task at the time.
My daughter was 10 months when I decided to go back to work, as the idea of being at home with no friends and family around was very difficult, so I was very, very lucky to get a job where they had Childcare in the premises and where they run a program called MONTESSORI, which I never heard of. Everyone kept of telling me how wonderful the experience was and I wondered what was so special about it.
My daughter had been at another childcare just for 2 weeks before I got the job, so I can say from experience that it was very, very different. The whole environment was just beautiful and I was so excited about the surroundings that of course a baby had to be too! I liked the Montessori approach very much, as it is simple and logical, as my grandma would have done it in her time.
I read a couple of Montessori books that I was recommended by one of the teachers with the idea of how to set my home to be as interesting, safe and beautiful as the classroom. The books were very good; they explained the different stages that babies go through from 0 to 3 and, the most important thing, what they need to develop to their potential. That gave me a completely different perspective, my daughter was not a little baby that needed me to do everything for her, she did not need all the expensive toys that the shops and ads make us believe they need, she just needed me to know what she was experiencing at every stage so I could be there to give her all my support and help.
From then onwards, I modified some things around the house to adapt to her needs and tried to copy some of the things I saw at the childcare too. I was amazed to see all the things that babies can do, if you allow them to! They sit at tables and drink from glasses and lots of other things as early as 7 months! At the time, when she was not walking, I moved the furniture around my living room, so there was more room to move around and also surfaces where she could try and pull herself up. Nothing is engaged in my house, there is no room that she cannot access, and we even have stairs that she loved to use when she started crawling. I have never used a playpen or any other confined space.
I bought a table and chairs for her size, and I put it in the kitchen so she would not sit in the high chair to eat, in most cases when she sat in the highchair she would throw the food to the floor, to see how it landed from high up. I bought small glasses that she could handle easily and a little jar to pour the milk and water from (which she can use perfectly now at 21 months).I used, instead of plastic cutlery, the coffee spoon and dessert forks. I have been changing things in the kitchen since then; I designated a cupboard to be hers, so she has her plates, glasses and cutlery, an apron to help me with some cooking, some table cloths and napkins, so while I prepare her breakfast in the morning she sets the table. There are also cloths to help with spills on the floor and a little brush.
On her table she has a small basket with fruit so she can chose the piece that she will have as a snack on the way home. We spend most of the time in the kitchen and we have a great time preparing salads and peeling boiled eggs and other activities.
I bought some floor cushions and put them in her room where she could sit to get dressed or put her shoes on, and in the living area where she could sit comfortably to read a book or play with some toys. I learnt the lesson that less is more, and stopped buying her every toy I liked and started thinking what that toy would help her understand, so a little toy with music and lots of lights did not mean anything to her at the time, and she wasn’t even interested, so I got her real things, books with real pictures (which she adores) and wooden toys that would last for a long time, and are beautiful as well. In the living room there is a whole cupboard for her with books, crayons and paper, and loves going through it to fins the activity that she wants to do.
Her room is simple: there is a cot, a rug where she loves to do some Yoga poses, and the floor cushions. Her wardrobe is set up so she can get her shoes and daily clothes easily and the dresses and other special clothes are hanging higher. There is a side table with her precious things and photos of friends and family. In the bathroom she has a bowl with her toothbrush to wash her teeth, with a little toothpaste and a glass for rinsing, now at 21 months is her favourite activity. There is a basket where she has her towels and her brush and a small mirror at her level so she can see herself easily.
All around the house I put pictures and things that she has painted at her level, and loves looking at them and recognizing the faces! Outside, in the garden, she has her small watering can to help Dad with the plants and loves taking the tomatoes and peppers from the plants once they are ready. When I tell my mum about all the things she can do she is amazed. When I look back over the last 2 years I can say have not missed any of her big steps and I have helped her with her development as best as I could have, and HAD A LOT OF FUN on the way. Now most of my friends have kids in their “terrible two’s” like me and all I can think of is that we do not really know what the kids are trying to do and need. I don’t know everything myself either, but one thing I can be sure of, I am trying my best and my daughter is a very happy girl, and I like to think that Montessori helped me achieve this.
Guest article by: Gemma (Thanks!)