Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Montessori Shopping Links

Look! Montessori Shopping Links!

I have received lots and lots of questions about where to get obscure Montessori furnishings and materials. For everyone who has ever asked "where did you get your weaning table and chair?" To everyone who can't quite visualize a floor bed, and to everyone who has a hard time finding simple, affordable, quality things for little people, check it out. To your right, you'll see some new links to Montessori stuff. So there you go. Shop away, but...


1. Read "The Joyful Child" at www.michaelolaf.net. The Montessori home environment is a state of mind, and the things are just things--tools to help you. Even if you never buy a single piece of Montessori furniture or equipment, there's a lot you can learn from reading.

2. Really look at what you already have first--especially in the activities department. A lot of this stuff is easy to make at home. It's about order and an absence of extraneous stuff. You can make a cluttered confusing environment that is chock-full of Montessori equipment and you will still not have a Montessori environment. I fight this battle every day. Ask my packrat husband.

3. Remember that your baby will still be a baby, even if you fill your house with dishwashing stations and watering cans. It's all about respecting your child for the person she is. Did I mention that it's really not about the stuff?

One more caveat:

There is no one Montessori bible upon which everyone agrees. You will find things in these catalogs that I have excluded from my environment, and you will not find everything I am using at any one site. Some of the best things I have in Nuvy's environment are improvised. It's not about the stuff.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Mares eat oats and does eat oats

Mares Eat Oats and Does Eat Oats and the Little Lamb Eats Oatmeal: The Montessori Baby Eats Up!

So it's finally happened. One day, I was happily nursing, and the next day, I was covered in oatmeal. One of the teachers at our Montessori school had banana oatmeal for lunch and Nuvy gave her that lip-smacking look, and there was no denying it. So I got some baby oatmeal on my way home, and that's where we started.

As you all know, the Montessori baby cannot be strapped into any contraption except her car seat. She can't sit up on her own yet, so we can't use the weaning table, and that means lap feeding. I was sure Kent would suggest that we break out some sort of baby seat for feeding, but I was surprised to find that I didn't even have to show him how to do it. He just sat right down with her on his lap, held the food in the left hand and the spoon in the right, and chirped "I've always seen people feed their babies this way, and now I finally get to do it!"

I could not have been more proud as I watched them shovel away.

The Montessori lap feeding rules are these:

1. No propping up in a seat. The child is held on your knees and is supported by the non-spoon arm. There should really be a corollary rule that you must cover yourself, the baby, and all the surrounding upholstery with a dropcloth before beginning.

2. The food must be served in a colorless glass or plastic container. The container is transparent so that the child can see where the food is. A four-and-a-half-month-old is still working on object permanence, and so could not comprehend that the food exists in a place where she can't see it, so it's important that the child see the spoon going into the food and coming out with some food on it, into her mouth. The container is colorless so as not to give an unrealistic appearance to the food.

3. The spoon is offered, and the baby chooses to eat or not. That means no airplane games to get the baby's mouth open, and no slipping the spoon in while she's crying, even if I think it will make her quiet. We just hold the spoon up and wait for her to take it. So far, she always grabs it with both hands and pulls it into her mouth. Oh, it's messy, but so cute! If she gets distracted, I just wait there and hold the spoon. Eventually, she either comes around to eating again, or she's just not interested, and I stop feeding her. So far, I'm happy with the results.

4. Water is offered in a clear, colorless glass. The reason it is clear and colorless is the same as above for food. The reason it is water and not some other drink is obvious. You are both going to be wearing the better part of it. I have to say that I was a little skeptical about this at first, but I figured, "Hey, it's just water after all." Well, Nuvy totally digs the water glass. She has more or less success getting water into her mouth depending on the type of glass. The best kind I've found is the one the Montessori people all recommend, one of those little flared glass votive candle holders. It is the perfect size, and the little lip really helps her guide the water in. She seems so proud of herself!

Here she is with her glass of water. I held it up in front of her so she could get a good look at it. She naturally puts everything she can find in her mouth right now anyway, so she just grabbed it with both hands and brought it to her lips. I was amazed to see that, after a couple of tries, she was gulping water from the glass, pretty much as anyone else would.

5. No mixing food. Each type of food is served in its own little clear glass container. If she has just oatmeal, she just needs one little glass bowl. If she has oatmeal and peas, she needs two. Add carrots? Add a third dish. Later, when she sits at the weaning table, and can have all her food laid out before her, this will be unnecessary. But for now, it is thought to help her understand the whole concept of eating different things. Like many other experts, the Montessori folks suggest feeding just one thing per container (just peas, not peas mixed with applesauce) so we can both learn about her food preferences. So far, she likes everything, including sucking on corn cobs and apple cores.

What she's eating.
Probably because I have never had any real food allergy, I have been sort of haphazard about introducing things to her. We started out in a very organized way, with oatmeal, then oatmeal and peas, etc. And then I just started letting her try things. I haven't given her any big no-nos like peanut butter or honey, but she has had a taste of raspberry yogurt, a sip of strawberry juice, a drop of red wine from my finger, and a taste of vanilla ice cream, in addition the baby standby foods. Yeah, I know. She's too young for dairy and way underage for alcohol. I'll try to be better. So far, she has not had any reaction to anything, but I have to admit feeling a little guilty about being so carefree in feeding her things.

I just enjoy her interest so much. I was really sort of dreading having to give her food, but my friend Brianne was right. It's actually kind of fun.