Montessori Teachings For The 6 Month Old
The first six months of a child’s life are marked by the great change of living in the womb to living in the outside world. During this period, your baby will sleep a lot and enjoy being held, sung and talked to—your baby will enjoy your presence more than anything else. You may feel that all your baby does is eat, sleep, poop and cry. However, as Dr. Montessori so aptly put it in her book The Absorbent Mind, “Man seems to have two embryonic periods. One is prenatal…the other is postnatal.” Babies are born largely helpless and completely dependent on their parents for care. This is because brain development could not possibly continue in the womb, as the size of the head would be too large for birth.
In the first months of life, a great deal of basic development continues to happen within your child. Brain development is of particular importance. You’ll also observe how your child quickly outgrows their clothes, leaving newborn-sized outfits behind in a matter of weeks. Within the first year of life, babies often more than double their weight. This time is full of advances and growth as your newborn begin shaping their character and learns to become a person.
Milestones are helpful markers that can indicate to parents when most children will display a certain behavior. However, keep in mind that each child develops at their rate. While milestones help let you know what to expect, don’t worry if your child varies from these patterns. If you have concerns about your child’s development, speak with your child’s pediatrician. Let’s take a look at some of the milestones that you can expect during the first six months of life.
One month old
Your baby’s eyesight is still developing. The furthest they can focus on is about 8 to 12 inches.
Your baby may be able to lift their head for a short time when lying on their stomach.
Your baby has likely become an expert sucker: whether they’re breastfed or bottle-fed, they know what to do.
Three months old
Your baby may smile and/or laugh by around this time.
Your baby may start making cooing noises.
Your baby is stronger and able to hold their head up well.
Your baby has developed quite the grasp and may be able to hold on to toys and shake them.
Six months old
Your baby is ready for solid food! If you haven’t already, now is a great time to start.
Your baby can roll over by now, and may even have quite a bit of practice.
Your baby is either sitting up on their own or getting very close to doing so!
Your baby probably enjoys reaching and grabbing at objects and interacts more during play.
Now that you have some idea of what to expect during this time, we’ll move on to discuss some of the fun ways that you can interact with your baby to encourage their growth and development.
Dr. Montessori advocated first and foremost for infants to be included in daily life. While they can do little to participate, infants are constantly taking in everything around them. Sounds, smells, sights, touch, and movements are all absorbed by the infant. This is how they learn and develop.
All the materials we have mentioned in previous chapters were designed by Montessori to stimulate infants and help them in their development. Some great items to prepare or purchase include mobiles, books, and mirrors. Because infants begin learning with their senses, these items are excellent options to start with as they are visually stimulating.
A note about making and purchasing materials:
You may recall that Montessori advocated using items made of natural materials such as wood, metal, cloth and other natural fibers. Flashy plastic toys with buttons and lights can often overstimulate the child and take away from the child’s ability to concentrate and interact with the material. Remember that colors often serve a specific purpose such as for matching activities, color-coding materials, assisting in memorizing shapes (such as the continents), or as a theme. Keep in mind that every set of material is meant to be used in a certain way. So, as you advance and use more challenging materials with your child, encourage them to use the materials correctly.
Montessori mobiles can be purchased or made. Traditionally, the first mobiles introduced to a baby feature the colors black and white. As discussed in the milestones, a young baby’s eyesight is not very good. For this reason, the contrasts between black and white are easy for them to see and are quite appealing. Keep in mind that mobiles should be placed 8 to 12 inches from the child’s face.
Later on, you can introduce mobiles in different colors. Start with the primary colors. Then move on to mobiles that display different shades of one color. For instance, a range of shades from a deep red to a very light pink may be featured.
Touchable or tactile mobiles may be introduced when the baby becomes interested in touching and grabbing. These mobiles often feature a bell. This way, the sense of hearing is also involved in the play.
Even young babies of a few months of age can enjoy looking at books. Sturdy, cardboard books are the best options. For this age, Montessori recommended using only real images. Because young children are still grasping reality, she believed it was best to focus on grounding them in the real world before sharing fantastical books with them. There are many baby books available that feature wonderful photos of real objects, people and animals.
Try hanging a mirror at a very low level in a space where your baby spends a lot of time. Above a thick rug or blanketed area on the floor will ensure your baby will be comfortable. You will find that your little one will enjoy looking at themselves.
These are materials you can enjoy with your baby, or that they can enjoy on their own. You can lie down with your baby to look at the mobile and gently move it for them. Or spend time looking at a book together. Practice making funny faces in the mirror together. You can try sticking out your tongue or touching your face to see if your baby copies you.
While these aren’t a material for your baby to interact with, potty-training starts from birth. Cloth diapers are the first step in potty-training, although this stage isn’t as intense as later on. Cloth diapers are preferable as your child will be better able to sense the wetness that occurs after urinating. Sensitivity to this sensation is how children become more aware of their body’s processes as they grow. Consider using cloth diapers if at all possible, to help improve the potty-training process later on.
Enjoying Time with Your Baby
As mentioned before, Montessori advocated for babies to be included in daily life. For this reason, consider using a baby carrier or similar option so that you can easily take your baby anywhere you go. Your baby will gain much from participating in your daily activities, attached to you! For example, when shopping, they’ll see the people and the store or market where you shop. Or, they’ll see running water as you do the dishes. When cooking, your baby will smell the delicious smells and hear you chopping.
Some other helpful and important activities to enjoy with your newborn are singing and talking. Although at first, it may feel like you’re talking to a wall, with the time you’ll find it natural to talk to your baby. Try telling your baby about what you’re doing. Or count their toes and sing a song when changing their diaper.
Many parents also enjoy listening to music and dancing with their little ones. This is a great way to stimulate the senses and gives your baby the chance to hear music and feel movement.
The Perfect Environment
Dr. Montessori called the first few years of life the “years of the absorbent mind”. Infants and young children must absorb everything in their surroundings to learn. This is a process that happens naturally. For this reason, Dr. Montessori called it “unconscious creation.” During this time, children, out of pure absorption, learn to talk, walk, and control movements, leading to independence. Parents and educators should take full advantage of this special period of the absorbent mind, which takes place from birth to about age three. Part of the way you can do this is by creating a wonderful environment for your child.
Dr. Montessori suggested that parents create a safe space for their baby, including a bed on the floor, rather than a crib. She advocated for freedom of movement, rather than strapping babies into chairs, enclosing them in cribs and keeping them mostly immobile. With a floor bed, the baby learns quickly how to get in and out of the bed safely. While for the first month or two, many parents use a Moses basket, bassinet, or practice co-sleeping, after this stage they can transfer their toddler to a floor bed. The floor bed should stay located in the parents’ bedroom at least until the six-month mark to reduce the chances of SIDS.
Aside from a bed on the floor, many parents following Montessori principles choose to include a few low shelves containing baby-safe objects such as books and toys made from natural materials. Some of these toys may include wooden puzzles (with large pieces) or items made of cloth. Low hanging pictures are also a great addition to a child’s environment.
Child-sized furniture is also encouraged so that your baby can make use of it as they grow. Of course, you can prepare your baby’s room and make adjustments as they grow and develop, introducing furniture when it is appropriate.
Ensure that your baby’s nursery is organized and clean. Even from a young age, Montessori believed that young children appreciate order, and are very interested in this from birth through about age five. In addition to an orderly environment, young children appreciate routines and predictable schedules. As children grow, the sensitivity to physical order gives way to a need for mental order, which explains the typical teenage pattern of messiness. Yet, for our babies, the order is essential. It’s soothing and helps meet their need for consistency and repetition.
You and Your Baby’s First Six Months
During these first six months, you’ll learn to understand your child. You’ll be able to predict when they’re hungry and sleepy. You’ll know what some of their favorite activities and objects are.
Treasure these special times that you enjoy with your baby. Although there are difficult moments of sleeplessness, colic and some who experience trouble feeding, the joys overcome these trials. You and your baby will be so close by the end of the first six months, you may feel as though you’re not separate beings.
Yet, slowly but surely, your baby will begin to develop independence and grow to be her very own person. From 0-6 months, you’ll begin the relationship with this wonderful being who will always be a part of your life.