Sunday, April 23, 2006

The Stage 3 Montessori Environment

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.

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.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Damn the Dodots!

Damn the Dodots!: Eurostyle, Good. Eurodiapers, Bad.

With all the sightseeing and gullet-stuffing, I hardly had time for shopping, but you can bet that anywhere I go, two things get bought. Baby gear and diapers.

In Barcelona, a cosmopolitan city which takes pride in offering the best of everything, I found two kinds of disposable diapers. Dodots (crappy and crunchy) and Suavinex ("new!" crappy and slightly less crunchy). This is a great case for why people all over the world marvel at American supermarkets. Brand competition ain't all bad, and friends, if I were a spanish--sorry, catalan--woman there is no way in hell I would use disposable diapers on my little button's tushie. Not only are they pinchy, tape-y/sticky, and crunchy, they are no match for my Noodle in a poop fight. She routed them over and over, once right nicely on the herring-packed train back to Barcelona from Montserrat (about an hour) which left me sitting in a steaming puddle of baby crap and fumigating all the neighboring grumpy commuters. Nice. Especially lovely for the clammy, smelly, humiliatingly stained walk home from the station.

I have been up to now a sideline fan of the alternative diaper scene, and I bought my g-diapers but I'm not using cloth--and there is exactly one reason I have not yet fully embraced the diaper revolution: Pampers New Baby Swaddlers. They are the most seductive of diaper devils. They're soft, smooth, stretchy, silent, have a lean profile, and are almost entirely leakproof. They are also still choking landfills, no matter how small a ball I roll them into for disposal.

I think the Eurodiaper Experience gave me some diaper perspective. It seems disposable engineering is not at such a premium in other parts of the world. So now I'm home, and after a happy reunion with American disposable diaper perfection, I sheepishly admit that I have been a spoiled-brat-environment-destroying-natural-resource-squandering-big-loud-American diaper consumer. I want ideal performance, and then I want to throw it in the trash and forget about where it goes after that. As a result of some light self-flagellation on that point, I'm now a part-time g-diaper user. ( We are using them at home, and so far I'm pretty happy with them, though the routine and technique take a little getting used to.

Of course, Barcelona is not known so much for its high-performing disposable diapers as for its cool modernist style, and there they live up to their billing. For as bad as the Barcelona disposable diaper scene was, I ran across one of the cutest baby/mommy stores I've yet encountered (dig the hat!). Check out, and to see some truly funky needlecraft.