Disclaimer: This is not intended to be a Montessori tutorial in any way, shape or form; but rather, this is intended to share how we attempt to incorporate our understanding of Montessori priniciples in a DIY-minimalist-eco-friendly-raggamuslim-kinda way. Proceed, if you wish.
The Montessori saga continues. 🙂 Flashing back to last summer, after a wonderful vacation spent house-hopping just about every week, we began to realize how little opportunity Lil’ Z had for free exploration and roaming. At the critical age of six to seven months, she spent more time in laps sitting than on the floor scooting. Therefore, once we get settled back into our home and rhythm, we turned our attention to Lil’ Z’s need to discover and develop her budding mobility.
Weaning Table and Chair
When it came to eating, we were on our own spaceship, orbiting in Deep Space 9. We were committed to exclusive breastfeeding for as long as possible and didn’t start introducing solids until nearly nine months. In the Montessori paradigm, solids are introduced from four to six months and the baby is fully weaned from breast milk in the following months; but Lil’ Z was thriving and content- and so were we. Maybe we were anxious about potential food allergies, quality and selection of foods she could digest, her lack of teeth, etc. We had no idea how long it takes a baby to get the concept of eating, so it wasn’t until about 11 months that Lil’ Z had a good, solid relationship with food. We also wanted to try the baby-led weaning approach, in which the baby’s ability to put food in their own mouth is the indicator for introducing solids. When we pitifully started trying to spoon-feed Lil’ Z at a small make-shift “table” (read: cardboard box), we all ended up frustrated and messy. This is when we decided to put on her bib, give her access to food to try on our finger or on her own, and chill out. We were all much more relaxed and stress-free. Eating did become a full-body contact sport for Lil’ Z but we would offer her food at dinner and just bathe her afterwards.
We also were really torn about the use of a table. If you know anything about us, you’d know that it’s not our habit to eat sitting at a table in our home. We’re more “Eastern” when it comes to in-home dining but Lil’ Z’s desire to move while eating and discovering started to get a little squirrelly.
Therefore, we invested in a small, mobile, feeding chair and even without it, she now grasps the concept that we “take a seat when we eat” and get up when we’re done. Whether she’s on our lap or on the floor, she upholds this discipline.
The Discovery Basket
From the time your baby can sit up, Montessorians recommend a discovery basket, a lap-sized wicker basket filled with odds and ends that are safe for your baby’s exploration, manipulating, and gnawing. We didn’t find a decent wicker basket, so our “discovery basket” became a “discovery bag”. We used a gifted, reusable shopping tote and filled it with strange things- a small, smooth pebble; a little drawstring bag filled with tissue paper; a wooden massage tool; prayer beads; etc. The goal is not to buy items for their discovery, but rather, offer real-life materials from your home.
If your baby has their own Montessori-style room, it should already be furnished with low shelves. Lil’ Z doesn’t have her own room yet, but we provided her with low shelves for her to access in our guest bedroom/office. We prefer that she does her “work” in the workspace as opposed to working in the sleep space. Maybe it’s very Waldorf but we like the idea of the place she sleeps being cozy, serene, and without distraction.
Our shelves are in constant evolution. Initially, there were a few board books on her shelves but Lil’ Z was using them for teething, so they were placed out of reach. Slowly, we added a puzzle, a wooden rainbow disc stacker, our DIY object-permanence container made from a shoe box, our DIY coin box made from a plastic yogurt container, a drum, crochet hooks, spools, tin cans, and whatever else tickles our fancy.
To help your little one pull up to a standing position, Montessori recommends low, stable furniture or installing a wall-mounted bar. Our furniture supply is limited and there was no way we were about to mount a dance studio bar into the concrete walls of our rental, so we shifted our box springs and mattresses to create a pull up ledge. Sturdy, stable, and gets the job done!
The walker wagon is a great walking aid and, fortunately, we found one in Muscat. We introduced it to her at around 12 months and by 14 months, she was steady on her feet and toddling.
To be honest, we were really hesitant about sharing our Montessori adventures and misadventures in this space. There is certainly no pride (if anything, some shame) about our efforts. I often see what is sorely lacking in Lil’ Z’s environment and believe that all babies deserve the beauty, logic, and satisfaction that Montessori materials offer. The shortcomings of our reproductions are apparent. Once, when Urbndervish’s “we’re doing our best” pep talk didn’t quite cheer me up, I observed this.
Moments like these remind me that Allah (God) has hardwired the desire to seek, learn, and grow so firmly within children that they really will make do with what they have and see lessons in disguise. An emotional environment that fosters love, confidence, and trust; a spatial environment that promotes free mobility and exploration; proper nutrition and hydration to feed the brain and body; a heavy dose of time spent outdoors; and a heaping dose of prayer and sincerity are adequate fodder to flame the fuel of a developing child’s intellect (in our humble opinion). Our only intent in sharing this is that others will be motivated to work with what they have with optimism, instead of worrying about what they lack with pessimism.