Selecting infant care for your child requires trust and understanding of the environment that your child will be exposed to daily. The baseline expectation of any infant program should be a classroom community that respects the independence and character of children. Caregivers should be calm, gentle, soft-spoken, patient, and trusting. They should demonstrate respect and compassion by using eye contact, kneeling to the level of the child, addressing each child by name, and speaking before touching or moving a child. The result is a calm, soothing atmosphere in which consistent caregivers create an emotional safe haven for those in their care. This allows infants the freedom to safely explore and learn through discovery.
According to research conducted by Dr. Maria Montessori, children need the opportunity to learn about the world around them—beginning at infancy. While traditional daycares allow for the care of an infant, a Montessori infant program provides a more in-depth approach that supports the holistic development of the child.
The Montessori environment follows the individual child’s need to eat, sleep, play, and explore while the traditional classroom conditions the group to eat, sleep, and be diapered at the same time. The Montessori philosophy supports the need for each child to move and learn at his or her own pace.
Traditional programs resort to the use of toys with blinking lights and sounds to invite infants to explore. While Dr. Maria Montessori did not develop learning materials for infants, those designed in the spirit of her work based on other developmental stages offer authentic and meaningful learning experiences without distractions.
The simple design of the Montessori environment prevents overstimulation by avoiding bright colors and walls covered in decorum. The Montessori infant environment avoids the presence of equipment that limits a child’s freedom of movement, such as motorized swings, bouncy seats, and exer-saucers—apparatuses commonly used in a traditional daycare setting. Instead, Montessori classrooms utilize specially designed furniture to support an infant’s budding independence, including bars for pulling up, mirrors to reflect body movement, and a sleeping area with individual floor beds/mats and child-sized tables and chairs rather than high chairs.
In a Montessori environment, observing, planning, and the prepared environment are essential for not just the success of the child but also to provide parents with information about their child. Montessori teachers embrace an infant’s natural curiosity by providing practical materials for individual exploration and planning purposeful lessons to build on experiences. Providing the framework of a lesson to parents establishes benchmarks for deeper understanding of their child’s capabilities and potential. Most often, traditional infant programs do not begin lesson planning until toddler age due to the assumption that infants only require “care” that does not include more in-depth cultivation of their development.
Maria Montessori believed in maintaining a child’s sense of order which allows them to begin to identify what feels safe while establishing trusting relationships. Traditional programs tend to focus on learning as a group as opposed to cultivating each individual child’s development of a sense of order.
Montessori aims to heighten the awareness of the adult caregiver—their attitudes, qualities, relationships with both infants and parents, believing psychologically that the mother and child are “one.” In a traditional environment, mother and child are treated as separate entities.
Dr. Maria Montessori believed that education must begin at birth. The main goal of a Montessori infant program is to meet the needs of each child right from the moment the child begins to explore the world. This introduction to independence begins at birth, and Montessori education at the infant stage lays the foundation for lifelong learning by nurturing each child’s curiosity, self-confidence, and intrinsic desire to learn from the very beginning!
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