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May 31, 2022

Observing Your Baby's Preferences

It's been amazing to me each time that we add a new baby to our family how perfectly themselves each baby is from birth. Before having children, I kinda assumed babies were just babies and they "grew" their personalities somewhere along the way. But, that really hasn't been my experience. They have personalities, they have likes, they have dislikes right from the womb. That's been part of the fun of a new baby, discovering that personality and seeing the world through their eyes. 

Penelope is no exception to this reality. She has things she likes, and things she doesn't. This week, Nells made that perfectly clear when I tried to introduce a new mobile. She's been batting at the bell mobile so much that I decided to try our primary colors mobile (a tactile mobile meant for batting around.) But when I placed the mobile in front of her, her reaction was immediate. 

She pouted. She looked away. She looked tense. She became restless. And, finally, started to fuss. Nells did not like this mobile. Noticing her obvious preference, I removed the mobile and offered her bell mobile. 

"The child is a worker and a diligent observer. He looks straight at things; he stares at them for a long time; he is interested in learning all he can about his environment." Maria Montessori, 1946 London Lectures (p. 39)

Observing Your Baby's Likes and Dislikes 

At the end of the day, much of what we are offering our baby is an educated guess. We are making observations and guessing what they want or would like. And, we are going to get it right some of the time and wrong some of the time. That's alright. We still need to keep observing and make changes accordingly. Some thoughts I like to keep in mind:

  • Look for contented concentration - this can look like movement or stillness, but look for a happy baby interacting with their environment to see if they are enjoying a particular experience
  • Look to facial expressions, sounds, and body movement to see if something isn't enjoyed. Enjoyment like look like staring at something, smiling at something, looking relaxed. A dislike might look like cries, pouts or grimaces. It might mean turning away from something, becoming stiff or tense, or moving frantically. If it's a material, just remove and offer again at a later time. If it's an experience, acknowledge your baby's feelings, move them away, cover their ears, or carry them toward your chest until they are more comfortable. 
  • Don't be afraid to introduce again later. It can take awhile for some babies to like certain experiences. 
  • Some might never like some particular activity, toy, or experience - that's ok! As always, if you see a particular Montessori material being used by another baby, always use your observations to determine if your baby would also like the material. 

"We must make a plan of development guided by the child through the power that it reveals. We must proceed, not on the basis of our own ideas or on our own prejudices, not on preconceived methods, but by observing the child." Maria Montessori, 1946 London Lectures (p12)

It truly needs to be our child that leads their exploration of the environment. We can lead them through our observation of their needs. So, this week I will continue to observe Penelope and will offer experiences that I think she is ready for and will enjoy. I will get some right, I will get some wrong. But she will continue to lead. 

Thoughts on observing your baby's likes and dislikes and responding to your baby's cues respectfully.

This post is week 16 of my Montessori baby series focusing on Penelope.  


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