Montessori - A Parent's Guide

Sensitive Period: Gross Movement 

Developing children will go through  several Sensitive Periods as they grow. During each they will experience a preference for working on a specific skill. The Sensitive Period for Movement is 0-4,  broken into two distinct phases; the acquisition of gross and fine motor from 0-2.5 years, and the refinement and coordination of movement from 2.5-4 years.

Now that Alfie is finally rolling (applause and sighs of relief please), I thought it would be a good time to look at how to accommodate his entrance into the  Sensitive Period for Movement. As we were living in a building site we didn’t have the luxury of a Montessori Movement Area, there were no low fixed mirrors, suspended grasp rings or day beds(how deprived). I suspect we are not alone in these practicalities. Montessori is wonderful but unfortunately it is not always immediately possible, practical or affordable to accommodate each phase.

Instead here are some easy to assemble and practical way to support a child as they enter the Sensitive Period For Movement.

Comfortable Clothes

There are few things cuter than a little girl in ribbons and bows or little boys in jeans and shirts however these clothes can be majorly restrictive on little limbs. Stiff fabrics, buttons, tight waistbands, pockets all get in the way and become just another obstacle for a little person to get around. We’ve found the best thing for movement to be sleep suits (all day) and of these the Bonds Wondersuit is AMAZING! It has feet that can be rolled back to let baby wiggle and kick their toes and is a snug (but comfortable) fit so baby won’t be pulling his legs out of the pant section!. When it comes to day clothes we try to choose trousers with drawstrings instead of elastics as they are less restrictive around the waist. We also go for tops that open at the shoulder or along the back so that buttons don’t dig into awkward places.


Firm surfaces 

I initially made the mistake of giving Alfie lots of snuggly soft surfaces to lie on (sheepskin rugs, fluffy blankets etc) as I thought these would be warmest for him, however after a bit of observation I realised these were a major drawback to movement and swapped them for firmer bases. Now that we have carpets instead of just tile floors this is less of an issue.

Floor Time / Tummy Time 

This is an area we struggle with, Alfie HATES being in a lying down position for any length of time, he much prefers sitting up as he can see around him and has better use of his hands. We do as much as we can.

Floor Time / Tummy Time   This is an area we struggle with, Alfie HATES being in a lying down position for any length of time, he much prefers sitting up as he can see around him and has better use of his hands. We do as much as we can.   Montessori Tummy Time

Avoiding Movement Aides
In defiance of Montessori principles which insist on no support aides for young children we use two types of seat with Alfie. As I mentioned above Alfie hated lying down on his front or back, no matter what entertainments were provided he lasted mere moments.

Montessori Sensitive Period for Movement - Encouraging your baby to move
Mamas and Papas seat being used (more safely than it appears) as a high chair. Holmes enjoys BLW!

As soon as he was able to sit unaided we introduced a sturdy plastic chair and an inflatable seat. These allowed Alfie to be in a position that he found comfortable and (a huge problem with tummy time) to have full use of his arms and hands, they also let me move away from him without the terror that he’s one over zealous stretch away from cracking his head on the floor (bare tiles remember?!). I highly recommend both of these seats as they’re small, comfy and easy to move!

Montessori Sensitive Period for Movement - Encouraging your baby to move
Mamas and Papas inflatable support seat being used in the garden

As for walking aides or bouncers just no! They’re banned in Canada and under review in lots of other countries due to the damage they cause! A baby will assume the upright position once their feet, hips, back and neck are strong enough to support their very heavy head! Since Fred didn’t walk till he was 18 months we are not holding our breath for Alfie. 

Prepared Environment 

Giving a baby a safe space to wriggle and an incentive to move is important. We don’t have a nice wall hung mirror so make do with this one, for the moment it’s just big enough! For a long time I left everything easily within Alfie’s reach however I soon realised he wouldn’t move if he didn’t need now, now he will happily shuffle his way toward a toy or roll over to make a grab for anything that’s caught his eye. For more ideas on prepared baby areas visit my article on floor time activities.

Montessori Sensitive Period for Movement - Encouraging your baby to move

So that’s it! The life of a Montessori baby: stay in your pyjamas all day, avoid exercise equipment, lie down a lot and designate an area just for fun times. Sounds like a perfect day!

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