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December 19, 2016

Montessori Baby Week 3 -- Protecting Concentration

Recognizing, respecting and fostering concentration is an important tenant in the Montessori pedagogy. In fact, it is one of the most basic tenants. We recognize the young children can concentrate and that through this concentration they are able to reach their full potential. But not only this, children actually enjoy these periods of intense concentration. It is at these moments that they are most fulfilled. In the words of Dr. Montessori, “The first essential for the child’s development is concentration. The child who concentrates is immensely happy.”

Does this, however, apply to newborns? The answer is an unequivocal yes. From birth newborns have an immense ability to concentrate -- when we let them. As Dr. Silvna Quattrocchi Montanaro {a famous Montessorian and author} said, "The newborn is very attentive and capable of concentration. He needs to be able to practice focusing the eyes on objects in the room..."

Augustus is now 3 weeks old and time is flying by. Our sweet little baby Gus seems to have a little mix-up with his days and nights, but we are following his rhythm and trusting that he will work out his internal clock. Even with a lot of sleep during the day, Gus is starting to have longer awake times between his naps. Seeing this concentration in action during the small windows of time when he isn't nursing, cuddling or pooping has been pretty great. 

Protecting his natural drive to concentrate and fostering it further is extremely important to me. Practically, there are a few things we do in order to protect and foster Augustus' ability to concentrate. 

Calm Environment

"A child has need of simple things, and complicated objects are frequently more of a hindrance than a help to his development." Maria Montessori

One way we are helping Gus develop and use his power of concentration is by providing a calm environment. Here I don't mean calm in the "peaceful, quiet" sort of way. With three dogs and three kids 5-and-under, that's not our house. Its bustling with life and we keep Gus in the middle of it. By calm, I mean free of unnatural distractions. 

To do this, keep baby spaces simple. For a newborn, this means a mobile, a mirror and maybe some black and white images. No need for loud toys, extra blinking toy lights, flashy noises or artificial movement. Basically, less is more! An open view of the home, or nature is often the perfect environment to entice the attention of a newborn. Often commercial baby products do nothing but serve to interrupt an infant's natural ability to concentrate. 

Slow Down and Observe

"What infants need is the opportunity and time to take in and figure out the world around them." Magda Gerber

This is hands down the hardest for me. Life is busy. Augustus being the third child just has a different baby experience than Henry or even Nora. There's kindergarten pickup, toddler potty emergencies, blogging deadlines, and life that just has to be done when it has to be done! That makes it hard to slow down and just watch him. To just let him be. 

But, we try. If I notice that something has caught Gus' eye, I let him be. This may mean that we spend a few extra minutes in the diaper changing area as he stares at the black and white images on the wall. Or, it may mean that I wait to change his diaper until he stops focusing on his mobile. Or I don't let Nora or Henry hold him until he is done staring out the window or at his mirror. It's just taking the time to notice your newborn and respect those times where they are clearly deep in concentration. It's giving those opportunities to concentrate even if it's an inconvenience for you. 

Keep Eye Contact

"Adults can hinder this inner toil when they rudely interrupt a child's reflection or try to distract him. They take the tiny hand of a child, or kiss him, or try to make him go to sleep without taking into account his peculiar psychic development." Maria Montessori

While the pictures here are of Gus concentrating on things in our home, one of the most intense periods of concentration we get is when we hold and talk to Augustus. Newborns love to watch and listen to those closest to them. When Gus' gaze is affixed on me, I do my best not to look away. I let him stare as long as he needs. I let him take the lead and study my movements and voice. It's only when he is done, that I will look away or go about my day with something else. 

This one I find super easy, to be honest, because who doesn't want to stare into the eyes of their precious baby? But, it can be super tempting to smooch them and love on them in this moment. And, I just have to remind myself to let him have his time, and that I will get mine.

By fostering and protecting Gus' concentration now, I hope that we make it easier and more natural for him to concentrate in the future. 

What do you do to protect and encourage concentration in your children? Do you believe that even brand new babies are capable of concentration?

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Every Star Is Different
I love these post about little Gus! I think I've read every one. Lol. I've said it before and I'll say it again, as I read your infant posts I always wish I had another baby, so I could start Montessori from the beginning. He is absolutely beautiful by the way. I would have such a hard time holding back cuddles and kisses too.
darkestwhiteltd said…
Hi, how do you hang the mobiles above Gus? Thanks!
Nicole @ The Kavanaugh Report
Hopefully, this will give you all the information you need:
Mone said…
Thank you so much for sharing your experience with your baby! I have a 6 week old baby boy and I'm trying to take the Montessori approach with him. This is my first one so I'm clueless lol I've read many of the Montessori books and I'm really enjoying reading your posts!
Unknown said…
Dear author , my baby is two and half month old. I introduced gobbi ball mobile to her. She loves it. But I did not sure how long should I hang the mobile and how often should I let her to look at mobile. Because I know at this stage she also need to practice her hand and eye coordinations. I leans bell on the ribbon could do that. But I did not know how to many activities should I prepare for her? I tried bell on the ribbon she did not interested is there a way to draw her attention?