Until the sixth month, babies have developed strength in the arms, neck, hands, and legs, so they start to crawl, sit, stand and some make their first steps. Each in its own, unique rhythm.
From day to day you will enjoy watching your baby learn how the world around him changes, and the way he accepts it. So, after the sixth month, babies are starting to change rapidly. They become more interested in the environment and exploring the world around them.
Also, at this stage babies are beginning to provide arms, therefore, the play becomes more interesting. Because, only when you become an accomplice in the game, then your heart will beat with happiness. The baby, of course, still determines how and when you play.
If you want to create a Montessori supportive environment at home, you should know that your role is supporting your baby to learn through play. It is important adjusting the space in which your child resides to make the environment accessible to the child and to enable him to move freely. This was important in the earlier months as well, now it’s needed to be further implemented. In the previous post, you can read about the baby’s freely moving and the organization of the Montessori baby room for 0 to 6 months olds.
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Organization of the Montessori supportive environment at home for your 6 to 12-month-old baby
Creating a Montessori supportive environment at home depends on a child’s needs, which change during development. It is important to know that there isn’t one set standard for each child. And precisely because every child is unique, Montessori is based on following your child’s lead and adapting to his needs. Parents should decide what is best for their situation.
“… the child’s individual liberty must be so guided that through his activity he may arrive at independence … the child who does not do, does not know how to do.”
—The Montessori Method
In order to continue with a Montessori supportive environment at home at the age of 6 to 12 months, we still need to focus on four main areas: sleeping, feeding/weaning, physical care, and activity area.
Depending on your conditions, the baby can have a separate room or a place in your living room. You can always improvise and adjust to current possibilities. But at the beginnings of crawling, it is very important to think about the child’s safety. You need to organize a baby-proofed space so that your child can move freely when exploring the environment.
The baby is not aware of the hazard, so dangerous things can seem fun to him. That’s why you need to adjust the space so that the house is as safe as possible for the baby. Be aware to hide any object that your baby can swallow or hurt himself. Try to look at the space from a child’s perspective (get down on your hands and knees and move around the room); watch out for things like wires, table clothes, floor lamps, power points, etc.
Taking the areas into account, here are the common elements in the Montessori baby environment:
The sleeping area:
The weaning area:
The nursing area:
The activity area:
The sleeping area:
Baby’s freedom of movement is the main principle in the Montessori method. And the philosophy of the floor bad allows your child to develop the freedom of movement. When in a crib, after waking up, your child may cry to be “let out”.
Yet, not all babies are prepared for this kind of freedom. There is a great post about this issue at the Diamond Montessori blog. This mom felt guilty for planning to buy a crib after her baby girl didn’t sleep well for 11 months. Eventually, she both one and the child slept great.
Also, we had the same issue with our baby girl, but we weren’t ready to experiment for such a long time since we have spent more than three months in hospital after the birth. Xara was diagnosed with a rare disease called long gap esophageal atresia. You can read more about this here.
So, we plan to introduce her to the floor bed at 10 months, when she is already crawling, since she is now at 9th and she is getting up on all fours and rock back and forth. I will write more about it when the time comes.
The Montessori floor bed is a perfect way for a baby to get out of bed on his own and do what he wants, e.g. to play with the toys at his disposal.
At this stage of development, you should try getting your child to sleep independently. However, be sure to consider the needs of the child; some children can fall asleep on their own, while others need one of the parents to be with them. In that case, be with the child until he falls asleep, but then move away.
The weaning area:
The second important area in a Montessori supportive environment at home is the feeding/weaning area. At 6 months, when the baby slowly begins to sit, you can start with weaning. You should use a small table and chair that are specially designed in the Montessori spirit for a child’s needs.
The height of the table and chair can be adjusted to the earliest age and used up to the third year. The chair can be folded under the table and thus the baby is “secured” from falling.
Besides the weaning furniture, you should use the Montessori placemat with outlines for fork, spoon, bowl, and glass. You can make it yourself or buy it – it’s totally up to you.
If you want to make one yourself, check out this DIY video tutorial for a simple Montessori placemat.
By allowing the child to sit at a table that is adapted to him, you’re making your child equal with the adult.
With arranging the weaning set, you’re sending the message to your child that you value him as a personality and that you want to encourage his independence, which are the values of Montessori access.
The area for physical care:
When your baby starts to crawl you can set up a changing pad on the floor. It is best to install it in the bathroom, but if you don’t have that much space there you can also organize it in the baby’s room. Make it so, that your baby could easily crawl to it.
Later, when your baby can stand on his own, try switching up to stand-up diapering. This could be done in the bathroom and the child must have something to hold onto like the bathtub, low shelf, or table. But, there is another possibility – a pull-up bar.
Read a great post about this issue at the Montessori in Motion blog. From the setup to practice you’ll find some super tips for making diaper changes go smoothly.
Allow your child to be a part of the diapering process by organizing the diapers close to him. With time, your baby will get the diaper on his own and eventually be able to pull the clothes and take off his diaper.
The activity area:
Playing is for babies discovering the world and your child is actually constantly learning, even when he seems to be ‘just playing’. Playing is fun, but it is crucial for the learning, development, and health of the baby. Through play they learn best; they discover themselves, explore how the world works and how they fit into that world.
Your baby needs a proofed space, safe for free movement and exploration. Through exploration, babies learn about the world around them and seek their place in it.
At 6 months it is good to place a movement mat in the (baby’s) room so that your baby has the opportunity to freely move. You can also have a mirror attached to the wall or a horizontal mirror since after the 5 months baby start to observe himself and follow how he changes. However, the baby is still not aware that he is looking at himself, that knowledge comes only later.
Child-sized furniture and law shelves are very welcome as well. That way your baby can get to the materials and toys by himself as he pleases. Observe your child during activities, it will amaze you with his moves.
Montessori inspired materials, toys & books for 6 to 12-months-old
For your baby, the period from 6 to 12 months is an exciting time, especially regarding the development. You will notice so many changes and enjoy being a part of your baby’s learning and growing; experiencing new awareness of the world around through touch, taste, sight, smell, and hearing.
The period from 6 to 12 months is primarily about fine motor skills development. In the period up to six months, we stimulated the baby’s activity with the help of mobiles, rattles, and balls (you will still need those), but now it is necessary to add a few more instruments to support the baby’s further development. When it comes to materials, toys, and books that can support a baby’s sensory and motor development, here are a few suggestions:
- Bead Maze – A 9-month-old baby begins to grasp small objects with his thumb and forefinger (“tweezers” grip). At 10 months, the baby begins to move objects horizontally, as well as to explore the details of the object. This wooden educational toy improves motor skills and logic in babies, all to increase physical and mental characteristics.
- Single Shape Puzzle – Toys such as puzzles encourage problem-solving skills and can draw babies into deep concentration if they are at the right level of difficulty. Such activities also give your baby a deep sense of satisfaction and achievement.
- Bell Cylinder – This toy can be introduced to a baby at 4 months, but it’s better later when the baby starts crawling. That way this toy can encourage the baby to move (crawl).
- Toy Animals – These gummy toys are a wonderful way of introducing animals into your baby’s life. My baby girl loves them and they are also ideal for chewing.
- Maracas – Many Montessori parents will advise buying your baby a solid drum or xylophone at about 9 months. We did buy that for our baby, however, she wasn’t quite thrilled, so we decided to buy maracas. And it was a hit. She adores playing with them. The sound they make often makes her laugh and makes her very happy.
- Books – I have been reading books for my baby since birth. At first, while she was in the hospital, and after the third month, when we came home, I would put her in my lap and read fairy tales mostly (in three languages). The first books Baby’s Very First Little Black and White Library we bought for her when she was four months old. At the time, she would just play with them, turn them over and look at them, but in the fifth month she started biting them and we realized that cardboard books are not the solution. So, we decided to buy a few soft books (e.g., Soft Cloth First Word Book). Yet, if your baby doesn’t put everything in the mouth you should try with the Baby’s Very First Touchy-Feely Book and First 100 Words.
- Sensory Balls – I don’t think there is a child who doesn’t love these balls. The shape and unevenness of these balls are an interesting element for a baby. These balls are also great chewings because they massage painful gums with their texture. We also use them while taking a bath. By giving your baby rubber balls to play with, the child develops his hand muscles and learns to control his fingers. The balls also improve the coordination between conscious understanding and seeing things.
- Sensory Blocks – My girl enjoys playing with these blocks. She loves to take them out of the basket and put them back. She often stacks two blocks on top of each other, but when I put them all together, she happily crawls up to them and knocks them down. As with the balls, we use these blocks also for bathing. The positive impact of these blocks on sensory and motor development are the same as with balls.
- Pop Up Toy – We bought this toy for Xara since she was really happy when she saw it in the market. However, at home, she is not thrilled to play with it. I’ve put it to a place so she can alone grab it, but she always finds something else more interesting. This toy is however great since the baby learns different colors and realizes that certain objects can fit exactly into a particular recess.
- Walker Wagon – According to the physiatrist’s advice, instead of a baby walker, it is better to give the child a walker wagon for babies, but only when he becomes stable in self-uprightness and when he can take a step, two without adherence. The advantage of a walker wagon for babies is that the child rests his whole foot on the floor and thus strengthens the structure of the feet, unlike a baby walker where children learn to walk on their toes, they are less stable and often clumsy.
- Stacking Rings – Different ring sizes help the child to create a concept of sorting based on size. This material is self-correcting because the child will only become aware that if he no longer sees one of the rings, it means that another, which is larger, is over the smaller ring and has covered it. The child will then have to think about what he needs to do to string the rings properly. The purpose of this toy is for the child to see this completely himself. It is ideal for babies for 10+ months.
- Object Permanence Box – My daughter loves this toy. She started playing with it before she even could sit somewhere at about 6 months. This toy encourages the development of concentration, fine motor skills, and eye-hand coordination.
Keep in mind that every child is different; for that reason, it is necessary to observe your baby and react adequately in certain periods of development. To create a Montessori supportive environment at home means that you understand your baby’s needs and help him do things the way he wants, and not to do them instead of him.
If your baby doesn’t like a toy or book at a certain time, try to offer it to him after a while. But also, try to rotate the materials and toys more often.
Hint: When your baby starts crawling, put certain objects and toys in several baskets, and hide them in the room where the baby is playing. The moment of discovery is of special importance for the baby. In addition to providing satisfaction, it also develops curiosity.
A Montessori supportive environment at home can be achieved without spending extra money on materials and toys, which can be expensive. If you are interested and have little free time, you can make them yourself from the materials you have in the house. Try finding some interesting DIY solutions online (there are plenty of it) or if you have any ideas, please share it in the comments.