Using a Play Gym -- Montessori Baby Week 15
As I have said many times before, the freedom of movement is extremely important for babies, especially in a Montessori environment. We want to prepare a space that a baby can explore without restricting the baby's ability to move around. Montessori also strives to do this in a way that is not overstimulating to a baby. This is often done by using a movement area. But, when you have other children, sticking to one part of the house is unrealistic. This is where using a play gym can come in handy.
This post contains affiliate links at no cost to you.
Play gyms come in a variety of different shapes, sizes, colors and textures. Many mainstream play gyms have those mats with the bars over head and may include lights, sounds, or hanging toys for the baby to "enjoy." We avoid those in Montessori, specifically because we aren't interested in toys that entertain rather than engage. Those types of lights/sounds can also be overstimulating. Thankfully, there are lots of great Montessori friendly options as well.
We use a play gym in addition to a movement area for a couple of reasons. First, this allows all of us to remain together when we are hanging out throughout the day. With the play gym, the baby can move around with you and engage in family life. While, Gus is a relaxed enough baby that I can place him in his movement area and walk away, I don't always love doing this, especially if we are engaged in play elsewhere. This allows him to engage in something while being close to the rest of us.
Second, it allows us to move the movement area if we have to. Our movement area is in our playroom which happens to get very cold in the winter. So, if the heater is forgotten or its still too chilly, we can move somewhere else. We aren't stuck in the same spot all day.
We are using this Plan Toys Play Gym. In these pictures, I have hung this HABA teether on some elastic for Augustus to play with.
And, we use it in a few different ways. One, we use it for visual mobiles. This works, ok. My visual mobiles were made to be hung higher than the play gym sits. So, using them on the bar required some delicate hanging. But, if you planned to use a play gym from the beginning to hang mobiles, they could easily be made to accommodate this height.
More recently, we are using the play gym for tactile mobiles. These are things that Gus can reach for and interact with. These are things he can try to kick, grab, bat, chew, or hold. It can be as simple as a rattle, bell, ring or puzzle ball. We are using things we already own, and simply a piece of elastic or ribbon. One of the reasons, I love the play gym we have is that it allows for us to easily swap out toys and mobiles without a fuss. Eventually we can add a couple of toys at once.
There are several great options if you are looking for a Montessori friendly play gym for your kids. These include: the HABA play gym, the tripod version from Plan Toys, a handmade version, or the play gym from IKEA.
Have you used a play gym with your baby? How do you use it?