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 YEARREACHING OUT, GRASPING, CHANGING
The Development of Movement
Myelinization is defined as "the development of a myelin sheath
around a nerve fiber." This fatty coating serves as insulation protecting
the messages from the brain to various muscles in the body, resulting
in purposeful or coordinated movement. The newborn is only able to control
the muscles of the mouth and the throat, eating and communicating. By
the end of the first year a miracle has occurred and the child can control
the movements of the whole body; he has learned to grasp and release objects,
to kick, to slither and crawl, to sit up freeing the hands for even more
development, and is usually well on the way to standing and walking!
This is a two-way process; myelinization creates movement, but movement
also increases the formation of myelin, so the more we allow our child
to move the more we are supporting optimum development. A child is naturally
driven to this important work and is happy carrying it out. Often it is
the frustration of not being able to move that causes unhappiness and
crying. There are many modern inventions that get in the way of the natural
development of movement so we must make sure that our child spends as
much time as possible in situations where she can move every part of the
When the infant, who has been looking at a toy hanging above him and intuitively
reaching for it, finally reaches it and makes it move, this is an exhilarating
moment. Instead of just being cared for and acted upon, the infant has
reached out and intentionally acted upon her environment. She has literally
"changed the world."
Toys that Aid the Natural Development of Movement
In this section on "reaching out, grasping, changing the world"
and in the following sections of The Joyful Child you will find toys that
call forth a wide variety of movement possibilities for the child. Each
rattle, grasping toy, toy, puzzle, and other piece of materials has been
chosen for a specific purpose. It is up to the adult to watch carefully
to see that the challenge is not too easy as to be boring, and not too
difficult to cause frustration and giving up.
Hanging toys will need to be rotated to keep the child interested and
happy, or you may want to arrange to have hanging toys in more than one
place in the house. When the child is "working" we must be careful
to respect the activity and not to interrupt him, just as we would not
want to be interrupted if we were engaging in important work.
Observation and respect for concentration begins now, but will continue
for many years in our relationship with our children.
Natural Materials for Toys
In our twenty+ years of providing materials for infants and children we
have gone through several periods of seeing toys taken off the market,
recalled, because of potential danger to children. There are constant
arguments between toy manufacturers, government agencies, and environmental
and child-safety groups about the use of plastic chemicals which may be
toxic to children. We prefer the conservative view.
We recommend giving children toys made of wood or fabric, and as much
as possible keeping away from plastic unless it is produced in certain
European countries which have been very conservative about what they give
During these very early sensorial and impressionable months of life, we
can enrich the childs experience by providing a variety of interesting
textures. The difference in weight, texture, and the subtle expressions
of natural materialssilk, cotton, wool, wood, metalis valuable
in clothing, bedding, furniture, and toys.
These ideas are not new but have been intuitive for many years. The philosopher
Roland Barthes writes in Myths of Today:
Toys of today are usually produced by technology and not by nature. They
are made by the complicated mixing of plastics which is . . . ugly; they
take away the pleasure and sweetness of touching.
It is very dangerous that wood is progressively disappearing from our
lives. Wood is a material that is familiar and poetic; it gives a child
a continuity of contact with a tree, a table, a floor. Wood does not cut,
does not spoil, does not break easily, can last for a long time and live
with the child. It can modify little by little the relationship between
the objects which are timeless. Now toys are chemical and do not give
pleasure. These toys break very soon and they do not have any future for
First Rattles and Toys
In every culture and throughout time, adults have noticed the attraction
infants have to objects to grasp and play with. With these favorite toys,
hung within his reach, or placed just within reach on his bed or mattress,
the child becomes fully aware of his ability to reach out and touch or
grasp, to create sound with rattles, to practice the important work he
was meant to do. Provide a wide variety and change them often to keep
the child happily busy.
Our role in creating the environment in which the child can fulfill his
potential is very, very important.
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© Susan Mayclin Stephenson, 2010 (www.susanart.net)
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