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Talking to Baby -- Montessori Baby Week 9

Augustus is now officially 2-months-old! With each passing day, this little bundle of life is unfolding before me. Each discovery he makes and milestone he reaches, is completely fascinating. Even being my third baby, getting to know this unique and whole person is an undeniable privilege.

This past week, we had what I would consider one of our first moments of deep personal reciprocal communication. So, I thought I would talk a bit about the Montessori approach to language with a newborn.


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According to Maria Montessori, the sensitive period for language begins at birth. This means that from birth (and really we know that it begins even before then), babies are acquiring and learning language. They are also able to communicate from the start. 

As Montessori scholar, Silvana Quattrocchi Montanaro said {in Understanding the Human Being}, "Communication, which is a basic quality of living things, will appear immediately, and it will be repeated and enrich in dialogue with the environment." In other words, newborns immediately begin to communicate and it's through interaction with the people and things in their environment that their communication will become richer, fuller and produce spoken language.


Therefore, it becomes important to create a language rich environment from the start.

"In the first days, month, and year of life the infant is especially interested in the sound of the human voice…We can feed the child's intense interest in language...by speaking clearly, by not raising our voice to the unnatural pitch...and not oversimplifying language in the presence of our child." Susan Mayclin Stephenson, The Joyful Child

I, personally, see baby talk as very disrespectful to an infant. It is as if we are saying that the baby is somehow not worthy of a full, rich, and true interaction. So, we avoid baby talk with Augustus (and have with all our children.) Instead we work to provide just real and purposeful interactions with him. 


And, to take this respect just one step further. We involve Augustus in our conversation, as much as possible. We pause after asking a question, we ask him questions that we do not know the answer to, and we explain what we are doing to him as we do it.

One new way I communicate with him that I didn't with Nora is by asking Augustus if he is ready to be moved. I got this tip from RIE and respectful parenting advocate Janet Lansbury. So for example, I will say "Gus, I'm going to pick you up now. Are you ready?" Then I pause to wait for a response. I think this is just a beautiful way to show him respect as a person, but also plant those seeds of consent.


Anyway, this finally brings me to our moment of "conversation." A few days ago, Gus slept in. Nora and I were playing when we heard him finally cry out. We walked up to his bassinet (where he sleeps at night) and said our good mornings. I said, "Good morning! How are you Augustus? :pause: You look rested." Nora also greeted and parroted my questions. Gus stared contently. Then, I said to him, "I'm going to pick you up now. Are you ready?" As I paused, he flashed the biggest smile I have seen and let out a coo.


It was amazing. He was ready. He let me know. It was a moment of connection and communication that so easily could have been missed. So, long story short, it has made me so glad to have started to implement this new technique and to use respectful, rich, real language from the start.

Looking for some further reading on infant communication, check out this article and this one

How do you communicate with your newborn? Have you avoided baby talk?

Comments

Solène said…
With our first one, now 2 and a half, we have talked a lot since birth, and we added sign language with our words since he was 5-6 months old. And when he was 10 I think, he started to sign too and to say some words. It is a beautiful manner to communicate from birth :)
Unknown said…
I was so excited to find your blog. My twins have just turned 3 months old and I happened to read "Montessori from the start" and learn about the Montessori approach, so ready to try for my boys. Your blog is very resourceful. Thanks for posting and please keep updating about your boy. I'm learning so much from you. Thanks again

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