Tuesday, April 04, 2006


Motomontessori!: The Montessori Infant Gets Rolling

Let's check in on the three-month-old Montessori Infant in her gloriously subdued environment!

More Montessori Rules: Tummy Time

The Montessori Infant does not get "tummy time". Why not, you ask? According to theory, the infant is more free to move and explore from her back, and is an imposition by me on her. Putting her on her tummy restricts her field of vision and the mobility of her arms and legs. Since I am minimizing restrictions to her movement by not swaddling her, etc. (don't mess with me about the sling, ok? I know it's restrictive. See previous posts for my sling exception) I place her only on her back. The thinking is that, rather than my imposing the tummy position on her, and my deciding when she should turn back over, I place her on her back and provide incentives for her to turn herself over. This "providing incentives" involves

1) not hanging toys above her head, which would make just lying on her back way too easy.

2) placing objects of interest where she can see them from her back-lying position, but where she has to stretch to reach them. Her current objects of interest are a patterned red bandanna propped up in a little peak, a clear plastic ring rattle with colored beads inside that I got by destroying the cute little Lamaze bee toy it was hanging from, a bright blue translucent back massaging thingy, a rolly wooden foot massaging thingy, and an upside-down bilibo--a big yellow bowl-seat-thing with two holes in it. Do you remember that guy on Fat Albert with the yellow helmet head? It looks like him.

3) Not using any movement-restricting apparatus, such as a swing or bouncer, but always placing her flat on her back when I'm not holding her.

Wonder of wonders, she rolled over!

Nuvy rolled over from back to front on March 25, five days before her three-months birthday. The object that most consistently gets her to roll over is the red bandanna. She loves that thing. I'm loathe to wash her drool off of it, as I think that might be part of its appeal. Maybe in tomorrow's wash.

I received considerable flak from my pediatrician for following this wacky-sounding no-tummy-time rule, but so far I'm happy with the results. The good doctor remarked about her very good head control, arm strength and trunk strength at our two-month visit, and I quote "Whatever you're doing, just keep doing it!". Then I told him what I was doing. He gave me a stern look and told me I really must give her some tummy time. I smiled and nodded and ignored him. It seems to have worked out much better for me than that time I ignored everyone who said "feed your newborn every two hours, whether she is hungry or not", see my previous post, The First Big Goof.


Mama C-ta said...

So funny he said to keep doing what you were doing before he realized he didn't like what you were doing! This is all so interesting to me. I did tummy time big around here, good to know it's not as important as I thought! Cricket didn't roll over for a long time. He did it once then never did it again till months later.

Anonymous said...

I am a little confused here, I also took a certified montessori infant class; you seem to be doing things backwards from what I learned. I know they stress constant tummy time...
There are montessori mobiles to hang above the head from infancy, there is a mirror in front of the child so she can see the mobile and work towards it. Maybe I am not understanding? I am still learning...

testdriver said...

Boy, isn't it funny how people who claim to adhere to the same philosophy can have such radically different views?

I have also been in Montessori infant programs with mirrors and beautiful mobiles, and in my training, I was simply told that they were "the subject of controversy" and given (by my teachers) reasons for excluding them. These folks were very much against tummy time, too. One of the big influences in my program was Magda Gerber (your self-confident baby), who does not, as far as I read, associate herself particularly with Montessori, but the course used her, so I just took it to be a Montessori point of view...

The training I took was through the Center for Montessori Teacher Education in Charleston, and associated with Montgomery Montessori Institute in Maryland, which is an AMS program. The program I observed with the mirrors and mobiles was an AMI school, which might account for some differences.

I am actually not all that surprised that there are such widely disparate curricula, although someone should definitely decide which ones get the "Montessori Seal of Approval" to keep all us bloggers from getting confused.

Anyway, Now that my baby is over a year old, and seems to be happy, confident and well-coordinated, I guess, I'm glad I did it, but I'll bet she would have been perfectly fine if I'd given her tummy time and a pretty mobile. I'd love to hear more about differences between your class and mine.

Anonymous said...

AMI is the only association which was actually started by Dr. Montessori, so as far as I am concerned they get the seal of approval. I am an AMI assistant to infancy and tummy time is important!

Would you want to spend two months on your back????

Anonymous said...

In my AMS training, we were taught that infants should not be placed in positions that they cannot get into themselves. That includes placing them on their tummy if they are unable to roll over and placing them in movement-restricting devices such walkers, exersaucers, jumpers, etc.

Montessori is about following the child and allowing the natural development without adults pushing the child to do things that he/she is not ready to do. This applies to infants as well.

Last, the comment about AMI vs. AMS is unnecessary. I have met truly remarkable infant/toddler Directress' from both and neither should get the "seal of approval" over the other. As Montessorians, we should be talking about what is best for the child. Our training was also influenced by Magda Gerber because Maria Montessori herself never truly wrote a specific method for infants and toddlers.

Testdriver said...

Anonymous 2--

It sounds like you and I had similar trainings...

I have heard from others who have had the Assistants to Infancy training in AMI programs (see other commentary), who seem to be less influenced by RIE and Magda Gerber. Intuitively, I like what I learned there, but it was presented to me rather seamlessly, and, I suppose, with all the biases already in place.

I agree that there is no real reason for a "Montessori Seal of Approval" for individual teachers/directresses--I was kind of kidding there, and didn't mean for that to be an inflammatory remark. I do, however, think that a useful discussion could be had, from a developmental standpoint, regarding the rationales behind tummy time/no tummy time. I'm sure there are plenty of good ones for both. Philosophically, I'm pretty non-partisan about tummy time, It's just something I never did because of my training, and neither of my kids appears to have suffered in any way because of it.

Actually, for as much as I have identified with Montessori's (or for that matter, Magda Gerber's) writings, I think the least compelling reason for doing anything at all is "Because Dr. Montessori Said So." Dr. Montessori always had a reason, So does Gerber, and so do I, I hope. Those reasons, and not who dictates what practice, is always my preferred angle for discussion.

Anonymous said...

With Montessori having been medically trained, I would think she would approve of "tummy time" as it strengthens the abdominal muscles, and frankly, it seems to me the most "natural" thing. IE in the wild, sometimes a young human or primate for that matter, may be placed on its tummy by mother or by accident. Anyhow, thanks for your blog, I find it interesting!

Chris said...

As a Feldenkrais practitioner I work all the time with people who are injured and many of those injuries stem from gaps in early movement development. We work with movement to help fill in those gaps and heal the injury.

When one understands how movement develops in a young infant one can understand that imposed tummy time is not necessary and can be harmful. A young baby has not yet developed the support they need through their back to hold up the weight of their head. You can look and see that very little babies placed on their belly strain their neck muscles to hold up their head.

This back support develops throughout the first months of life as a baby lies on their back, turning their head, lifting their head and legs from the floor, reaching for toys etc. In this way a baby develops the flexors, the muscles at the front of themselves, and then begins to learn to roll over. Once they roll over all this work on their flexors through the first months of life has lengthened the extensors, the muscles through the back, so that they are now ready to work.

The impetus to roll over comes from a very natural desire to engage with the world, to reach for toys, to move towards objects of desire. When a baby is given time to naturally learn to roll over onto their belly, without adult interference then they are ready to support the weight of their head lying on their belly and they will give themselves all the tummy time they need.

So many parents talk about how much their babies hate tummy time. When a baby is given time to find their own way there and is able to roll out of it themselves they don't protest lying on their bellies.

Many adults have neck problems and when I work with them I can see that they never really developed the proper organization of the musculature through their back for supporting their heads with good posture.

As a society we have very little faith in our children's natural abilities to grow, develop and move according to their own needs and nature's plan.

I'm in complete agreement with Magda Gerber that when we put a baby into a position that they can't get out of themselves we give them the message that what they can do is not good enough and that what they can't do is expected of them.

Of course a baby can't get into and out of lying on their back without an adult putting them their either, but in this position there is nothing required of their yet undeveloped anti-gravity musculature to maintain themselves - no impediment to the movement of their heads, no restriction to their breathing or the movements of their hands and legs. They can lie there as quietly or as actively as they choose.

littlepuffyclouds said...

what a great post and comments! ok, now it makes more sense to me why your Montessori ideas sound so much like RIE! RIE was founded by Magda Gerber! ..uh-oh, I hear voices from the hall, someone is up from her nap! : )

janetlansbury said...

I was excited to find this site and conversation about tummy time, Montessori and Magda Gerber. I blog about my mentorship with Magda, the RIE Parent/Infant and Toddler Classes I teach and the ways I've applied Gerber's approach as a parent of 3.

@Chris, THANK YOU for explaining (so much better than I ever could) the need for infants to find tummy time when they are ready.

I have a post: http://www.janetlansbury.com/2010/02/infant-play-great-minds-at-work-captured-on-video/
that includes a brief video of a four month old infant fully engaged in play on his back, then rolling to his tummy. Then the video cuts to him at age 2, and shows him patiently completing 30 piece puzzle all on his own.

Leila said...

I am the mother of a seven-week old. I'm avoiding tummy time because of the RIEmexplanation, which makes sense to my logical brain. I picked up a Montessori from birth to three book and they advocate for tummy time. Based on this, I tried putting my daughter on her belly yesterday.

It was miserable. She flailed about and seemed so uncomfortable and angry. She had no control over her environment and seemed to be getting more and more upset. I turned her over when I couldn't take anymore and her mood drastically changed. She seem d to be dancing to the music, turning her head from side to side, and just enjoyed the world around her.

I know we can't tell what a baby is thinking, but I can say on that I can tell when she is about to lose it. She was about to lose it.

Also, she spends a chunk of time on her side, which she has already figured out how to do on her own. I'm sure that requires a good deal of an strength to accomplish. And her neck strength is amazing as she spends time exploring the world around her when we hold her in our arms.

Thank you for this post and the comments for helpng me understand the differences in the Montessori method.