Overhaulin'!: The Stage 3 Montessori Environment
As Nuvy, the experimental Montessori baby, approaches four months of age, she's moving into stage 3 of her Montessori infancy. This leads inevitably to the question, "What did you do with stages 1 and 2?" I have in fact failed to note stages in this blog up to now, so lets recap.
Stage 1: Birth to 4 Weeks
During stage 1, her environment was basically me. We kept the colors quiet (more or less--my taste doesn't run to pastels), the noises quiet, and the lights quiet. The idea was that an environment of low sensory stimulation would ease her transition into the world outside her womb (er, my womb), and allow her to get her bearings without sensory overload. She was allowed to sleep as much as possible (!), was held for most of her waking time, and started spending lots of time in the sling from about 2 weeks--the sling being my unorthodox addition to the environment, and one I'm glad I added.
As far as I can tell, she behaved during that time like a rather quiet, perfectly normal newborn, except that people did remark a lot that she seemed never to cry. It was the sling. I know it.
Stage 2: One to Four Months
During stage 2, we introduced her to her floor bed for nap time (we are still using the co-sleeper at night) and her playroom. Her toys were simple: a red bandanna--now referred to as her "buddy"-- and a few grasping objects, both soft toys and rattles, with not more than three out at a time. She plays on a blanket on the floor, and does not sit in any contraption that she can't get in and out of on her own (except the sling, which I consider holding her, so I don't count it).
Cognitively, she started regarding her hands at about 4 or 5 weeks, followed things with her eyes from about 3 weeks, seemed interested in particular things, such as her buddy from about 5 weeks, and started grabbing things and putting them in her mouth from about 11 weeks.
I played a kind of peek-a-boo game with her starting at around 8 or 9 weeks, in which I covered her face with the bandanna, then uncovered it and smiled at her. She never seemed afraid or cried at all, but at first she would suck in her breath and move in a rather agitated way when she was under the bandanna. Pretty soon that stopped, and for about a month, she would just lie very still under the buddy and wait for me to remove it--presumably watching the spot where she last saw me. Just during the past week or so, she has begun to try to move the bandanna out of the way, and I have started varying the game by moving to a different spot while she's under there, so I don't show up in the same place where I disappeared. She appears to enjoy the surprise.
At 12 weeks, we went back to work part time. She comes to school with me, hangs out in the sling during carpool or if she's fussy, and plays on the floor during the day. So far it's working out pretty well. The children love her and give her their colds, and she seems to enjoy them, too. More on that as events develop.
She's also rolling around like a little buckeye these days, and starting to try to get her knees under her. I'm introducing gates this week.
Stage 3: Four to Eight Months
So here we are, coming up on four months and it's time to introduce a bunch of new stuff to our Montessori baby. The idea is to support the tremendous growth spurt her brain has during this time. Here are some of the new cool things she gets to play with!
Dolls: She's able to appreciate toys that look like people now, so she's getting a little soft dolly. Mostly, I expect her to eat it.
Things to stack: During the next four months, she's supposed to get interested in building, so I'm introducing some soft stacking blocks in easy to clean vinyl, since she'll probably lick them a lot.
Things to name: Representative toys, like fruits and vegetables, animals (I'm giving her some stuffed bird toys from the Audubon society. They come in different local species.), tools, people's pictures, whatever. You put them in a basket and take them out, saying their names as you touch them. We're supposed to start this before she can talk, to add to the words in her environment.
Different textures: We already do this, with soft, hard, cold, warm, smooth, rough, to give her tactile experiences. The trick is to keep the objects simple so that the tactile difference is the point of interest. Hence, they shouldn't make noise when you squeeze them.
Something to climb on: I'm still looking for the perfect infant climbing structure. It's got to be very low and small, for someone who's just crawling.
Surprises: For example, a closed box with something inside, a bag that reverses to have a doll inside. Stuff like that.
The weaning table: This one brings tears to my eyes. I can't believe I'm already thinking about giving her food. The weaning table is Montessori's answer to the high chair. It's on the floor, and the child gets into and out of the chair herself. I expect to have to deal with this in the next few months when she can crawl and sit up. I hope she'll continue to nurse exclusively for another month or so, but she's already into drinking her bath water, so I have started giving her water in a little glass. She just dribbles it all over, but I'm telling you. She loves it.
Wow. A new era already.