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Everything You Need to Know About Montessori for Babies
July 5, 2023

Everything You Need to Know About Montessori for Babies

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Everything You Need to Know About Montessori for Babies.
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Everything You Need to Know About Montessori for Babies

If you follow any parenting accounts on social media or read any parenting articles, you’ve likely heard of the Montessori method. While the emphasis is often on implementing Montessori principles in the toddler years, it’s also a great learning tool for babies.

And the best part: it’s super easy to incorporate Montessori into your home and everyday routine with your baby. Their impressionable minds are growing at such a rapid pace, learning during the early years is pretty much effortless. They’re soaking up knowledge just from being in their environment, as well as from each and every interaction with those around them.

Here’s everything you need to know about Montessori for babies.

What is Montessori?

According to the American Montessori Society, “Montessori is an education philosophy and practice that fosters rigorous, self-motivated growth, with a goal of nurturing each child’s natural desire for knowledge, understanding and respect.” The philosophy was founded by Maria Montessori, who believed that children are much more capable than we adults give them credit for. The role of the adult in Montessori is to simply prepare baby’s environment, introduce the learning tools (aka toys or “materials”), then step back and allow them to learn through hands-on play and exploration.

Beyond the materials, Montessori is a respectful approach to guiding children. The parent or teacher observes the child’s needs, trusts their abilities and allows independence (within limits) so the child can follow their own unique path of development steered by their natural drive to learn and grow.

Why begin Montessori at birth?

85% of the brain is formed by age 3. Education is often thought to begin in preschool, but Dr. Montessori observed that learning begins at birth. Early brain development is the foundation for all future learning as babies establish pathways and patterns of discovery that they’ll use throughout life.

The quality of your child’s environment influences their development. Children who grow up in stimulating environments have greater opportunities to develop. Your child’s skills are not predetermined. An example of this is visual development. Your baby is born with some basic visual wiring, but what they see in the first months of life influences key visual skills such as depth perception and the ability to switch focus quickly between objects. Hint: this is why you’ll notice high-contrast cards and mobiles are popular Montessori toys for newborn babies.

In addition to developing their senses and foundational skills, babies are learning how to learn! A major goal of Maria Montessori’s philosophy is to help infants develop habits of concentration, perseverance when confronted with challenges, independent problem solving and other skills that will serve them well throughout childhood and adulthood no matter what type of work they choose.

How to begin using Montessori with your baby

In addition to reading, singing and talking with your baby from birth, you can help promote learning at a young age by preparing their environment. Here are some things to consider when setting up a playspace for baby:

  • A sense of order reduces stress. For adults, a messy office with papers everywhere can be a source of stress and overstimulation. The same is true for your little one and their play area. Children function best in an organized play space that isn’t overstimulating. A favorite Montessori teacher saying is, “A place for everything and everything in its place.”
  • A simple play space promotes focus and independence. One way to keep things orderly is to not put all of your child’s toys out at once. Choose a few toys and books at a time and put the rest away to rotate in later (some people like to do this on a weekly or bi-weekly basis). As you observe that your baby’s interest in certain toys is waning, you can rotate them with some of the other ones you have stored away. This can help reignite your child’s curiosity and allows them to continue learning even more from their toys as their skills improve. Also, displaying toys on a low shelf (as opposed to in a toy bin) allows your child to access them independently.
  • Passive toys make for active babies. Simple or “passive” toys (like blocks) require your child to be engaged in order to activate them. More “active” toys with lights and sounds (screens are the most active) can put your child into a passive mode, where they push a button and wait to be entertained. Choose toys that are exciting because of the engagement they require, not because of their bells and whistles.
  • Present just the right amount of challenge. The best learning happens as children make mistakes while they try to figure something out and eventually achieve mastery on their own. When you look for toys for babies, try to choose ones that provide an appropriate level of challenge: not so easy that your child gets bored or so complicated that they get frustrated.

Best Montessori Materials for Babies

You don’t need to go out and spend a ton of money on Montessori materials. And keep in mind that less is more. Something as simple as a little basket with a few everyday household items (that are safe to explore with supervision) can provide loads of learning and sensory exploration.

There are also brands like Monti Kids and Lovevery that have curated sets of developmentally appropriate toys based on your little one’s age.

Here are a few materials we love for setting up a “yes space” for the littlest Montessorians:

A playmat provides a comfortable, safe spot for your baby to explore their environment and allows freedom of movement, which is great for motor skills development.

High-contrast cards, or black and white art cards, are super engaging for newborns and encourage visual development. They’re especially fun to use during tummy time, either laid out on the floor or propped up. A Montessori-inspired mobile is also a great addition to their play space.

Simple sensory toys are perfect for open-ended exploration. Although it might not seem like much learning is happening, grasping and mouthing provide a ton of sensory input and learning. Grasping is fine motor skill practice for little fingers and hands. Mouthing toys lets your baby learn about the physical properties of objects as well as prepares them for eating solid food in the future. A win-win! Just make sure their toys are non-toxic and age-appropriate (think food-safe silicone or wood and no small parts).

Books are always a good idea. Reading with your baby provides so many learning benefits—from early language exposure to encouraging social-emotional development. Books that align with Montessori tend to have real images of people and objects, and the stories are about realistic, everyday topics.

It’s never too early to incorporate the Montessori philosophy into your child’s life. With a few simple materials and this bit of information, you can support your baby’s development with the Montessori philosophy from birth.

Briana Engelbrecht

Assistant Editor

Briana Engelbrecht is Babylist’s Assistant Editor, where she brings her passion for early childhood development and the perinatal period, plus experience as a mom of two to Babylist articles and guides. A former preschool teacher, she loves children’s picture books, cats, plants and making things.

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