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April 29, 2022

Hands Hands, Baby

Penelope has made a very important discovery this week. One that will change her life forever. Her hands! Over the years, as a Montessori parent, I've learned that some of the most important work I can do is observe my children's hands. From their first movements and reflective grasps to nimble little fingers sewing, the hands can give us so many clues about the kinds of work that our children need and want. 
The discovery of the hand marks an important new phase for little humans. As babies are able to discover the worlds through their hands, they are able to build their knowledge of the world around them in immense ways. As Dr. Montessori said, "A child has a natural desire to master the voluntary use of his organs of movement. If he fails to do so, he cannot externalize the fruit of his intelligence." (Secret of Childhood) Furthermore in the Secret of Childhood, she said, "his upper limbs become instrument of his intelligence rather than means of locomotion." 

In more modern terms, from The Montessori Baby
"She also said that whatever we want to give to the mind, we must give to the hands first. In essence, the hands and the baby's intellect are directly connected. When we help our baby develop fine-motor skills, we are also supporting the development of their intelligence. "
So what does this mean for us as parents watching our babies? It means we watch and wait for these hand movements, and celebrate to ourselves when it happens! 

Montessori Baby and the Hands

For Penelope this knowledge has meant that we keep her hands uncovered since birth - always giving her access to them. It has also meant watching for more intentional movement, grasping and exploration of the hands. Penelope has been working hard to chew on and suck her hands which was one major tip off that she was hitting a new developmental phase. Another huge clue was that she was reaching for her Octahedron mobile. 

So, in response, I have introduced something new - a bell rattle! I love this simple material because the more she hits it the more her movement will become coordinated. I love how the rattle uses the senses to connect her movements. When he hits the bell she gets the tactile feedback but also an auditory feedback. And, as we know, babies and children learn best through the senses

It has quickly become Penelope's favorite thing to use in her environment. This week she once spent 30 minutes straight playing and looking at it. Every time she would have success her little legs and arms would excitedly wave and flap and move and the biggest grin would come across her face. Side Note: Penelope looks so much like baby Gus, and I think it's amazing that looking back I wrote about the exact same discovery of the hand for him during the exact same week. Babies are amazing! 

Over the coming weeks, I assume Penelope will start to grasp more and more in her environment. I will start to place a few things around her mat in anticipation of this new phase. She will be able to discover these things to explore as she is ready. 

Montessori baby activities are great for development but come after the discovery of the hand. Tips for watching the hand and how to help it develop,

This post is week 12 of my Montessori baby series focusing on Penelope.

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