I love this beautiful set of Montessori inspired toys for babies. It has materials that baby will play with from a few months old right up until toddler-hood and most can be adapted for play beyond that. The natural wood is so lovely and safe for mouthing children. Each toy will engage a baby and help to develop many skills from gross motor to fine motor to object permanence. I wish I had something like this when my son was a baby but now it’s available for your little pumpkin or makes a wonderful baby shower gift.
This beautiful set of my favourite toys is now available.
This baby set includes a cage rolling rattle made with cherry spindles and colored balls inside. It makes a lovely clicking sound when rolled and encourages baby to creep after it. The ball and jar is so much fun for baby to explore object permanence and open and close. The ring stacker is a huge hit with babies, staring with putting the large rings, which double as wood teething rings, over the peg and as fine motor skills increase, baby begins to put the small rings on.
I see this so often and fell into this trap myself. People new to Montessori and excited giving their under 2 year old materials and then getting frustrated that their toddler won’t play with them or wants to throw them. “My 9 month old won’t sit for more than 10 seconds and I can’t get her to do any of the activities I put out”. “My 20 month old only wants to pull everything off the shelves and throw it”. What seems to be forgotten over and over again, the very core of Montessori – “Follow the Child“.
Your child intrinsically will learn what he needs to learn at the time he’s ready to learn it. This is especially true when it comes to babies and toddlers. With or without a pull up bar you child will learn to stand. With or without a push toy he will learn to walk. But each child will do this within his own time frame. When it comes to Montessori for toddlers, just let them be.
It’s frustrating, I know, to have a beautiful room set up with lovely materials and your child only wants to run and throw everything. Or to see blog posts with children the same age doing all these activities. There isn’t something wrong with your child. There’s something wrong with your expectations. If you child wants to throw everything, then they’re at a sensitive period for throwing. This is great, give her bean bags and balls to throw. If you child wants to dump everything, great! She’s at a sensitive period for dumping, give her things to dump. If your son wants to climb the shelves or wont sit still, he’s at a sensitive period for gross motor skills, try a trampoline or a slide inside or a balance beam or mats to tumble on and lots and lots of outdoor play. Your child keeps getting in the way while you clean, give her a broom or cloth. You don’t do presentations with toddlers. You can play with some of the toys and have them watch you, or better yet, have an older child play with them, but there is no need to try to get your child to sort objects by colour. When he is ready, he will. Like my son who was playing with the counting bears. I looked over and he had sorted them by colour, all on his own.
We have a fancy shape sorting toy with lots of shapes. One day I realized my son could do it, without any help or teaching from me. I never taught him to do puzzles, he just did them. When your child is ready for pouring, you won’t need to make them do it, they just will, over and over again. If your child is ready for the knobbed cylinders, they’ll do them, and do them again and again. If they are resisting, then they’re not ready.
Pressuring a toddler to do an activity when they’re not interested and introducing primary materials too early can be detrimental. It can turn the child off the material so that when they are at a sensitive period for it, they won’t want to do it. Remember their absorbent mind will absorb their feelings about that material. Or they may be bored with it because they’ve played with the materials and it doesn’t have the appeal of being new and will resist presentations with it in the primary years. Sometimes we don’t realized we’re pressuring. I didn’t at first. If you’re feeling frustrated, then let it go. Put it away and just watch your child play. Try to see where your child is really at.
A toddler doesn’t need expensive materials. He needs to run, to climb, to play outside, to help you while you do housework, to play in the bath, to look at books, to throw balls and ride on cars. My son’s favourite fine motor material came from the dollar store, the spice shaker with dowels. Keep in mind when you see a blog post with a toddler doing an activity, majority of the time it only lasts for 5 mins, if that. Toddlers work in little burst of energy but they rarely last long.
I did way more “teaching” with my daughter and not much with my son and he’s coming along even quicker than her, because he wants to be like the big kids. Though he started talking later than her his vocabulary seems to be coming along faster than hers. He’s always copying the older kids. Today he came stomping over “uuuunt, uuuunt, uuunt” just like the older kids do when they’re mad. It was so funny coming from a 21 month old. If you can get your toddler to play with multi-age groups of children, that will really benefit their development.
Another thing to remember: too many activities, too much colour and things going on is very overwhelming for a child. It’s best to have only a few things out for them, things for the sensitive period they are at. Keep the room tidy and minimal and simple. This of course is harder if you have several ages of children, just do your best to keep the room organized.
A final issue I see often and have realized in myself is the idea that fine motor activities are better or more important than gross motor. You child needs to master gross motor movement, to be in control of their core, before they can master fine motor movement. Don’t dismiss the importance of running, of climbing stairs, of playing outside, of jumping and throwing and kicking. These skills are very, very important. If you want you child to develop their fine motor skills and increase their attention span, then give them opportunity to exercise their gross motor skills.
In the end though, it’s not about having your child ahead of other children. It’s not about proving how wonderful Montessori is by showing what your child can do. It’s not about having your child do what you see other children doing in blogs or boards. It’s not about all the beautiful materials. It’s about your child, about them being allowed to be and explore at their own pace, in their own way. Trust your child. Let him be.
I’ve been working on this rattle for a while. It took several attempts to get it right.
I call it the “Fiddle Rattle” because it has a bunch of objects on it for baby to fiddle with. Beads and a spool to slide and spin and it rolls across the floor. And like all my toys it’s natural and eco friendly. A toy you can be proud to give your baby to play with.
Very excited about this new addition to my store. This lovely rattle rolls across the floor making a clicking sound from the wooden balls inside the cage. It encourages little ones to creep forward after it and as they get more mobile eventually to push it and crawl in pursuit.
Click the photo to be taken to my Etsy store.
Pumpkin 2 was very intrigued by the balls in it. He LOVES balls. Yea, my kids aren’t those model looking children you see in some photos for toys. Pumpkin 2 has a bandaid, his first ever, from a cut he got and he got into the yellow dye I used to color the wood toys. It’s food grade though so no worries. I love how you can see him so closely inspecting the rattle.
So, this is probably going to be a controversial post. I know when I would read things about no TV I’d get defensive. “It’s too hard to have no media”, “sometimes I just need a break”, “it’s a great educational tool”, “it’s the only way I can get some work done” were all things I’d think. But I’ve come around in my thoughts and seeing the effects of no media on my children has affirmed that this is the right decision for us. What you decide for your family is totally up to you. One answer doesn’t fit all. This isn’t a post to tell you what to do. It’s a post to tell you why I’ve changed my mind.
So, recently we’ve made the decision to stop all exposure to television and media for our children until they’re older (no set age yet). The overwhelming evidence shows that media exposure (television, computers, ipads, ipods, smartphones) is harmful on the developing child. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends “children under the age of two watch no screen entertainment at all because television ‘can negatively affect early brain development‘”
Research published in the world’s most reputable medical and scientific journals shows that the sheer amount of time children spend watching TV, DVDs, computers and the internet is linked with significant measurable biological changes in their bodies and brains that may have significant medical consequences.
How much TV are kids today watching?
By 7 years of age the average child will have watched screen media for over a year of 24 hour days! The average European young person by the age of 18 will have spent 4 years of 24 hour days in front of a screen. By the age of 80 these children will have spent over 13 years of 24 hour days just watching TV.
40% of infants are regularly watching television by 3 months of age and by the age of 2 years 90% are.
Children in Britain between 11–15 years spend 55% of their waking day watching screen media, that’s 53 hours a week, seven and a half hours a day.
How does media and screens negatively affect children?
Studies have demonstrated a deleterious effect of watching more than one to two hours of television per day on academic performance . Excess television viewing causes poor peer relationships and thereby increases the risk of social isolation, anxiety disorder and agoraphobia . Studies have shown that TV viewing may play an exacerbating, if not causal, role in the development of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder  and that excessive TV viewing in adolescence is a risk factor for development of depression in young adulthood. . http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ989518.pdf
Good evidence suggests that screen viewing before age 2 has lasting negative effects on children’s language development, reading skills, and short-term memory. It also contributes to problems with sleep and attention. If “you are what you eat,” then the brain is what it experiences, and video entertainment is like mental junk food for babies and toddlers.
Just having the TV on in the background, even if “no one is watching it,” is enough to delay language development. Normally a parent speaks about 940 words per hour when a toddler is around. With the television on, that number falls by 770! http://www.healthychildren.org/English/family-life/Media/Pages/Why-to-Avoid-TV-Before-Age-2.aspx
Let’s break that information down:
The effect of media on socialization:
Using media reduces the amount of time a child spends interacting face to face with others.
Over the last twenty years social interaction (eye-to-eye contact) has gone down while eye-to-screen-contact has gone up. Just before the year 2000 life became literally virtual: people would spend more time in front of a screen than spending time interacting with other human beings
For every hour spent in front of a screen, there is a reduction in face-to-face time with the family by 24 mins. A study by the University of California–Los Angeles has found that “social disengagement is now rapidly increasing, as side-by-side and eye-to-eye human interactions are being displaced by the eye-to-screen relationship.
A study of brain function in adults found that when using the internet, the areas of the brain associated with empathy showed virtually no increase in stimulation. In particular, there seems to be a decline in the subtle skills of reading the nuances of other’s emotions. The biggest drop in empathy has been found to be after the year 2000. College kids today are about 40 per cent lower in empathy than their counterparts of twenty or thirty years ago.
The University of Michigan study concluded that the rise of social media may also play a role in the drop in empathy, ‘The ease of having “friends” online might make people more likely to just tune out when they don’t feel like responding to others’ problems, a behavior that could carry over offline.’ Electronic media has also contributed to a social environment that works against slowing down and listening to someone who needs a bit of sympathy.
Television affects language development:
Despite claims that educational DVDs and videos are beneficial to young children, a study published in the medical journal Pediatrics found that the use of such productions might actually have a negative effect on language development. Even ‘educational’ television programmes, DVDs and videos have shown no positive effects on children age 2 and under whether they were educational or non-education media. Even if parents sat and watched the show with the children it made no difference to the outcome. Researchers have found that for every hour spent watching specially developed baby DVDs and videos such as ‘Baby Einstein’ and ‘Brainy Baby’, children under 16 months understood an average of six to eight less words compared to children who did not watch them.
Media has a major effect on the brain:
…the World Federation of Neurology as “[computer games are] halting the process of frontal lobe development and affecting children’s ability to control antisocial elements of their behaviour … alarmingly, computer games stunted the developing mind”.
Even just a few minutes of television viewing has a negative impact on the intellectual functions carried out by the by the frontal lobes of the brain in 4 year old children. “‘Just 9 minutes of viewing a fast-paced television cartoon had immediate negative effects on 4-year-olds’ executive function” and “A new study is even more specific, reporting ‘widespread reductions’ in the condition and size of brain cells in ‘major white matter pathways… throughout the brain, including the orbito-frontal white matter, corpus callosum, cingulum, inferior fronto-occipital fasciculus, and corona radiation, internal and external capsules”
Media exposure causes sleep disturbances:
A study of 2068 children found that television viewing among infants and toddlers was associated with irregular sleep patterns. The number of hours of television watched per day was independently associated with both irregular naptime schedule and irregular bedtime schedules. (Thompson and Christakis 2005) Another study of 5-6 year olds found that both active TV viewing and background ‘passive’ TV exposure was related to shorter sleep duration, sleeping disorders, and overall sleep disturbances. Moreover, passive exposure to TV of more than two hours per day was strongly related to sleep disturbances
Researchers have reported that when children aged 6-12 were deprived of their media, their melatonin production increased by an average 30%. Melatonin is a sleep-promoting hormone produced in the brain. “Exposure to a screen media was associated with lower urinary melatonin levels, particularly affecting younger children at a stage of pubertal development when important changes in melatonin’s role take place.” Does your child have trouble sleeping? Try cutting out their media exposure, especially before bedtime.
Media exposure affects a child’s attention span:
Early television exposure is associated with attentional problems at age 7. Children who watched television at ages 1 and 3 have a significantly increased risk of developing attentional problems by the time they are 7. For every hour of television a child watched per day, there was a 9 per cent increase in attentional problems.
The study concluded: ‘Childhood television viewing was associated with attention problems in adolescence, independent of early attention problems and other confounders. These results support the hypothesis that childhood television viewing may contribute to the development of attention problems and suggest that the effects may be long-lasting.’
Media exposure affects academic performance:
Television viewing amongst children under 3 is found to have ‘deleterious effects’ on mathematics ability, reading recognition and comprehension in later childhood. Along with television viewing displacing educational and play activities, this harm may be due to the visual and auditory output from the television actually affecting the child’s rapidly developing brain (Zimmerman and Christakis, 2005). A 26-year longitudinal study, tracking children from birth, has concluded that ‘television viewing in childhood and adolescence is associated with poor educational achievement by 26 years of age.
For every additional hour of television at 29 months there is a correspondence years later to a 7% and 6% unit decreases in classroom engagement and math achievement. “Higher levels of early childhood television exposure predicted less task-oriented, persistent, and autonomous learning behavior in the classroom.”
Media is associated with less reading:
We have heard over and over how important reading is to a child’s development, however “Pre-school children spend three times longer in front of a television or computer than they spend reading”. Researchers have found a link between the use of computer games and lower attainment in reading and literacy.
a European based study of 15-year-old students in 31 countries concluded that those using computers at school several times a week performed ‘sizeably and statistically significantly worse’ in both maths and reading than those who used them less often
The effect of media on physical health:
a study published in The Lancet, conducted at the Dunedin School of Medicine, University of Otago, New Zealand, tracked the television viewing habits and health of 1,000 children over 26 years. It found that children who watched more than two hours of television a day between the ages of five and 15 developed significant health risks many years later
Each extra hour of watching TV is associated with an extra 1 kg of body fat. Harvard researchers reported that “beyond merely displacing physical activity, TV appears to slow metabolism and burns fewer calories compared with other sedentary activities such as sewing, reading, writing or driving a car”. Watching television actually makes us eat more. “A recent US study found that even children who watched a below average amount of television (less than three hours a day for an average of 2.7 days a week) ate roughly the equivalent of an extra meal a day more than those who watched none”. Watching television candisrupt the natural link between appetite and eating.
Media also increases our risk of cardiovascular disease:
Children watching 2 to 4 hours of TV a day had 2.5 times the likelihood of having high blood pressure compared with children watching 0 to less than 2 hours. While those children watching 4 or more hours of TV were 3.3 times more likely to have high blood pressure
Media can also affect the hormonal development:
The lead author speculated that girls are reaching puberty much earlier than in the 1950s. One reason is due to their average increase in weight; but another may be due to reduced levels of melatonin. Animal studies have shown that low melatonin levels have an important role in promoting an early onset of puberty
But can’t media be educational?
Infants may stare at the bright colors and motion on a screen, but their brains are incapable of making sense or meaning out of all those bizarre pictures. It takes 2 full years for a baby’s brain to develop to the point where the symbols on a screen come to represent their equivalents in the real world.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has issued a report stating: ‘children learn more from live presentations than from televised ones. … Young children learn best from—and need—interaction with humans, not screens. … Unstructured play time is more valuable for the developing brain than electronic media.’
‘When learning from videos is assessed in comparison to equivalent live presentations, there is usually substantially less learning from videos’ (Anderson and Pempek, 2005). A phenomenon called the ‘video deficit’ is being used to describe the observation that toddlers who have no trouble understanding a task demonstrated in real life often stumble when the same task is shown onscreen
Studies have found that “‘the introduction of home computer technology is associated with statistically significant and persistent negative impacts on student math and reading test scores”
Malamud and Pop-Eleches (2010) compared the educational effects of government provided home computers on Romanian school children, and concluded that children given these home computers ‘had significantly lower school grades in Math, English and Romanian but significantly higher scores in a test of computer skills’.
Researcher have concluded, after examining certaim measure of cognitive development, that, “An 11-year-old today is performing at the level an 8- or 9-year-old was performing … 30 years ago … “. The decline was attributed in part to the growing use of computer games.
Also a child cannot learn a new language from watching TV. Language learning requires interaction. Studies have found giving babies just 12 sessions in front of a Mandarin-speaking instructor dramatically increased their ability to differentiate Chinese sounds. However, this effect is not there if the exposure to the language is by TV or radio, instead of a human. Going back to the earlier studies I mentioned, TV watching is actually associated with poorer language skills. being. http://blogs.vancouversun.com/2011/03/01/why-your-kid-cant-learn-foreign-languages-from-watching-tv/
Don’t children need to be exposed to media so that they are able to function in a technological world and know how to use it when older, especially in today’s workforce?
Research has actually found that even monkeys are comfortable with, and capable of using, the same screen technology that children are exposed to. Technology today is rapidly changing. The media children are using right now will not be the media and technology they will be using as adults. Researchers at Harvard Medical School have stated, “There is no data to substantiate the claim that young children need to learn to become comfortable with screen technology.”
But the TV is just on, no one is watching it, it’s just background noise.
In case you thought you could turn off Barney for your baby but keep the Bachelorette re-run buzzing in the background, think again. For the first time, the AAP statement weighs in on “secondhand TV,” the group’s version of secondhand smoke. Up to 60% of families report that the television is always or often on, even when no one is watching. “When you think no one is really watching, someone is watching, and it’s your child,” says Brown, citing research that shows young children playing with toys while an adult show is on will look up at the screen every 20 seconds.
My personal observations:
I used to try to just limit tv and media. But I was finding it easy to just put it on when my children were being difficult, which children often are. And just a few minutes would quickly become an hour or two while I got engrossed in my work. Not to mention the tantrum that resulted when it was turned off. I also could see how much of an influence it would have on Pumpkin 1. She’s start talking like how she heard the characters in the show talk. She started calling me “Mom” like Franklin calls his mother even though before I was always Mommy. These were innocent things as she mostly only watched Franklin, but they were having such a profound effect on her that I can only imagine how darker or more serious shows would affect her.
I decided that it was better to go all out no tv then to do limited. At first it was hard. She was cranky and bored and driving me nuts. It seemed to take 2 or 3 days to get it out of her system and then she changed. She started playing independently with her toys for hours. Her imaginative play increased. Her tantrums reduced. She was happier and more engaged. I was able to get work done without having to entertain her or turn on the TV because she was able to play on her own. When I let her watch a movie one Sunday, the effect was so noticeable. The next day from when she woke up she was miserable, cranky, throwing tantrums about everything. I was actually shocked by the change in her. After a day of no media she was back to herself.
Pumpkin 2 has seen very little tv. He will sit for forever and let you read stories to him. I’ve seen a real difference between my children and my daycare children. They can hardly sit still through a story whereas my children sit as quiet as mice, completely enthralled in the book.
So are we going to freak out if our kids see a little TV for a relative lets them play on their electronic device? No, it’s not banned outright. It don’t think it’s good to be obsessive about anything. But in our home, we’re working hard to make it media free for our children while they’re young. We’ll revisit our decision as they get older.
So I’ve been MIA for a while. I was busy finishing some afghans I was crocheting as Christmas gifts and then the holidays were busy and…..I opened an Etsy store. I started off with a peg people color grading activity that sold out fast. Now I’m selling other wood Montessori and Waldorf inspired toys. It’s very exciting and I’m very passionate about my items. They’re all natural, carefully sanded and finished with my own homemade finish of beeswax and jojoba oil. It leaves a lovely dark shine and jojoba oil won’t go rancid like olive oil will.
I hope you will pop over and check it out.
Here are some activities Pumpkin 2 has been doing. He’s now 15 months.
This is from 14 months. It’s a large to small circle puzzle. He also has a 3 shape (square, circle, triangle) puzzle. They’re purchased from here.
These are also from 14 months, they’re dowels and rings. Pumpkin 2 really loved them. I got them out a little late due to being sick so he was already able to do them with ease. Also purchased from the above link.
This is Pumpkin 2’s first experience with playdough. It’s home made playdough from the recipe on my blog here. We scented it with cinnamon and cloves. He’s poking it with a baby gum massager which has bumps on it that make a pattern in the dough. He also ate some of it too lol.
This is Pumpkin 2’s favourite activity (other than toy cars, he plays with toy cars most of the day saying “voooo voooo voooo”). He gets this activity out several times a day. The seasoning shaker and mini dowels were both purchased at the dollar store. He had just finished dinner so you can hear him burping lol.
His other favourite activity is to take all the pieces from the division puzzles and blocks and put them in the hole of the rolled up carpets or put a piece in some random place that takes me forever to find.
Today we parents tend to worry, a lot. Because of media we hear, it seems so often, of children getting injured or killed by some random thing and so we feel like we have to put our children in a bubble of protection lest the worst should happen. Thus our infants tend to be confined, a lot. Confined to a crib, confined to a swing, confined in a playpen, confined in an exersaucer, confined in a bouncy seat, confined in a high chair. There’s nothing inherently wrong with these things, but restricting a child’s freedom for much of the day isn’t healthy. A baby needs to move, roll, push, crawl, explore. They need to exercise. We also often put them in seats that hold them up in a position that isn’t natural for them at that age and can be detrimental if the child is allowed to sit in that position for hours. Children who aren’t able to stand should not be left in an exersaucer or jumper for more than 15 mins at a time and they should not be placed in one until they’re able to hold their heads up on their own.
I made this mistake with Pumpkin 1. Because we have dogs and wood floor, I felt safer with her in her swing or her playpen. She was in an exersaucer a lot from about 5 months. She was confined to a playpen for long periods of time. It wasn’t until she was crawling that I let her explore her world as she didn’t want to be confined any more. I began to realize the importance of movement and the importance of not protecting her every second. When she started to walk I didn’t hover to keep her from falling or bumping her head. I let her climb on sturdy chairs herself and go up and down stairs. She learned quickly to duck near the table, how to fall without hurting herself, and she’s been going up and down stair stand since at least 18 months. She’s only fallen from the bottom step.
I did things differently with Pumpkin 2. When he was born we had a playroom finally finished. From the time he was little I’d let him lie on the floor with toys around him. He learned to roll over several months sooner than Pumpkin 1. I was amazed that even as a little baby, 4 months, he could get across the playroom and get a toy he wanted. Now at almost 9 months he gets into everything.
He has the freedom to move, grab, mouth, discover and explore his environment. His favourite thing to do is pull the kid chairs down on himself. I think it makes him feel strong and powerful 🙂 Yes, he still spends time in is high chair watching me cook. He spends time in his playpen as the rest of the house isn’t as babyproofed. But I make sure he gets time every day to have freedom. With obesity rates what they are today, it’s never too early to let your child get moving and exercising their body.
The Montessori method advocates allowing children to explore their environment, to teach a child how to be safe rather than locking everything up, within reason of course. Many followers of Montessori don’t even use cribs. Their babies sleep on a mattress on the floor. Their room is completely babyproofed and so if the child wakes, he or she is free to roll off the bed and explore. Floor beds are not something I’ve done as we have baseboard heaters, but I think they can be great in a safe room.
So what about your home? Is there a space that you can make safe and give your baby the freedom to move and explore in? A young baby may only need a small space, but a moving and crawling baby will need a bigger space. Babyproof the area, put out low shelves with toys your baby can get out himself, a low mirror on a wall is a great addition. If your baby is pulling up then a sturdy low table is excellent, or even one of those activity center tables. And perhaps a floor bed is right for your baby.
Freedom. It helps foster independence, curiosity and intelligence as well as build coordination, balance, and improve health. Give your child a daily dose.