Montessori Baby

The author, trained as a Montessori primary teacher (AMI), documents and analyzes her efforts to raise a "Montessori" baby.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Sensitive Period for Movement

Birth to Six Months

Borrowing the concept from Hugo de Vries, a genetecist, Montessori identified four "sensitve periods" in humans. These are periods of heightened sensitivity in, and, subsequently, learning in particular areas of the brain. These areas include movement, sensory perception, language, and order. Neuroscience now bears this out; children do undergo significant growth and pruning of neurons in particular areas of the brain between birth and age five. How critical, then, is it for us to provide an environment rich in opportunities and appropriate stimuli!

Montessori saw the sensitive period for movement lasting from birth to about age four, with gross motor coordination as its initial area of perfection and refinement of the movements of the hand as one of its last and most important conquests. In between, the child develops manual dexterity and hand-eye coordination.

Even before he was born, Alex loved to move. Between his regular kickboxing practices, hiccups, and startle reflexes, it felt like there was always something happening in Alex's world. To capitalize on this sensitive period in the early months after he was born, we simply provided Alex with space and the opportunity to move in different positions. He was never one to be swaddled or cuddled, preferring instead to spread out. His floor bed allowed for freedom of movement on his back, and we placed him in front of a mirror for "tummy time" each day. He also spent a significant amount of time sitting on laps or riding around in our Baby Bjorn.

To develop hand-eye coordination, we kept a mobile above his bed and a batting toy on his car seat and bouncy chair. Eventually, we began to wonder if those accidental swattings were really an accident. Around the same time that we were sure he was reaching with the intention of grasping, he began showing an interest in sitting up on his own. We were delighted to help him practice his new skill and he took great pleasure in it.

Sitting up allowed him to really free up his hands and work with objects. We began doing short periods of daily "seated work" with the toys on his shelf. Soon, I hope he will be able to join me at a table in the kitchen scrubbing potatoes or slicing apples!


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