Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Our 8-Month Old's Montessori Room & The 4 Sensitive Periods

One of my favorite things to do as a Montessori teacher is preparing the environment (making materials is another). As much as I enjoy a busy, purposeful, uninterrupted-3-hours-at-a-time work period with the children, I also savor those minutes before and after classes when I am usually alone in the classroom, sequencing the shelves, musing over the materials, sometimes pondering about the class that just ended, sometimes planning for the next. It's almost like a meditation. Almost like a prayer. Sometimes, I'd happily, proudly even, welcome an older child's, who is on extended day, offer to help. To sharpen writing pencils, sort colored pencils, sweep the floor, roll rugs, foster responsibility, encourage community.

And children always appreciate a beautiful classroom. Whenever I re-arrange (Note: Make sure to orient the children of changes in the environment), or add a carpet or fresh flowers; they'll come in wide-eyed, whispering their wows (because we use inside voices).

So it was with more than my usual enthusiasm that I set up a Montessori infant/toddler room for Cara, whose version of whispered wows and "It's beautiful here, Teacher Mars", is her shrieks of delight and her eagerness to explore and experience the environment.

In preparing our room, I took into particular account, Montessori's Sensitive Periods (for the first plane of development, 0-6 years old). I'll write about that for a bit, too, while I take you on a little tour of Cara's room.

One of the things that was a revelation and love-at-first-sight for me when I was learning about Montessori's philosophy, is how much opportunity and space there is, both in a classroom and at home, for movement.

Children in a Montessori casa work on rugs on the floor and here's Cara with a basket of ribbons on a floor mat.

Low and stable shelves for the materials and for Cara to pull-up on.

Floor bed for sleeping. Truth be told, we did buy a crib (because of all the pretty nursery Pinterests), but we never got to use it! We love the floor bed--it gives Cara an unobstructed view of her world and an unrestricted opportunity to experiment her increasing movements and abilities. She wakes up happily from the floor bed, too, and just crawls to the shelves for an activity--usually towards the books.

Our pull-up bar is really a tension rod for the shower. I had a spare so I tried it out (and because I'm not too handy with a drill) and it has worked nicely for us (make sure to test that it's stable for when the baby pulls up on the bar).
A mirror is always a good point of interest. When Cara was younger, we had that mirror placed horizontally nearer the floor to engage her during tummy time and to encourage her to roll and crawl. Now it's that way for standing up and walking.
Below the mirror is our wooden hedgehog ramp walker. Cara loves and moves to its beat as it goes down the ramp.

That corner by the end of the shelf and the end of the bar has been quite a challenge for Cara. She'd usually just go down and crawl instead of walk to move from the front of that shelf to the bar.
But now look! She has gained confidence!

Fine motor skills are developed, too. Here's Cara with a Peg Board.

Let me be an addition to the already many resources that say children learn through their senses. The key, I think, is preparing an environment that is multisensorial and sufficiently stimulating (as opposed to overly).

Mirrors are magic.

Hang paintings on the child's level of sight. Cara loves to feel the texture of paint on the canvas, too.

For auditory experience, this bell, along with a sound cylinder and a pair of maracas.
Most olfactory and gustatory activities are in the kitchen/dining room (which I will write about another time).

There was this one time I sang "You Are My Sunshine" with a maracas and Cara was playing the sound cylinder. The next day, when I started singing the same song, without other prompting, Cara went to the shelf, took out the sound cylinder, and started shaking it, playing while I sang! As an observer, this was fascinating for me because one, she has already associated the particular stimulus with a particular experience; and two, because she knew exactly where to get the sound cylinder. Children recognize, remember, and relish routine and observe (observe, meaning watch; and observe, meaning follow) order. It is part of our task to provide them with an environment (and schedule) that respects and responds to this sensitivity.

An open shelf that invites the child to work. Here we have some Montessori-inspired and DIY materials I prepared for Cara.

Some books are on the shelf like this (again, they're inviting) and I just rotate them. I keep some in a wicker basket, too, because Cara likes going through them and taking out the one she likes.

One of my perpetual wonders is how a child acquires language. And as I see now how Cara came to know "kiss" (she'll give you a kiss on the cheek) and "knock" (she'll knock on the doors) among other words, I only have a few answers, but a lot, a lot of amazement.

A book is always a perfect venue for opportunities for conversation, for language.

Cara's reading nook. My favorite corner in the house.

That's our Montessori infant/toddler room, for now. I hope you find a tip or two here that would work nicely for your home. For more Montessori here and elsewhere, like Montessori on Mars on Facebook and follow @montessorionmars on Instagram.

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  1. Love this post! Just YESTERDAY, while pinning away on Pinterest, I stumbled upon the idea of floor beds. I was so intrigued. I spent the next half hour or so, looking for photos of Montessori-inspired bedrooms online. Just now, I was so happy to see your post on, lo and behold...your baby's Montessori room! :D It's nice to see how it can look like here in our country, with what's available here :p Our son currently sleeps in his crib in our bedroom. I want to turn the spare room (currently filled with clutter,) into his own little space with his own little floor bed and all the Montessori goodness we can manage :) Thanks for the inspiration!

    1. Hi, Vicky! I'm so glad that this post is timely and inspiring for you!

      The floor bed had the same effect on me--I was always intrigued, fascinated by it and I'm glad that now I get to try it with Cara.

      Enjoy setting up your son's Montessori environment! If you need Montessori materials, I can help you get them. :-)

  2. This is a wonderful post! I have an almost 20-month old daughter and another one on the way, and I wish we could set up the room the way you did. We just have too much furniture in her room that I don't know where to put! But I've always dreamed of doing it that way. If only our house had more space!

    I live in Quezon City, and I notice that you mentioned that you're a Montessori teacher for kids 2.5 and up. Are you teaching in Quezon City as well, and if not are there any places there you'd recommend for young children? Thanks! :)

    1. Thank you! :-) I guess it has worked for us that we just moved to a new house and don't have much furnitures just yet! :-)

      I used to teach, but stopped when I was pregnant. Let me give you this link where I listed some Montessori schools in Quezon City. http://www.montessorionmars.com/p/blog-page_7.html?m=1

      Feel free to send me a message on Facebook if you'd like to chitchat some more about schools. :-)

  3. I love the tip on being sufficiently stimulating rather than overstimulating! As an eager beaver mama who discovered Montessori also, the bigger challenge is to EDIT! I did a crawl playground of sorts before I discovered Montessori and I used safety bed rails but I love what you did with the tension rod!

    1. A crawl playground before discovering Montessori! Sometimes your instinct based on your observations of your child will really guide you, yes? :)

      Same here--to edit--I have to remind myself sometimes that I have to rotate materials instead of putting them all out at once!

  4. I love this post =) I currently have a play area setup for my 9 month old baby boy, but they're not montessori inspired. I just wanted him to have a place to play. He has toys but I notice that when I am around, he would rather cling to me that play with his toys. When playing, he would usually bite/mouth his toys (particularly links and stacking cups). He has a box of books and sometimes he would pull out the books from the box. If not clinging to me, he also likes crawling around the room which is not very safe since we share a room with our baby. Any suggestions on how I can encourage him to play with his toys and setup his play area? Thank you!

    1. Hi, Sheggy! Preparing the environment is really a crucial. When the environment is prepared, it is sufficiently stimulating with materials that are of interest to the child, and it is safe in such a way that we can distance ourselves from the child as he explores, discovers, and works. One of my Montessori directresses told me that we should balance between interacting with our child and giving him enough space so the he can develop independence and focus. In my case, we have areas in the house where she is encouraged to work by herself (with me in a safe, assuring distance. This area is usually more Montessori-inspired, with Montessori materials. And there are areas in the house where we are encouraged to interact more like for example a ball house for gross motor play, a picnic table where we can eat together. This set up of spaces has worked for us. :-)