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November 19, 2019

How to Observe Your Montessori Baby

For any adult in a Montessori environment, observation is super important. It's through observation that we are going to learn exactly what skills a child is ready for, what interests our child, and where our child might be struggling. Without sitting back and observing our child, we really will struggle to understand what our child needs. Parents of newborn babies are not exempt from this need to observe. It might seem like newborns don't do a whole lot, but when you sit back and observe you'll make a lot of interesting discoveries. 

I've been making sure that I take a lot of time to observe Teddy since he has been born. These observations don't need to be formal or lengthy. Really, it's just taking note of the things he is doing during the everyday moments. It's observing him while he is nursing, while I change his diaper, while the big kids interact with him, and while he plays. All these little moments.

Observing with Your Montessori Baby

I wanted to share some tips and share my observations during one of Teddy's recent playtimes. During this time, I was there and so was Gus and Nora. Everyone was busy working on their own things but chatting and interacting as well. Teddy was placed on his topponcino with his octahedron mobile

Get Yourself Comfortable 

The first thing I suggest for any observation is to get yourself settled. I mean both physically and mentally. Clear your head, leave your to-do list behind, and forget about any possible expectations. Just be. I personally sit in a small chair next to his movement area (you can see me in the mirror.) I try to record my observations, usually with a camera, but you might like pen/paper too. 

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I don't typically set a time limit on my observations, I just sit as long as I am able. Sometimes that's as long as everyone is happy, sometimes its a few minutes until I need to do another task. Once I'm, set, here's what I'm asking myself:

What Do You See?

First, I ask myself what I see in this situation. I'm looking for big movement, little movements, and what is grabbing his attention. Some questions I might ask include:

  • Is he using his hands? Which one? What are the doing? 
  • Is he moving his head? Which way? 
  • What is he doing? Does he seem engaged? 
  • What are his legs doing?
  • What is the environment like? 
This day, I made so fun discoveries when observing Teddy. One, I discovered that Teddy was moving quite a bit more than I thought he was. He moved from the topponcino all the way on to his rug. I noticed that the rug his feet were very interested in the new texture and he move them about quite a bit. Two, I noticed that he was very into his work. Despite the noise from the other children, his concentration switched between his mobile and the mirror for the entire time. He was very excited and smiley toward his mobile several times. Three, I noticed that he was bringing his hands to his mouth when he was happy and comfortable (not just in times when he was getting upset.) That signals to me that he’s getting ready for rattles and other objects to grasp.

What Do You Hear?

Another thing that I focus on observing is sound. I want to make a note of any noises and attempted language that Teddy is making during my observation. Some questions I might ask include:

  • Is he making any noise? What kind of noises?
  • How is his breathing, slow and steady or rapid and excited?
  • Is it cooing? What sounds is he making?
  • Does his noise indicate happiness or other needs?

During this playtime, Teddy was pretty quiet. He was pretty happy so he wasn’t fussing or crying. I didn’t notice that his breath got very excited in rapid when the mobile moved. That made me think that he’s probably very interested and happy watching those shapes.

What do you feel?

When I’m observing, I also make notes of how Teddy feels to me - if I'm holding him during the observation. I might ask:

  • Is his body relaxed or tense? 
  • Is he pulling in one direction or another? 
  • Is he pinching? Grabbing my clothes? Slapping my skin? 
  • Does he feel stronger than the last time I've noticed this movement?
This didn't really apply during this observation since I wasn't holding him. But it is something that I will make note of frequently. 

Notes on observing a newborn - practical tips for observing a baby from a Montessori perspective

While I'm writing from the perspective of a newborn, it's important to observe babies and children of all ages. Many of these questions will be the exact same no matter what age of child I am watching.

Do you take time to observe your newborn? What's an observation you have made lately? 

This is week 9 of my Montessori Baby Series on Theodore.

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