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.
Happy September, everyone!
I’m still writing up the next blog post in the Less is More series, but I just wanted to share about an upcoming opportunity for parents or other care-givers who are interested in a hands-on infant massage class. My friend Joanne Edwards, of Small Beginnings and organizer-extraordinaire of the recent Big Latch-On PDX, is a certified infant massage instructor, and will be teaching a new course starting September 28 at Zenana Spa and Wellness.
What exactly is infant massage you ask, and why should I take a class? Here’s what Joanne says:
The room is warm and cozy; it always is even if a great storm is blowing outside. Parents start arriving with their babies and begin settling down,unwrapping outdoor clothes, and placing their baby on the floor. It’s new experience for everyone. I begin by welcoming everyone, explaining the course,and letting everyone know that all feelings are welcome. There are deep sighs around the room as tension releases from busy parents and everyone begins to relax.
This is their time with their baby. A time to learn about love, touch and communication. We begin with relaxation and asking the babies if they would like a massage. The babies look confused, but quickly learn in the coming weeks to say or signal yes or no, and their parents also learn which is which for their baby. It always amazes and delights me to watch these interactions, and to know that life-skills, like learning to communicate yes or no, have long reaching benefits. We start to learn the individual strokes that over the coming weeks will make up a complete routine, giving ways to help with gas,constipation and teething. After chatting over a cup of hot tea the class ends on a positive note. There’s no rush or hurry, everyone is more relaxed as they leave. Seeing each baby learn to communicate their wants and needs to their watching and listening parent, is a fantastic honor.
Infant massage is a wonderful art. In many cultures it is passed down from generation to generation, and with each new baby to give them a gentle, warm, and welcoming introduction to their family and the world. As the baby grows the massage continues, helping communicate love through nurturing touch well into adulthood.
Imagine a world with less violence and aggression, and more compassion and cooperation. In societies where babies are held, carried, massaged and breastfeed this is already happening. Closer to home many of the parents I work with will comment that their babies are calmer after a massage, and often sleep better. The parents feel more relaxed, enjoy the time with their baby and feel more confident at reading their babies cues.
For more details, contact Joanne!