One of the things my husband and I did when I was still pregnant was to DIY our son’s Montessori Mobiles. You see, in our baby registry, we did not register for any commercial mobile nursery and instead made our own.
Upon reading Montessori books and articles, I’ve learned that many of the commercial mobiles for nurseries don’t really serve any purpose to infants – design and color-wise. I am quite positive there are well-thought of commercial mobiles out there (especially at this day and age), but I’m no Montessori expert and still learning a lot, so I decided to just stick with what Maria Montessori has proven to be purposeful.
What I really like about Maria Montessori’s work is that whatever she taught and concluded are all based on her years of experience with children. The way she did it was simple: she introduced materials to children and offered them like a gift , to be taken up at will by any interested child. She did not just create theories from afar – her teachings are products of what the children revealed to her through her observation and respect for them. It’s amazing how she started her work in the early 1900s, yet if you read it, it’s still so on to today – the relevance and truthfulness of her teachings are still very much present and applicable.
In the book Montessori From The Start by Paula Polk Lillard and Lynn Lillard Jensen, the visual mobiles for an infant’s nursery is briefly discussed. There, they talk about visual mobiles as essential tools for your nursery to accommodate the child’s habituation and match his/her progressive visual development. Visual mobiles that are age-appropriate are also there to help develop focus on a moving object and develop perception of color and depth.
Some people think babies don’t see anything upon birth. The truth is that they do – only it’s still blurry and the distance is short (approximately 30 cm / 12 in – the exact distance from the mother’s eyes to her breast!) And although they see color, since their eyes are not yet fully developed, they see high-contrast visuals the most. And the best (or easiest) high-contrast visuals would be BLACK AND WHITE (or, black-white-red).
Maria Montessori’s first set of Visual Mobiles is the MUNARI MOBILE, a set of two-dimensional black and white geometric shapes balanced off by a glass ball that reflects the light. While many commercial nursery mobiles are used to make children sleep, Montessori mobiles are supposed to be used when the baby is awake – because again, they are supposed to help the child develop his sight, tracking, and focus.
To make the Munari mobile, I found THIS BLOG FROM LITTLE RED FARM to be the most helpful. All instructions may be found there – just follow it.
We started introducing black and white visuals to baby P at 1 week, but this mobile only worked a little before his first month. During the first few weeks, he was really just eating and sleeping most of his awake time. He would sometimes give attention to the other black and white mobiles, but he was more interested in the mirror, and well, like many (if not all) newborns, sleeping.
Here are the black and white mobiles we first used:
The side of his floor bed is just white wall, so I temporarily put black dots (wall decals from White Walls) and eventually, we also put black and white animal prints which he really enjoys looking at. With the help of washi tape, it’s easy to move them around depending on where he’s looking (or where I’m nursing – and where he’s facing during that time).
We also have black and white visuals in other rooms in case we’re there.
Here are my sources for the Black and White Prints:
0-4 weeks BLACK AND WHITE VISUALS
2-4/4-6 weeks MUNARI MOBILE
For the animals, I just literally searched them on Google (for personal use) by typing an animal name + black and white and choose an image that has really high-contrast. Black, white, and red is a good combination, too!
Aside from sharing my sources, I’d like to write down a few of my learnings, too!
- When I was still pregnant, I couldn’t wait to introduce the Munari Mobile to my son. It was hard work for me and my husband to finish all the Montessori mobiles, so I couldn’t wait to show it to him! But as Montessori kept repeating, observe and follow the child. It really took a while for him to take notice of the Munari, and I would repeatedly see his lack of interest in it whenever I tried introducing it to him. I was reminded each time to give it as gift – for him to take or leave. True enough, after a few weeks, he did show more interest. And although in the book Montessori From The Start, the recommendation is to change the mobile every 2 weeks – it would really depend on the child in the end. I would offer it until he shows lack of interest in it (again), or more interest in the next mobile.
- Do not underestimate your surroundings – without really meaning it to be visual stimulation for our son, his mat and my nursing pillow also became points of interest for him.
- Before I gave birth, I was ready with the Montessori Mobiles. I knew I had to put them around 30 cm from his eyes, and to put it not exactly above him but a little on his side so he has an option to look away when he’s tired, but for some reason, I couldn’t find any advice on every when I should show him the mobile. After I gave birth, I finally understood — there really is no specific time for this. How long he’ll look is up to him. How often he’d want it in a day also depends on the individual. During his first few weeks, he was just really sleeping most of the time, so there would be days when no visual would be given to him at all. In the end, I learned that it’s just really about learning cues and finding your child’s groove. For me, I know I can give it when he’s up and about and in a good mood. How long he can look at it depends – he can go on for half an hour (and wow, that for me, is long – long enough for me to be able to do something I need to do – like answer emails for work, or start a blogpost!), or as short as five minutes. I do not impose the time on him and let him work on his own schedule. When he’s already showing signs of overstimulation such as looking away or crying, I take out the mobile.
- While it’s true that newborns like sleeping a lot and it may seem that all they do is sleep-eat-pee-poo-cry, they also really have the capacity to focus if you give them a chance (and manage to find that window of when you should give it), and when it happens, it’s quite amazing to watch them. When our son turned a month, he was not only focusing on the visuals, he was also reacting to it in a positive way – he would smile and talk to it by cooing!
- Mobiles are really helpful and great, but at the end of the day, as others may have already told you over and over, NOTHING BEATS HUMAN CONNECTION. He loves it most when we talk and sing to him, play with him, do eye contact with him, and do eye tracking exercises.
So, make your own mobile all you want, but do not forget to talk, play, and shower your child with all your love. Have fun doing your child’s visuals – it will all be worth your while!