One of the questions that I often get is "What can I do with my (for example) ten month old to practice Montessori?" or "Your ideas are great for my 2.5 mos old, but what can I do that's Montessori-style with my 13 mos old?" I hope these posts will help those of you with these questions! Though they naturally blend together at times, part one will show Tyler's physical environment, inside and out, while part two will talk about the relevant materials and activities we did during that time.
First of all I want to say that a lot of this is inspired by the Montessori philosophy, not pure Montessori. I didn't even learn about what Montessori really was (other than some common myths I held) until Ty was nine months old, and didn't begin fully practicing until just after his first birthday. That being said, my heart was Montessori without even knowing it. I followed his lead, I watched closely to see what activities he liked so I could provide him more of the same, and I worked on creating an environment that would allow him to feel success and to be independent. We child-proofed absolutely everything so that we rarely ever had to chase him around saying "no". We didn't need a play pen or to stick him in the confines of a crib thanks to the childproofing either. He was free to crawl around and check-out his environment (i.e. learn!) as he pleased.
Pure infant and young toddler Montessori does all of this but also uses particular materials (some of which I had), such as wooden rattles, balls of yarn, Object Permanence Box, low mirrors, a pull-up bar, lovely mobiles, treasure baskets, and infants often sleep in a "low bed" (mattress on the floor). You can find more information in the links that I've posted at the end of this blog.
We also used a slide in this nicely padded area. Tyler was going up and down the slide (on his belly) well before he could walk and he couldn't get enough. The slide also served as a nice object for him to hold so he could stand by himself. I would often place a favorite stuffed animal at the top of the slide to entice him, and pushing the animal down the slide became a lot of fun! Having the slide here also meant that he could skip the first step and get up easier.
When he got a bit older and didn't need the cushions anymore, we moved the slide and put alphabet mats all around it. With us spotting him, he used the slide on a regular basis on his own.
Ty was given many opportunities to touch and explore items around the house. I wanted him to experience as much as he could and would walk him around the house finding things for us to examine and explore. Before I knew about "treasure baskets" I often had a collection of random, safe objects for him to handle.
This "Infant Stim" mobile from Manhattan Baby was a huge hit with Tyler! He could stare at the simple patterns and photos for a long time and I loved that you could interchange them. We removed the cards from the mobile long ago and he still likes to look at them on occasion.
We hung Tyler's first work of art when he was about 13 mos old. It was also his first canvas painting. He really enjoyed having something he created on display!
Babies love to look at babies, so I made a magazine collage of babies for Tyler and hung it on the back of his playroom door with contact paper. He still enjoys looking at it!
After a few months I spread things out more and started to sort toys a bit by category.
Tyler got his first shelves just after he turned one. I talk more about the activities and materials used here in part two of this post.
We took a couple hikes, once bringing a bucket to fill with objects Tyler found interesting so that we could make a nature basket and explore the objects further at home.
Once Ty could walk around a bit (or even before), he was rarely in a cart or stroller in the store. My husband or I would walk around with him and let him explore while the other would shop. He loved touching things and checking everything out his surroundings.
We spent a lot of time looking at and handling produce in the grocery store when he was a baby (and we still do). I'm not sure if it's the colors or the feel of the produce that attracts him but it's a great time to teach him new vocab and to learn from real objects.
Here are a couple great links on the Montessori infant environment that you may find helpful:
Part Two, focusing on infant activities and materials, can be found here!