The Montessori Baby: Ultimate Beginner’s Guide (0-12 months)


Whether your child has already been born or you’re still in the early stages of pregnancy, you’re probably already making some important decisions about how you’ll raise your little one.   

When we tell people that we did Montessori with our baby, they are often surprised. 

Most people have heard of Montessori Schools as an option for education but what they don’t know is that starting Montessori with an infant is a great way to grow strong connections and independent children.


What are the benefits of growing up in a Montessori Home?

Montessori parenting fosters closeness and secure attachment between the infant and caregiver. Implementing Montessori for infants, as you can see, is implementing a gentle, respectful parenting style.

There are several other Montessori tenets I will discuss below, but the above list should be the true takeaway for those looking to start Montessori with their newborn or infant.

What’s the right age to begin Montessori?

Children start Montessori at many different ages, but in our experience, the absolute best time to start implementing Montessori principles is before birth!    

Implementing Montessori for babies might seem complicated and overwhelming but infancy is actually the period when it is easiest to first bring Montessori into your home, as well as into your parenting.

I say “easiest” not to dismiss the challenges that new parents face, only to emphasize that implementing Montessori principles early on creates positive Montessori habits for parents and children that often carry seamlessly into toddlerhood and beyond.

If you’re a bit behind, don’t worry.  I’ve laid out an easy-to-follow guide for beginning Montessori with your baby at each stage from birth to one year old.

No matter when you start, be sure to pick up a copy of The Absorbent Mind by Maria Montessori to get the foundational concepts you’ll need to be successful!

Before Birth: Preparing for a Montessori Baby

Before bringing the baby home for the first time, you’ll want to take some time to learn the foundational concepts of the Montessori Method.

What you should Know About Montessori before you begin.

Montessori parenting focuses on being attentive and responsive to a baby’s needs. This helps to create a healthy attachment between the parent(s) and child that will help them feel confident and secure as they grow up.

In our home, we specifically focus on 

  • responsiveness to needs 
  • respect of developmental needs
  • observing for sensitive periods and interests
  • allowing for independence as it’s desired by the infant
  • providing comfort and co-regulation
  • fostering emotional intelligence
  • respecting the infant through asking for consent, etc.

A Montessori View of Schedule and Routine:

One of the first questions most new moms ask is what they should expect their daily schedule to look like after the baby is born.  As humans, we love the security of knowing what is coming next.

This is equally true for children! In her book, Maria Montessori stresses this concept and the importance of routine for children. 

However, Maria also discusses the idea of being responsive to your child’s needs and allowing input.  That sounds very much like a contradiction.

But in reality, routine and responsiveness can co-exist.  

In our home, we don’t have a rigid schedule but rather a flexible routine.  In general, we try to keep the day moving at about the same pace and in about the same order.    

Throughout the day we offer lots of opportunities for movement and free choice.

Creating a Montessori Nursery

Many parents focus on their own wants and needs when it comes to setting up a nursery, but a nursery for a Montessori infant should be development centered and focus on your baby’s needs rather than your own.

Montessori with baby

According to the Montessori philosophy, a baby room is a safe sleep space where babies can grow through safe exploration.  

In general, Montessori materials are environmentally friendly, neutral in color, and child-sized. They are also development-focused and realistic in nature.

Specifically, you’ll want to focus on the following

Floor Bed

Most Montessori parents start utilizing a floor bed like this one by 2 months of age. This allows your child to move safely and independently in and out of bed. In order to encourage brain stimulation, you may also want to create a Montessori-inspired mobile like this one.

Baby Proofing Materials


Because a Montessori environment doesn’t inhibit freedom of movement, you’ll want to be sure to baby-proof your child’s room.

Be sure to include plug covers, cord runners, furniture safety straps, and doorknob covers when creating your safe space.

Montessori-Friendly Toys

When choosing toys, there are a lot of Montessori-friendly items for you to consider.
In time, you’ll learn which toys your child shows interest in.  

In general, this is what you should look for when purchasing toys:

1. Promotes learning

Toys will be one of the first learning tools for your child.  When choosing which toys to purchase, look for items that teach motor skills and problem-solving.

Blocks, puzzles, or shape sorters can be a tremendous learning opportunity for children.

2. Interests your Child

One of the foundations of the Montessori approach is to allow your child’s interests to guide them to explore and learn. By providing a small selection of toys, you can allow your child to choose the one that is most interesting.

3. Age-appropriate

As with all toys, you’ll want to make sure the items you select are age-appropriate. That will ensure a safer playing experience – you’ll be lessening any choking hazards, which is something you’ll always want to be on the lookout for as a parent.

4. Encourages exploration

Avoid toys that are solely meant to entertain: Light-up toys that make a lot of noise won’t be inspiring for your child. They’ll encourage them to sit there and watch rather than explore or learn.

Instead, choose toys that require some sort of action or effort from your baby.

5. Realistic

Look for realistic or educational toys: When looking at stuffed animals, go for ones that actually exist. Pick an animal like a cat or a dog over fictional ones like unicorns. As your child grows, you’ll also begin including practical life materials in the mix.

6. Wooden whenever possible

If you have the choice between wooden or plastic toys, opt for wooden. It’s much easier for children to understand that wood comes from trees than it is for them to grasp where the plastic comes from.

Plus, wood is more environmentally-friendly and perhaps safer for your child to use

Placement of Toys

To help your child have the freedom they need to play with the toys of their choice at any given moment, they shouldn’t be placed in bins or other containers children can’t reach.

Put them on the floor of your child’s nursery so they can always get to them when they want them.

If you’re looking to set up a full playroom, check out this post about Montessori Playspaces

Our Favorite Montessori-Friendly Toys for Babies

Babywearing and Montessori

Wondering whether or not you should include a baby carrier on your shower registry?

Babywearing is a trend that has taken off in recent years. But it’s not a new concept at all.

In some cultures, people have been babywearing for thousands of years.

What’s the appeal when it comes to wearing your baby in a sling or carrier?

  • Your baby might cry less.
  • It helps promote a strong bond between parent and child.
  • It can provide more stimulating environmental interactions for your baby.
  • It opens up their world of learning opportunities.
  • It can help your child avoid plagiocephaly, which is also known as flat head syndrome.
  • It can help regulate your baby’s body temperature and heart rate.

But is babywearing okay from a Montessori viewpoint? 

There is a split consensus on that.

Some fans of Montessori argue that babywearing restricts a child’s movement and independence. But others think that it can help a child learn independence by stimulating their minds and offering new educational opportunities.

I understand the concerns of both sides, but I believe Maria Montessori, the creator of the Montessori method, was fine with babywearing. She addresses the matter in her book, The Absorbent Mind.

She discusses all the different manners mothers use throughout the world to carry their babies with them throughout the day.

“One observes, too, that the little one, going about with his mother, never cries unless he is ill or hurt in some way. Sometimes he may fall asleep, but he does not cry.”

Dr. Montessori said that modern psychology attributes a child’s non-need driven crying to “mental hunger.”

“And this is the truth. The child is bored. He is being mentally starved, kept prisoner in a confined space offering nothing but frustration to the exercise of his powers. The only remedy is to release him from solitude and let him join in social life,” she wrote.

I take this to mean that Montessori approved of babywearing because of the stimulation and educational opportunities it provides for a baby. It opens up a whole new world to them

Infographic with title: Montessori for Babies | The beginner's guide

Montessori Baby at 0-3 Months

Schedule and Routine:

Typically a routine for 0-3 months will entail a repeated cycle of Sleep-Waketime-Feed.    

In the earliest days of your child’s life, much of their time will be spent feeding and sleeping.  Wake time will be very short or even non-existent.   

Feeding

Based on the concept of responsiveness to needs, we use baby-led feeding rather than a specific feeding schedule. Of course, you’ll want to be sure that your child is not going for long stretches without a feed.

Tummy Time

As your little one moves towards 3 months, wake times will begin to lengthen and you will find yourself wanting to fill up that new time with engaging activities.

These wake times provide a great opportunity for tummy time which allows your child to build early motor skills and encourage exploration.

We know it’s tempting to play with your little ones and try to keep them entertained but giving your child a fair share of unstructured time in which they can explore and work on their movements is a good thing, even for babies.

Learning a bit of independence now as a baby will prove invaluable to your child when they start their formal Montessori education. They’ll be used to making decisions for themselves and working independently as they try to learn about the world around them.

Keep clothing simple

In order to allow your baby to move freely, it is best to avoid clothing that is overly complicated.

For instance, if there is a lot of extra fabric in your baby’s outfit, it could restrict their movement. It may also be uncomfortable for them to try and move around in if they’re wrapped up too tightly. 

Stick to natural materials in neutral coloring whenever possible.  While at home, a simple cotton onesie is all that’s really needed.

Freedom of movement

Montessori adheres to the principle of freedom – freedom of choice, education, and movement. Being able to move freely and explore is as vital for babies as it is for toddlers and school-aged children.

To help ensure that your child has freedom of movement, many Montessori advocates encourage the use of a floor bed from the time a child is about two months old.

This will allow them the freedom to explore when they want instead of being confined to a crib until their parents decide to take them out of it.

Instead of a Pack ‘N Play set up or baby swing in your living room, your baby should have the opportunity to be placed on a blanket on your floor. Then they can control what movements they make.

Montessori with Babies

Montessori Baby at 3-8 months

Schedule and Routine:

As you work your way towards 8 months, you’ll notice that baby’s wake times become longer.   You’ll likely continue the sleep-eat-waketime cycle.  However, you may notice that sleep times are shortening.

As you get close to the 8-month mark, your child’s waketime may lengthen to the point that they are taking fewer overall naps throughout the day.   Take care to be aware of your child’s needs and encourage a nap or quiet time if they appear overtired or overstimulated.

Finger Grasp and Motor Development

At the age of 3 to 6 months, most children will start to show an interest in developing a sense of touch.  

They’ll reach out and explore with their little hands. When learning about motor skills, you’ll want your child to explore and practice grasping with their fingers.  

Singing and doing finger play is a great way to begin.  Also, using toys like wooden rattles can stimulate the baby to work on finger grasp independently.

Freedom of movement at 3-8 months

By the time your child hits 8 months, you’ll likely have a crawler on your hands. That means that safety may be a bit more challenging. However, we want to continue to allow children freedom to move about.

By honoring their need for freedom, they’ll already be fully immersed in the principles of Montessori and leading their own educational efforts by the time their peers are being taught in a highly structured, teacher-led environment.

Yes spaces” are an RIE concept, however, they are wonderfully Montessori-aligned and quite popular among Montessori parents.

They are essentially rooms, or areas within rooms, wherein care has been taken to ensure infants and toddlers can move about safely and access activities of their choosing.

Montessori Movement Quote Yes space

Montessori Baby at 8 -12 months

Schedule and Routine:

At this point, your child’s sleep routine may be solidifying into just a few longer naps each day.  Wake time will probably be longer than sleep time at this age.

Feeding

At this stage, feedings will become focused on the introduction of solid foods. As with everything else, this is a great time to encourage exploration and the development of new skills.

Provide New Challenges

At 8 months, your baby is beginning to show some independence. They’ll be able to walk all over the place and explore their surroundings.

They’ll also be beginning to spend more time doing independent play. To help foster development, you’ll want to include toys that encourage brain development by offering a bit of a challenge.

Some of our favorites Montessori-friendly toys for this age include a coin box and shapes puzzles, wooden blocks,  and stacking toys.  In time, you’ll begin including more challenging toys

Montessori baby playing

What toys and activities does your Montessori infant enjoy?

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Frequently asked questions

What are some Montessori baby activities?

The idea behind choosing activities to do with your infant is that they should be stimulating (not overstimulating) and engaging. The parent should take care to observe that their infant is in fact enjoying the activity.
dancing in a parent’s arms
listening to music
exploring reflection in a mirror
visually exploring/reaching for a baby mobile
looking at contrast cards
books (tactile exploration or being read to)
simple songs and rhymes
simple rhythm games, like tapping or clapping
making different facial expressions

When should a child start Montessori Schooling?

We believe that Montessori should be implemented at birth, but as far as enrolling into an actual education program goes, you don’t need to start that quite as early. Many parents choose to enroll their children in Montessori Classroom around the age of 3. Montessori concepts can be implemented in a home setting from birth, however.

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3 thoughts on “The Montessori Baby: Ultimate Beginner’s Guide (0-12 months)”

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