The following is the text from this section of the 2009-2010 edition of The Joyful Child, Montessori from Birth to Three
To see other sections of this publication return to: http://www.michaelolaf.com/JCcontents.html
THE FIRST YEAR - A GENTLE BEGINNING, TRUST IN THE WORLD
Preparation of Parents
Research has shown that the extent and quality of care the mother provides
the child are strongly conditioned by the way they spend their time together
during the first days after birth. Silvana Montanaro, MD
When a couple is getting ready to have a first child they are about to
take on the most important role there is. It is strange that so much more
time and energy is put into preparing for a career, building a home, or
other adult endeavors, than into preparing to be a parentalthough
it is a far more challenging and long-lasting role. It is best to begin
to learn what it means to be a good parent, long before the child is born.
My first response upon hearing about these Montessori 0-3 ideas was quite
naturally to defend how we had raised our children, after all "They
turned out all right." However, seeing the wonderful results of using
these ideas in many homes we see that there is indeed a better way to
begin lifeand we are happy to pass on the information.
The earliest moments in life, the first minutes and hours, are the most
impressionable for infant and parent. This is the time when the basic
instincts of parenting are awakened, and bonding begins. It is the time
when the infant develops feelings of trust in those around him, and a
feeling that our world is a happy place to be. The single most important
element in an infant's environment is the loving wisdom of the adult.
Nothing material can substitute for time and attention during these early
months and years.
Just as the finest natural cotton is used for the baby's topponcino, it
is used whenever possible for other clothing and diapers. Every consideration
is given to the sensitivity of the newborn, whenever possible using fine
natural fibers for clothing.
Some babies explore their faces with their hands even before birth and
certainly as soon as possible after birth. It is far better to keep fingernails
and toenails short and to allow this exploration to continue, than to
cover hands and feet. This enables the child to explore familiar and favorite
objects with his hands. It is also important to have hands and feet uncovered
when possible in order to learn the skills of turning over, crawling,
creeping, pulling up and walking. (Please see the "Clothing"
section, page 58 for more appropriate clothing for the young child.)
Clothing for Gentleness
There are several things to consider in the selection of clothing for
the very young child: protection from heat or cold, circulation, respiration,
digestion, fabric, color, and possibility of movement. But in the first
few days it is gentleness that we should keep in mind. Check to see that
the infant is not lying on the hard bump of metal snaps, or the gentle
skin is not being irritated by thick seams or scratchy labels. Often clothing
is put on inside-out on purpose just to have the softest side next to
the babies skin.
It is important to keep the head warm in the first few days with a soft
organic cotton hat, and sometimes a gown that can be fastened at the bottom
so that the baby can move and stretch and still stay warm, the heat retained
in the gown when the blankets are kicked off.
There are lovely colored fabrics used for baby clothing these days, but
we think that there is no fabric as beautiful as the subtle shades of
color of the new baby's skin, hair, and eyes. There is something so peaceful
and old-fashioned about seeing children in soft neutral colors with their
rosy cheeks being the main color. If you choose to use colored clothing
for your infant we recommend that you check on the dyes used and stick
with natural organic dyes if possible.
"Lap" shoulders, or "snap" shoulders are important
when the baby still has such strong birth memories that putting anything
tight over the head can illicit fear. These special features overlap or
open up so that the gown or shirt can be put over the head of the child
with no problem. Sometimes even changing diapers can bring back painful
memories of medical practices that occur in the hospital nursery (hip
check or circumcision) so if your child exhibits any fear while dressing
it is important to slow down and to soothe and gentle the child, to talk
to him or her about what you are doing, in a soft voice, rather than to
rush through the dressing or changing. This way the child will learn to
trust that changing and dressing are safe and enjoyable experiences.
Developing Trust in the World
It used to be generally agreed that babies were not aware, or that they
had no memories of early life. Now we know that the strongest, deepest,
and longestlasting memories are formed at this time. It is common
knowledge today that during the first months the child develops his basic
attitude toward the world. How can we help a child develop trust from
For the last few months in utero, the infant has become used to the voices
of his immediate family and accustomed to the sound of the mother's heartbeat.
In the first weeks after birth the child is reassured by hearing those
voices which he has heard during pregnancy, and, while nursing, by the
He will now become more aware of family voices as they sound outside the
womb, and of the smells and touch of his parents and siblings. These experiences
create security in the child. "Family Only" days ensure this
Provide soft clothing and soft lights in the first days as the child is
getting used to the world outside the womb. The "topponcino"
is used to give security when holding the baby, and when handing her to
another person. With this gentle handling, the baby gains even more security.
We can learn to listen to the sounds a baby makes, to watch quietly, to
observe facial expressions and body movements, to see what the child is
trying to tell us, and to get to know this unique human, giving the message
that the child is cherished and the world is a safe place.
It is a sad fact that, because of the lack of understanding of the importance
of the beginning of life, day care workers and other people who care for
infants today are not valued in our culture as they should be. They are
underpaid and under-appreciated. As a result, the profession of caring
for the very young often has a very high turnover rate. Babies in these
situations bond, are separated, feel rejected, bond again . . . over and
over. Think of what the baby learns about trust and security in this situation.
Ideally parents make plans about who will take care of their child as
soon as possible in the family planning process.
The more thought, planning, time and energy we put into the care of our
children in these early days, weeks, months, the better foundation, physically
and emotionally, we will be helping them build.
Developing Trust in One's Self
A young child develops trust in herself beginning in the first year of
life as she interacts with the environment. She learns to move out into
the world, to touch and grasp, through her own effort, those things she
has been looking at and longing to reach.
With the loving and understanding help of adults and older children, and
in an environment that meets her changing needs, she will learn that she
is capable, that her choices are wise, that she is indeed a fine person.
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© Susan Mayclin Stephenson, 2010 (www.susanart.net)
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