The Montessori Floor bed.

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:

Montessori Floor Bed 3

montessori floor bed 4

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!

G x

And they say “Never work with children or animals!”

Do you have a scarf obsession like me? I don’t know what it is about a scarf but it’s the first thing that comes to mind when asked what I want for Christmas or birthday (and not because it’s an easy option for people but because I really DO want a scarf!).  Anyway my rack of prized scarves have become somewhat neglected recently (becoming a mother you will rarely see me in anything other than a pair of baggy sweatpants and old jumper) but last night my scarves found a life of their own and got dusted off the rack!  I set to work on my latest project….of course what better way to use a scarf than to create a fantasy scene where Ella is inside her own dream swimming the waters with a giant whale.

After my last blog post where Ella drifted off to her own planet with lush jungles and 5 moons my sister told me that it reminded her of an artist from Finland called Adele Enersen.  Adele captures her subject (her little daughter Mila) after she falls asleep and recreates what she thinks she could be dreaming about.  She uses things she has around the house to compose a fantasy scene and then takes her photo.  I was so enamoured with these playful images that I spent the whole evening preparing my own fantasy scene.  Once I woke up the next morning I dressed Ella for the part and placed her in the scene hoping she’d fall asleep – of course it was the one time where she had ants in her pants and didn’t want to sleep but I managed to get a handful of half decent shots.  This was so much fun I may do a few more….perhaps I could create Ella her own alphabet book or calendar for when she’s slightly older, all depicting her in her own fantasy world.  Food for thought. Gx

ella's dream 10

ella diving

Let there be light!

Seemingly our spring is so unpredictable at the moment but finally the snow we are having so late in the year has given way to some glorious sunshine, so as the light was pouring in through the living room window I decided to take advantage of it while it lasted.  As Ella seems to be totally disinterested in other toys I have at the moment I thought perhaps let’s try something a bit different:  I set up a mat ( on loan from my sister and courtesy of  a wonderful quilt maker! ) on the floor and placed a plant directly overhead, the sharp angular patterns and light and shade made by the sunlight passing through the leaves created some interesting shapes.  Bingo! It seemed to catch her attention.  I then rigged up a sort of makeshift light theatre using what I could by stringing up some light and dark balls I had from Ikea.  They seemed rather fitting against a backdrop of dappled light made by the plant’s shadows cast onto a thin blanket draped over two chairs.  The result was 20 mins of oohs and aahs and ended up with Ella drifting off to sleep dreaming of far-flung countries where lush jungles inhabit a planet with 5 moons:)  G x

light and shade 2

light and shade 3

light and shade set up

light and shade 1

The Octahedron Mobile

Ella is now 6 weeks old and as we are trying to follow the principles of Montessori it is now time to introduce her to a new mobile….The Octahedron mobile.  This has proved to be yet another great hit; she watches as the octahedra spin around and catch the light and as the colours glow and  sparkle from each plane.  This mobile is really easy to make and is simply 3 octahedra I made using metallic card in the three primary colours using this tutorial Octahedron Mobile .  It’s wonderful to see how Ella can be so intrigued with a mobile that seems so simple at first glance, but when you truly see it for what it is from the perspective of a 6 week old baby it isn’t hard to understand her delight.  Mobiles are considered a fantastic tool for developing the baby’s visual abilities to focus and track a moving object and they help to lay the foundations of understanding geometric shape, perception of colour and depth.  For Ella it must be so stimulating and satisfying to have the time to quietly watch these coloured shapes slowly rotate giving her the chance to process this new and interesting information.  Needless to say I have become slightly obsessed with mobiles now, so tay tuned…next mobile up is the Gobbi!  G x

octahedron 3

octahedron 2

Woodland Walking

Nappies, check.  Changing mat, check. Formula, check.  The list goes on!  It still seems like a mission to go anywhere but  I’m sure that soon it will just become second nature and we will be like seasoned pros, throwing together everything but the kitchen sink all within a minute flat .  Anyway , it was all worth it this weekend as Ella finally got to experience her first real outing and what better way to experience it than to breathe the fresh, crisp air walking in the nearby woods. The first of many I’m sure:)walk in woods 6

walk in woods 4walk in woods 3

Black and white

munari mobile 1

munari mobile 2

So I thought I would post the first fruits of my labour – a few things I made for Ella’s room whilst heavily pregnant in those last few months to help occupy my time when going for my daily walk was no longer an option!

I wanted to focus on making things for her room that would provide visual stimulation and would be strong in contrasting colours like the black and white mobile at the top.  Newborns are attracted to and better able to focus on visual stimulation that contain light and dark colours like black and white which can help the developing retina to better register the input.  This helps to send stronger signals to the brain which cause the nerve cells to multiply and form a multitude of connections at a faster rate than would otherwise if I would provide images which had soft pastel shades and lots of detail.

The mobile at the top is my take on one of the first Montessori Mobiles used in the visual series The Munari mobile.  Whilst I would love to have made my own Munari mobile I had all the right materials and found it easier to make this one.

I also made these black and white animal images which I drew freehand onto white card using black marker and then laminated.  The artwork is not my own and is taken from http://weegallery.com/ which is a lovely website which sells art cards, mobiles and wall graphics for children’s nursery rooms.  I placed these images in places where Ella can have the best view; a few hang along the wall of her changing table and a few hang from a unit on the wall at a low-level.

DSC_0073

wee gallery prints

Ella is now one month old and I recently changed her black and white mobile for another Montessori inspired mobile I made whilst pregnant  – the Whale Mobile.  I printed off images from the internet of whales and dolphins and drew them freehand onto various pieces of black, white and grey card.  I then added various details to my ocean dwellers using acrylic paint.  The result is fantastic, Ella LOVES them and can watch them gracefully dance through the air for a good 20 minutes!

close up whales 

whale mobile basket 2

whale mobile basket 5

 But the best black and white visual stimulation by far has to be Murphy !!

murph