In Montessori, infants and young toddlers are encouraged to use glasses from the start. This means no sippy cups, no plastic wares, and no-non-breakable materials for drinking.
Why on Earth would you want that? Can babies even handle it?
In this blogpost, let me share our experience with our son.
But first things first…
Maria Montessori advocated using fragile, breakable weaning cups/glasses because this is the way children learn. It’s simple, really – the concept of natural consequence. Yes, there will be breakages, but as time passes, they understand that when they throw a breakable item, it does just that – it breaks. Over time, this teaches them to be more careful of how they hold things. On the contrary, when your things are always too sturdy to break, they think everything is worth throwing and dumping – because well, they remain the same.
So, how did we start with our son? See, there’s really no formula for this. It was a series of trial and error, and you will go through that, too. What worked on us may not work for you, but with Maria Montessori’s principle in mind, it’s easier to look for items that might fit your baby’s current needs.
Here is the actual evolution of my son’s cups/glasses.
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#1 – This is a medicine glass that we bought from Mercury Drugstore. I found a similar one from AMAZON. We rarely used bottles for baby P for milk because he is 99% directly breastfed, and we learned the many benefits of cupfeeding over bottle feeding from seminars we attended pre-birth (maybe will just share it on another post). So, when he was around 3 months old, we slowly introduced him to cup-feeding. He would cry at first, so we would hold it and not force it, then let him sip again when he’s ready. We did this so that if ever he needed a meal (of milk) and I was not around, that we had a back-up. He’s 16 months now and we still never used a bottle or cup as substitute for a meal. He takes them, though, but just for little sips and exploration. Why did we use this cup? Because as you can see, it comes with measurements. We thought it was a good way to check how much he drank if ever his drinks needed to be measured (for whatever reason). The beautiful side-effect of using a cup from the start which I did not realize right away is this: his instinct to hold a cup/glass properly was there from day 1. [photo of 3-month-old P HERE]
When he was around 8 months old, he started practicing how to hold the cup on his own. You may watch his short video HERE.
#2 – Sometime around his 9th month, he got so into climbing that all he ever wanted to do with his weaning table was to climb on top of it. We’ve tried making him climb first before eating, making him move a lot so he’d be hungry before going to the table, etc – and it just didn’t work. He did not want to eat – he just wanted to climb. So, we tried another way – we put him on his high chair and he ate with us in our actual dining table. And it worked. He would eat his usual way of eating. Since his chair was high though, this meant that whenever he would lose his grip on his #1 glass, or intentionally throw it to see the cause and effect, it would break. We bought so many replacements before we decided to just try a stainless steel one first. Why? Because although he could probably hear the glass crushing, he was too up high to see the actual effect. Also, our floor is made of pebbles and stone, so it’s kinda hard to see the actual shattered pieces. This was our cup, too, whenever we would go out. At least we did not have to worry about breakages when going outside. The brand is Stanley (I believe it’s a shot glass) and we got it locally from A Little Montessori. I found similar ones from Amazon. Check THIS, THIS, and THIS.
#3 – As I was clearing out our kitchen cabinet one time, I chanced upon this TIC-TAC-TOE shotglass set (something like THIS or THIS) which we got as a gift and never used. In fact, I was trying to sell it before, but no one was buying it. So we just kept it, not really knowing how we’d use it cause we don’t really drink a lot. So anyway, when I saw the set…lightbulb moment! The glasses were much smaller than the stainless or the medicine glasses we have! Had I only seen this before buying the two, I would have introduced this first. The first time my son held it, it was perfect in his hands! There were so many little glasses and I had no use for them that I didn’t mind the breakage, but you know what, he broke very few – I guess because it really fit his hands well! After a while though, it became too small for his hands so we went back to the stainless one, and again, the throwing fits would happen, or he would keep on asking for my glass, or my husband’s. PS: Fortunately, the tic-tac-toe glass set we got only had prints, not embedded designs on the glass, so all I had to do was scrub them down and they became small, plain shotglasses!
#4 – Finally, when he was around 1 year and 2 months, we went to his cousin’s house for his birthday party. For the first time, he was given a glass larger than the ones we have at home, and you know what? He loved it. He did not break it at all and used it to drink all day long. That’s when I realized that I may have been keeping him away from what he could actually do by providing glasses that were too small. My sister said she got hers (juice glasses are what they’re called, she said) from Crate and Barrel, but when we came to visit, we did not find anything. We visited local department stores and found nothing…until we chanced upon the new Gourdo’s branch at the Podium Mall! #4 was being sold there for PHP 75 (wasn’t able to see what it’s called exactly) and we got two pieces, in case of breakage. So far, it’s been almost 2 months, with daily use in all our meals, and so far, he has not broken the first piece. It fits him perfectly, and we can see that he’s really careful with it. Lately, he’s been enjoying pouring water in it, too!
Again, I’d like to stress that this whole process is a process of trial and error, so it’s important to keep trying and see what works for you and your child’s needs as of the moment.
Here are some tips that might be helpful to you, though:
1) If you can afford to do cupfeeding over bottle feeding, I feel this is the best way to start. No confusion on where to drink outside of the breasts, because it’s cup from day 1 and cup until the end of our lives.
2) Modeling is very important. Use both your hands when you hold a glass to show your baby that that’s a safer way to do it. Remember, they are watching us 24/7, so what we do and how we do it matters.
3) Breakages are part of the learning. However, I understand how paranoid we can get when the actual breakage is there. We don’t want our children hurt more than they can take. What I’ve learned is that your glass and your floor also matter. I find that glasses tend to break nicer (is that even a term for this? Haha.) with hardwood floors, and that the quality of the glass also matters. Generally, I guess the thicker the glass, the better it shatters. Ceramic, as pointed out by Trina of DIY Corporate Mom, breaks safer – I guess she meant that they break in bigger pieces than shatter into very tiny pieces. The thing with ceramic, though, is that it’s not clear, so the child does not see what’s inside. Personally, I prefer glass, but this could also be a good alternative. Nicole of The Kavanaugh Report gave me this suggestion before: to practice fragile glasses in baby P’s weaning table (back when he was still eating on it, not climbing it) since it’s low and that my foam-mat underneath is good enough protection. She was so right. Even if our floor downstairs is made of stone, with a foam mat around, we were able to prevent unsafe breakages.
4) Try looking for glasses like our #4 – wide on top, but has a thinner bottom, which we find is helpful with a child’s grip. Oh also…if you can, go for glass all the way. It might include a lot of breakages, but once you see the one that fits your child as of the moment, you’ll see the difference in his/her handling! Well, at least that’s how it was for us. So I guess the tip should be…try and try until you find the Cinderella glass for your child – and it’s not going to be just one glass, it will be several kinds as your child grows! In hindsight, there wouldn’t have been a solid need for the stainless steel option had I seen our tic-tac-toe set first, but anyway, I don’t mind having it for when we go out / travel.
5) Lastly, keep on introducing bigger-sized glasses. My mistake was thinking he couldn’t handle it yet, when it turned out, he just did not have an opportunity to try it out. You’ll get to gauge yourself whether or not the size is already appropriate for your child’s current age and needs if you actually offer it and observe. When he kept throwing or not minding his stainless steel cup, I thought he was just in a throwing fit, but it turned out, it just didn’t fit his needs anymore. By introducing bigger sizes from time to time, you can easily see your child’s readiness, and if he or she doesn’t happen to be ready yet, you can always go back to the smaller piece you use.
So there, parents. Hope this post was helpful somehow. Breakages, spillages – they’re all part of this whole journey, but once you see your child slowly gaining the skills to drink independently, you will surely be the first to feel the most happy and proud. Have fun!
Now adults will surely exclaim: “How come? Put glasses in the hands of three and four year old children? They will surely break them! By this comment they place more importance on the glass than on the child; an object worth a few cents seems more precious than the physical training of their children. – Maria Montessori. The Child in the Family