Prepared Environment – if you were to follow only ONE Montessori principle, I would say go for this. Of course it’s a whole philosophy in itself, and are all linked and related that it’d be hard to just follow just one, BUT, it can be quite overwhelming, so you can start slowly while you read more (I still have so much to read and learn)!
Here is the evolution of Pablo’s room from birth to now that he’s 1 year old:
Before birth – floor bed from birth, no big mats yet, shelf was whole but I designed it in such a way that the upper shelf could be detached in case the whole shelf got too overwhelming for a small baby. His small mat for movement and mobiles were on the other corner (not seen in photo) where a mirror was also placed so he can get a mental map of the room.
When he was starting to move more – I took out the lower shelf and hid it first, got the upper part, put a mat beside the bed and a mirror, too. I didn’t think this would be the purpose of the upper shelf, but it turned out to be Pablo’s very first shelf! The mirror was placed in the same area so he could also get familiar with the depth of our bed to his movement area.
The mat was in between the bed and the top shelf of the original shelf I had made. Because we didn’t know where to put the lower part of the original shelf, we just placed it right behind the top shelf and made it face the wall so it wasn’t a distraction.
Beside the bed, we put visuals and a mirror. We would use the small mirror as a family, which would really light him up. I would hold it up and show him our reflections.
He loved looking at these visuals. They might be a bit too much, but he was able to focus at a certain visual at a time, so I don’t know, it worked for us.
When he was learning to sit – I didn’t change the setup, but changed the mat to a much thicker one(You can check out mats I recommend HERE and HERE). He kept tumbling when he was learning to sit; I felt the thin mat wasn’t enough (I’d get nervous), so I changed it to a thicker one and let him tumble as much as he needed. You can read about the importance of allowing them to tumble and fall HERE.
He started pulling himself up using this shelf. Then he used the shelf to practice going up with his hands and knees. After a while, he could really go up and explore the back part of the photo, so when it wasn’t safe anymore (the sterilizers, fan, and humidifier were all there).
We took out the shelf there and replaced it with a sturdy Pikler triangle, and a table with small chairs underneath to cover the aircon wire. I also put another mirror on top plus a pull-up bar because he was already pulling himself up with everything including cardboard boxes.
Whenever his Kuya Philip was visiting, we would put out the slide of the Pikler Triangle, and he would explore it. When there was readiness to use the slide on his end, we would put it out more.
Just on the foot of the bed, we found a spot for his mini-bookshelf. This is when he was showing readiness for reading. He would literally be excited whenever he’d see the books. We thought it would be a nice addition. Movement area on one side, reading corner on the other, and sensorial materials on the shelf.
Also, notice his visuals beside the bed. Only the wall decals were left. He already tore them all. Haha. Now, there are a few decals that have been taken off – he loves tearing stickers – perfect for strengthening his fine motor skills, so we just let him do it. We purposely leave the dot decals even if they’re already incomplete, and wait for him to tear them all off.
Although the photo here shows one shelf, we’ve also added a mini wooden tray where his books for sleeping time are placed.
On the other corner of the room, I put the shelf back to its original design, placed the steps as “bridge” between the two mats, and carefully curate his shelf (depending on his sensitive periods). You’ll see his shelves on the right corner, that’s his infant-shelf, where his cloth diapers, disposables (for travels), wipes, etc are stocked.
He loves this bridge I made. This product is two-in-one. If you turn it upside down, it becomes a rocking boat, which, eventually, when he had more balance, would be used in that manner. He loves exploring it, going inside it (and finding the correct balance so he won’t fall), and letting himself out. Many times, he would get stuck in some way – his foot would be in a position where it’s hard to get out, or his legs would be in an uncomfortable position, but we just let him figure it out..and he always does.
When he was becoming more involved in dressing himself and started climbing the open shelves, we took them out and added a closet that he can easily reach. My husband made this shelf and secured it on the wall to make sure it doesn’t fall on him.
When he started reaching for the hangers (but his height is still not enough), I would place a hanger on the pikler triangle so he can practice.
So, that’s it for now.
Just some of the results:
* A baby who can rely on his body for movement, balance, coordination without help from anything or anyone else (no bumbo seats, no jumperoos, no walkers, no products that supposedly help babies with their balance but actually teach them to rely on them). Also no contraptions – no cribs, no playpens, nothing that cages him when that time should be spent learning and mastering movement.
* A baby who doesn’t need to be picked up, or wait for an adult when he wakes up. He can move around his room even when we are still in bed. He likes going to his shelf first thing in the morning, cross the bridge to go to the other side, and play by himself.
* A baby who is confident in his motor skills. So many times, I thought he would fall, but all those times – he had proven me wrong. He knows his body and his abilities; what he needs is our trust.
When you have prepared your environment for your child, what you get is a confident child (confident in his abilities), less-stressed parents, and no need for a “schedule/curriculum” – your child is your curriculum. Follow the child, and you’ll both be happy.
We have changed his room so much since pre-birth. I’m not sure exactly how “Montessori”-friendly this is because I also read about infants craving for routine, and part of that is not making a lot of changes in a room/an environment. But I just really followed my child, observed him and adjusted to his needs. Except for the very first look of the room, none of the looks were planned. I just let my child lead me, and so far, it’s working perfectly for us.
Hope this blogpost has been helpful! Do drop me a comment for questions and comments. 🙂