Did you know that Montessori isn't just for school-aged children? In fact, I recently learned that the Montessori education philosophy can be applied to kids from birth through age 24! Admittedly, I knew very little about Montessori before about, oh two months ago, when I came across a link to Montessori infant activities. O had just entered that stage where he was starting to actively play and interact a little more with the world around him, so I was looking for some creative ways to spend a little of his awake time each day. The Treasure Basket idea seemed to be one of the simplest, most common activities for his age, so I decided to give it a try.
I was amazed! For one, as he reached into and searched through the basket, I realized that his fine motor skills were significantly more advanced than I had previously assumed. The basket seemed to be a huge motivator for him to fully exert both his physical energy and his concentration. It was fascinating to watch him discover and manipulate each object and to witness how long he maintained interest in this one activity.
Infant Treasure Basket
Recommended Age: 6-18 months (though we began at 5 months and did just fine)
Step 1. Find a fairly low, medium size basket or box (preferably not plastic).
Step 2. Gather items from around your house that are both natural (i.e. not plastic) and safe for a baby to hold and mouth. This can include kitchen items like metal whisks and wooden spoons, things found in nature like pine cones or shells, miscellaneous household items like cardboard tubes, washcloths, or herb jars filled with peanuts. The sky is the limit, really, just remember: baby-safe. natural materials. One of O's favorite toys of all time is a half of a coconut shell that I put in his first treasure basket. Go figure.
Step 3. Place 5-10 of these items in your basket and put the rest aside for another time.
Step 4. Set the basket on the floor before your baby. The first time, you may have to pick up an item of two yourself and spend some time looking at it and moving it before your baby will show an interest. Once they get started, it's nice to just sit behind him or her quietly and observe, especially if your baby is not quite sitting up reliably yet.
Step 5. Let your baby freely explore the contents of the basket for as long as is pleasurable. Some items will be tossed aside and others will be searched for with great intention. Some will be shaken, some will be mouthed, and some will be manipulated with little hands. All of that is great! The goal of this activity is simply to provide your baby with some focused time to discover and explore some of the items found in his world.
Step 6. When you're done, put the basket out of reach until the next day, rotating items every few days to keep things interesting. I haven't rotated items more than once or twice in our two months of "treasure basketing," but I am definitely starting to notice a wane in his interest, so we will be changing things up soon! As your baby gets older, you can even make themed treasure baskets by color, room in the house, material, etc. I also have a "mini" treasure basket that I sometimes bring out with us since it keeps his attention so well!
Since doing this activity, I've done a lot more research into at-home Montessori for babies and toddlers and have even read a couple books on the subject. As with everything, you have to take the good and leave the rest, but there is so much to love about the Montessori philosphy, so I look forward to trying out more activities as our baby gets older. Do you do Montessori in your home? What activities or resources would you recommend?