Education is a natural process carried out by the child and is not acquired by listening to words but by experiences in the environment.
Dr. Maria Montessori
Your baby’s most common waking activity is exploring the wondrous world around him. In this exploration he uses all his senses—touching, tasting, smelling, hearing, and above all, seeing. That’s why we take such care to create the ideal home away from home. In this newsletter, we share some features of this environment, and invite you to learn more about the LePort Montessori infant program.
Babies are visual beings. A child’s environment should a tranquil, beautiful place, full of natural, appealing materials. If you visit, you’ll notice that our infant rooms seem more like a comfortable home than a typical daycare center! Nowhere at LePort will you find noisy plastic toys or flashing TV screens.
One of the major goals of a baby’s first year is mobility. Through exploration, children learn to roll over, crawl, pull themselves up, and eventually walk. Our infant environments encourage such movement: mirrors make tummy time fun; pull-up bars over soft floors just call for children to stand up, over an over again; stairs invite climbing. We believe infants need to be free to move, and that containers such as jumpers, highchairs, playpens or walkers, which are very common in many daycare settings, have no place in a high-quality infant environment.
When it comes to feeding, daycare centers often feel like assembly lines: we’ve seen some with six highchair seats around a table, with six infants strapped to their seats while their caretaker feeds them one by one! We think that’s a horrible mistake: eating is a individually paced activity. Babies need to enjoy the eating process, and move at their own pace as they learn to self-feed. The right start to eating habits can help prevent many food issues later on. That’s why our older infants steadily transition from cuddling with a teacher and bottle, to sitting at a low table and chair and enjoying eating with a spoon.
Diapering is too often something done to a child at daycare, long after he’s capable of participating in the process. In contrast, at LePort we foster early toilet learning and independence. Our changing table is low to the ground, so the child can climb up on it. As soon as a child is able to stand, we change his diaper standing up, in the bathroom area. Low benches help children learn to undress and dress. And we even begin actual toilet training in the infant room!
During the first two years of life, a baby’s brain will grow dramatically. Our Montessori environment is designed to offer your baby an array of stimulating materials that support his natural cognitive growth. We offer beautiful, captivating mobiles to observe and admire. Low shelves are filled with wooden and fabric materials that encourage fine-motor coordination and cause/effect experimentation: puzzles, balls, rings on a post, containers to open and close, and more.
Research shows that one of the most important predictors of a baby’s language development is the frequency and quality of the communication with teachers. Our highly educated, engaging teachers are masters at providing high-quality language models for your child—they love talking to and with your child. And they know the importance of offering a lot of vocabulary in the right way—tailored to your child’s interest of the moment, to capture his interest and optimally support his language development.
Sleep schedules can be a nightmare if not managed thoughtfully. We believe in following the child: we customize a consistent routine of eating, activity and naps to each child’s rhythm. None of the enforced group naps that are all too common in other daycare settings! As children start to walk, we transition them to low cots, so they can learn to search out a quiet place when tired, and acquire the self-soothing skills they need to be good sleepers, well-rested for all the exploring going on in our infant rooms.
We’ve created an environment we’d love to see our own babies in every day—one where an infant will find warmth, stimulation, and safety, and where a parent will be informed and respected, We hope you agree, and that you’ll allow us to invite you to tour one of our schools, and see a Montessori infant classroom at its best, in action.