Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Activities with babies and toddlers

A few friends of mine with babies or toddlers have been asking me about the Montessori method with infants. Their little angels are between 6 and 12 months. As I always talk about what happens in my classroom for children between the age of 2 and a half and 5, I thought it would be interesting to write a post about the younger one.

The Montessori method of education can be introduced as early as birth. Yes, it can. What is important to know at that stage is that infants between 6-12 months move a lot more as their gross motor skills improve slowly.  Montessori believed that movement was associated with the development of the brain. So any activities involving little hands would be beneficial for the development of the child. The focus should be on freedom of movement, quality over quantity, and natural materials (avoid plastic toys). So, what should you have in the infant's environment? One thing I would like to start with is to have your baby painted and decorated with soft colours in order not to overwhelm the baby's senses. From birth to 3 years of age, children rely on their senses to learn about the world around them.  Also make sure not to clutter the bedroom. What else? A movement mat to move freely and help them to develop their tummy muscles. Have a few natural toys around the mat (wooden rattles, cotton cloths, material teddys etc..) and soft balls that the child may grasp. Place them around the infant/toddler on the floor: this will encourage himto roll over as he tries to reach for the toys.  Having a mirror beside the mat is also a good idea as the child will study his own reflection and learn about himself, developing their sense of self-esteem. This will eventually lead to crawling. Freedom of movement is a very important principle in the Montessori method, so you don't want to confine your child in a cot or on a mat. As the child starts crawling, make sure your house is child-proof and safe (be aware of anything that can be pulled down, wires, table cloths,  light tables or of  things can be inserted in or swallowed). Place all the toys and items the child can use on low shelves or in baskets so that he can pick them up easily, developing their sense of independence. Do not put all toys in one large box as it does not have any order.

I thought about a few activities parents can also do with their toddlers.

  1. For the 6-9 months old

Touch 'n' Taste” : Prepare a number of different foods for your baby to touch, taste, and smell: fruit flavored gelatin, yogurt, banana, apple,  spaghetti, and so on.  Have your baby sitting on his chair and let him play with the food for a few minutes, exploring it with his hands and mouth. This activity will make her more aware of her environment, and help fine motor development.

Play Music: At this stage, the child does not learn language, he absorbs it as a dry sponge absorbs water. Language seems to grow in the child. Given the chance, music can also grow in the child as he himself grows. This is why t is important to play music around your infant from an early time. Music also help children to control and develop their movements.

Hats Off
This is something I use to do with my own children. I collected several hats around the house (baseball cap, knit cap, funny hat, firefighter’s hat, clown hat, party hat, etc..). Have your child sitting in front of you and put a hat on your head, making funny faces.   Repeat several times withdifferent hats. This activity will help your baby to cope with her anxiety when dealing with strangers and it will also be a great social interaction!! The child might eventually like to put one on their own head. Don't forget to have a mirror nearby so that he can admire himself!!

2. For the 9-12 months old:

Naming : wherever you go, whatever you do, whoever you meet, don’t forget to name everything to your baby. It’s very important for his language development.

Sink or Float:           
As your child is enjoying his bath, gather a few items that float (soap, plastic toy, sponges, etc..) and other items that sink (spoons, rattle, bottle full of water etc..). Introduce her to one sinkable item and say “it sinks!” or "it floats".

At the Zoo
We don't all have the time or resources to go to the zoo but you can bring the zoo home! As your baby begins to babbles, animal sounds are so funny! Pretend you're going to the zoo using a book to learn about animals while you increase your baby's listening and language skills.  Show you baby the animal and make the animal’s sound.  It’s a great activity for her language development, her auditory recognition and it’s a nice way too to interact with her.

Hide and Seek
Who doesn't like "Hide & Seek"? Even bigger kids still play that game.  A nice and interesting version of “Hide and Seek”, would be a musical one. If you have a toy phone that makes sounds or a bell or a rattle, show it to your child as you sit beside him on the floor.  Then hide it discreetly under a cushion for instance. Ask your child: ”where is the phone?”. Lift every object on the floor one by one until you uncover the ringing phone. Look at your baby’s face as you say: “there it is!!”.

At this stage, your baby/toddler might not be able to build a tower himself. Help him to stack some blocks  and then push the tower down. Look at his face!! Clap hands!!  Encourage him to do the same.  It is a great cause and effect activity which will improve your baby’s  cognitive skills (problem solving) and his motor skills.


 Good-Bye, hello and thank you:  showing your baby the appropriate gesture to say good-bye, hello and thank you is very important. Children learn by copying us and this is a nice introduction to Montessori grace and courtesy teaching.  The younger, the better!

All of the above are common sense activities and most of you are probably doing them with your toddlers already, without realising how benefitial they are to their growth. So keep up the good work.

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