This morning I had the privilege of observing a wonderful parent/infant class, faciliated by Venus Zaron at Montessori Children’s House. This school just opened up this past September and offers Montessori education for toddlers through preschool.
The parent/infant class, called Optimal Beginnings, is an on-going six-week series for babies 8 weeks or older who are not yet independently mobile. This morning there were two babies and their mamas who came to play in the wonderful environment set up just for their developmental needs.
Although I’m not trained at the infant/toddler level in Montessori, the principles are the same as those I learned in my elementary training. The environment for an infant or toddler is designed with their developmental needs in mind…the furniture, toys, and even the pictures, are all placed so that the little one feels that this is her space to learn and grow. Imagine what the world looks like from an infant’s perspective. If you can’t, get down on the floor, on your back or belly, and look around. What do you see? Are there beautiful pictures hung just at your height? Are the toys on the shelves things you can reach for independently? Even a three or four month old can make choices, yet so often, we just plop a toy in front of them without allowing them to explore on their own.
During the hour and a half that I was there, I was able to watch two babies at very different stages of development, both fully supported to explore their surroundings. Baby N, below, spent a lot of time on the floor, opening and closing his fists. The little silver rattle he’s holding is not too loud, but every time he moved, it would tinkle softly, giving him the feedback that his motion caused the sound he liked so much!
And Little Baby P, a bit older than N, was definitely more interested in reaching around for interesting objects. While not yet crawling, she could turn over from back to belly, and would roll around, every once in a while, reaching up in a perfect baby cobra pose (if only I were still that flexible!). Both of these babies were given the freedom to move independently, and rather than directing their play, Venus and their mamas were mostly observing, and offering assistance when needed. It was a truly magical hour and a half, and I’m looking forward to a follow-up visit in the next few weeks to observe the half-day toddler community.