As I mentioned in one of my previous posts, as a family we plan to incorporate some Montessori principles into home life and into raising Ella. Part of this blog will be writing about our experiences and discoveries (the good, the bad and (hopefully not) the ugly!). Apart from anything, it will help me to be more mindful in my choices, purposeful in my decisions and to reflect upon the outcome. Before Ella was born, Martin (husband) and I would find ourselves many an evening over a glass of wine discussing what we believed to be of value when raising children. I introduced Martin to a few books on the Montessori approach and after reading he was full of enthusiasm. Finally he understood what I saw in it; he found out that the Montessori approach spans further than just an alternative method of education as he had previously thought, rather, it is a holistic approach to raising children which starts as early as birth.
Of course we are no experts in the matter and I don’t claim that this is a superior approach over any other child-rearing practices. This is simply what we believe in and I want to use this space as a place to document our particular Montessori journey, as it is just that – a journey, and therefore somewhat of an experiment and discovery. Martin and I plan to do what we can, learn along the way and adapt as we try and test. I don’t think there is any right or wrong way as of course every child is different but I guess there can only be a way that works best for you. However, I am intrigued and eager to be able to implement some of the theories that I have learnt about and put them into practice. From the literature I have read, from what I have heard from friends and from what I have seen in the classroom I believe there is great value in this approach.
One idea we thought about and discussed was to use a floor bed as a place for Ella to sleep as opposed to a more traditional cot…..I think the reaction from most people has been “What crazy people”!….Or perhaps they feel sorry for us, as they may think we don’t have enough money to buy a cot! However, we decided to take an experimental approach to what Dr. Montessori observed and encouraged, it may or may not work for us. But here is the thinking behind it:
Dr Maria Montessori advocated the use of a floor bed when creating a Montessori prepared environment. The focus of which is on aiding the development of independence, concentration, movement, self-esteem, decision-making and a respect for the human being. Both the use of a mirror and the floor bed help to develop the child’s sense of self; the fact that the baby is free to move from the bed respects the desires and decisions of the baby. By providing a floor bed in a completely safe room (baby gate at the door, sharp corners covered, surfaces kept to a minimum) it can help to combat the problem of crying because the baby can not get out of bed without the help of the adult but rather, they can be later left to slowly wake, move across the room, have the freedom to explore and have access to developmentally appropriate materials. This in turn, helps to aid physical movement and development of gross motor abilities. Even before the baby is moving around, the floor bed provides a place where he/she can look at mobiles and benefit from the use of a mirror alongside the bed, all of which aid both physical and visual development.
Below is a useful extract taken from the full article To Crib or Not to Crib which also outlines the idea behind the floor bed:
“The need for providing children with a low bed originated from Maria Montessori’s many years of scientific observation. She observed children from all around the world and discovered that all individuals develop in a similar manner, regardless of time, place or culture. She identified that every child was born with specific characteristics, which she termed the “Human Tendencies”. These tendencies aid the individual in coming to understand the environment in which he lives. All of the Human Tendencies (exploration, orientation, order, movement, communication, repetition, and mathematical mind) operate naturally but if a Human Tendency is not able to function properly, the individual will not be able to develop to his full potential.
The Human Tendency for exploration is fully satisfied when providing a low bed for the child instead of a crib. Human beings have a natural tendency to explore the environment and to gain knowledge from it. By allowing the child to experience his environment in this manner, he will be able to understand all of its components and will be comfortable and at ease when alone in his room. From all of this activity, the child will then become better acquainted with the world in which he lives, and will arrive at the end of this process of self-construction. If we know that the process of self-construction in the child can only take place through the exploration of the environment, then this process is crucial. The child must be able to explore the environment in order to become adapted to his place and time. The child from zero to three explores the environment through the senses, but mostly through movement. By giving the child the opportunity to experience the low bed, he will benefit immensely. Not only will the child learn to function on his own, but this exposure to his environment will aid him in the development of independence, concentration, movement, self-esteem, and decision-making.”
So what has this meant for us so far? Here is her set up:
Ella is now 2 months old and it amazes me at how she manages to hold her head up and support herself so well but I believe that the wall mirror has done wonders for her strength and coordination skills. It has given her the chance to study the movements of her own body and connect that with her reflection, giving her the opportunity to work at absorbing those movements visually and connect it to the physical. She also gets a great view of the room that she otherwise may not see. This gives her the chance to become familiar with her surroundings which later on she will be able to explore. I have mentioned before the benefit of hanging developmentally appropriate mobiles, but this really has been a big aid to her concentration and focusing skills, as she seems to be so content spending time watching them during the day.
For the last few nights we have tentatively let her transition to sleep on her floor bed at night. I have to say that I was nervous at first worrying whether she may suddenly have the ability to roll off onto the ground, but then I remembered something I heard about baby lizards instinctively knowing when the branch ends and it related to something I read “A small baby on a floor bed can move across it and feel where the bed ends. If he keeps moving, he’ll roll off the bed and onto the floor, but the fall will only be a few inches. Very quickly he’ll realize that in order to stay on the bed he needs to stop where he feels the surface ending. This in turn will prepare him to make better choices near stairs and on taller beds”. When you think about it, it really does make sense….to start from the ground and work your way up!
For the time being it seems to be working very well for us as she sleeps pretty soundly, so thank you Montessori for coming up with what I think is such a great idea!