“The greatness of the human personality begins at the hour of birth.”
Maria Montessori, MD.
We are eagerly waiting for the arrival of our second child - our son, Adrian. I am still a little anxious, trying to keep my "nesting" instincts in check, but happy - so happy! Being so fortunate to have been introduced to Dr. Maria Montessori philosophy, I want to design my son’s newborn space with Montessori principles in mind. Although, the majority of her work focuses on preschoolers, she had also shared her insights on newborn development: such as that the “prepared environment” is an essential component of a healthy development of a child, where the space is designed with a lot of thought towards the particular age it will be used for. We have “outgrown” our current apartment: both physically (we need more space) and mentally (a desire to move away from an urban setting and be closer to nature), so we are looking for a house. Thus, I know that the infant space we are creating right now will be short-lived, but we will not move for at least a year since "the environment of the child [should] not be changed during the first year of life if possible. The child is exploring the order of this environment, his first world, visually from day one, and the drive to move toward objects and explore them in other ways, make sense of them, and there is a strong impetus to learn to crawl, stand, and walk." Susan Mayclin Stephenson, Cosmic Education. So, keeping all this in mind, we wanted his space to be safe; to foster freedom of movement and independence; to nourish his senses without overstimulation; and to appeal to his current development.
Since we could not allocate for Adrian the entire room, we decided to divide his “space” into three smaller defined spaces: 1) a sleeping space, 2) movement area, and 3) a learning space. (We chose to keep the movement area separate from his sleeping space, so that he would form distinct associations: one with sleep and rest; while the other with work and active play.)
1) Sleeping space (floor-bed, low mirror, a mobile)
Since we had limited options as to where we could position Adrian’s floor bed, we had to be creative! We wanted his space to be orderly, personal, cozy, and safe. We also wished for the environment to be engaging, facilitating movement, while offering a balance between challenge and support.
We wished to create an atmosphere of serenity and magic (forest, sunbeam, Unicorn) ...
... a space where my son would want to be!
Above the floor-bed is a Black & White Pictures Mobile, to promote child's developing vision and concentration (recommended from birth till 2 weeks). Newborns cannot effectively distinguish between colors, but they may look intently at a highly contrasted target. Black-and-white provides the most contrast, and real pictures of butterflies, birds, or fish—things that move through air or water are most appropriate. (Read more on Infant Mobiles here.) And since Adrian will be sharing our bedroom with us, we thought adding sheer curtains will define his space, make it more intimate and defuse light.
Our Coco mattress has arrived from Devon England, and we cannot wait to try it! (Now, Naturalmat company has a USA storefront, making mattresses much more affordable)
Ivy-covered metal rod for hanging mobiles (visual at first, tactile later); an egg-thermometer to alert of temperature fluctuation outside the recommended range
This Coco Mat is made of coir, coco fiber and organic cotton. It is anti-dust mite, hypoallergenic and has the thermal insulating properties of natural lamb’s wool. The mat is also breathable, well-ventilated, naturally springy and firmly supportive, nontoxic and free of polyethylene or synthetics – everything I was hoping for in a baby mattress!
Also, a key to a Montessori nursery is a low-wall mirror for self-observation, as well as for offering an infant a different vantage point of viewing the room. Dr Montessori believed that a child will “absorb the environment” by watching his own movements in the mirror (such as moving, opening, and closing of the hand), and thus will gain an awareness of such movements so that he can later execute, repeat and master them. “Since it is through movement that the will realizes itself, we should assist a child in his attempts to put his will into act” Maria Montessori. So, we can assist a child by offering him/her a rich environment where a newborn is given a lot of opportunity to observe own movements.
Besides sleeping, Adrian also spends some active time here: observing the mobile and his own reflection, studying his movements and connecting them with those of the reflection.
The wall mirror will later encourage the lifting of the head (especially during tummy times) and will facilitate in learning to control his movements.
2 low mirrors on 2 adjoining walls; a camera from a baby-monitor; and a fan to circulate air
With increased activity level and acute interest in his environment, Adrian would spend more "active" time in his sleeping space: interacting with the mobile (tactile at this point), looking at Georgia O'Keeffee's art prints (low-hanging artwork stimulates infant's aesthetic taste and promotes language development), playing with toys (he loves the mini play-silks) or simply observing his own movements in the mirror and connecting them with that of the reflection.
2) Adrian's Movement area consists of a floor mat (or soft blanket or lambs wool rug) and a tripod (three wooden "legs") over the mat to attach the mobile to. The floor mat is easily transportable around the apartment, based on the need. This is where Adrian would spend his limited awake/active time, observing his environment, and it is also where he would do most of his tummy time. Since “given the freedom of the child-bed, the baby will begin to ‘slither’ almost from birth, often covering a surprising amount of territory” (Montessori from The Start), we intent to provide as much space for moving around as he would require. “Watching a child makes it obvious that the development of his mind comes through his movements” Maria Montessori.
So, the movement area will provide for observation, active work and rest, if needed.
HAPPY BABY! Happy Parents!
We also created a movement area on a deck, where there is plenty of natural light and where floor-to-ceiling windows offer a nice view. I placed a "cushion" on top of a slate and under his organic Critter baby quilt (don't you just love hand-made items from Etsy!), so I am not relocating this play-work area as we are doing with our smaller mats.
At this point, we are also using Animal ABC Waldorf Alphabet Cards (Artistic Watercolor Letter Cards in English) which I hung from a stainless steel mobile kit which we used for hanging the Black & White Pictures Mobile. I would hang 3-4 Alphabet cards at a time, and then change them every few days to maintain the curiosity and novelty. Also, I stuck on the wall some family pictures, as well as beautiful pictures of nature my parents took. I positioned the pictures a little higher than his eye level, to encourage further lifting, sitting up and even pulling up to standing :)
3) Our Montessori Learning Space (read here)
I would love to hear about your Montessori Spaces :)