When we think about infants, we typically don’t imagine a swaddled newborn perched on a desk, avidly focusing on a class lecture. While newborns certainly aren’t expected to learn in that sort of scenario – especially considering their inability to sit up on their own – infants, starting from birth, need to develop sensory perception, movement, language, and consistency.
Sensory Perception: Having spent nine months bundled in a womb where sounds were dulled and sights, smells, and tastes were absent, an infant will be very sensitive. Even though we must stimulate an infant, we must also take caution to avoid overwhelming their senses. Loose cotton clothes with gentle dye won’t irritate a baby’s skin, and try to avoid showy, plastic, electronic toys that spew light and flare sound. Opt for simple stimuli made from a variety of materials, such as a crochet ball, a silk scarf, or even a potted plant. With contrasting mobiles, natural rattles, and toys of different textures, babies will enjoy their new experiences as they explore their world.
Movement: In this new world, babies are finally able to freely move about. Progressing throughout the first year, infants are able to kick, stretch, grasp, support their head, crawl, and may even begin learning to walk. Practicing “tummy-time” and push-ups will help lead to mastery of the crawl, and practicing pull-ups on a low bar and the use of a walker will help lead to mastery of the walk. Providing an infant with the freedom from restrictive clothes and furniture will ease movement, and out-of-reach toys will encourage further action.
Language: Babies learn to speak by imitating those around them. They will participate and strike up dialogue in addition to listening to the conversations around them. Interaction also expresses respect and helps the infant feel valued and accepted.
Consistency: Babies don’t like change. Even as we age, we still tend to dislike change. During infancy, we found security in consistent order, routines, and rules. By finding consistencies in the surroundings, such as furniture, family, or teachers, infants develop their own mental order. Rearranging furniture, hanging a new painting, or even getting a new hairstyle can throw off a baby’s balance and cause distress.
Maria Montessori realized infancy is an extremely sensitive period, in which the aforementioned skills must be learned in order to provide a foundation for further healthy development. Do you think infant education is important? Would you consider enrolling your infant in a care center or hiring a nanny?
Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
Also check out our article on Nannies vs Montessori Infant Care