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August 08, 2022

Montessori Parenting: Care Routines with Infants

I can't believe that as I'm writing this Penelope is a whole 6-months-old. It feels like just yesterday that she was a tiny baby newborn snuggled up in my arms. Now, she's rolling around, scooting on her back and just interested in everything in her world.

Montessori and Infant Caregiving

But as she continues to grow, care tasks still remain a huge part of our day - changing her diaper, clipping her nails, combing her hair, baths, etc. All of these tasks that keep her happy and healthy throughout the day are extremely important in her routine. These tasks also happen to be the beginning of our practical life work together. Her active participation is essential and our time together is precious. As a parent that is heavily influenced by RIE and Montessori, caregiving tasks are so often the big work we do together throughout the day. 

"The way we care for our babies is how they experience our love." Magda Gerber, The RIE Manual 

These tasks do start to take an interesting shape when babies get older, more aware, and start to move. I will be the first to admit that Penelope is not a huge mover. She is very content to sit and watch her siblings play, to examine things for a long time, and just pretty much chill. But, even so, her awareness and movement does add a whole new level of interest to these tasks. 

Here are a few ways I like to approach caregiving tasks with my Montessori babies: 

  • Take Your Time: This can't always work for diaper changes (especially when they are 100x a day and you have four other kids running around) but as much as possible for caregiving tasks, make this the activity that you are doing. Take time and slow way way down. 

  • Routine: Each time you approach a caregiving task, keep the routine similar and predictable. This predictable care will help engage and comfort babies and help them slowly participate more and more. 

  • Allow for Movement: Keep movement in mind when you are creating a spot for caregiving tasks. Babies will still want to move and your space needs to accommodate that movement. A spot of the floor is often helpful if babies need to scoot or roll for a moment as you are completing the task.

  • Touch: Use touch as a point of connection to engage your baby in the task. I often sit cross legged on the floor and place Penelope's legs over mine to clip her nails. She feels calmed by my presence and is much more engaged. Maybe its a hand on their chest as you comb their hair / brush their little teeth, or maybe its something more - just think about how touch can help to connect. 

  • Voice: Just like touch, we can use the power of our words to create connection. We can talk and explain what we are doing before we do it. We can ask questions and have a conversation. Our voices are like music to babies, they will be interested if we engage them, doing the task with them instead of for them. Give them real language, real conversation, real opportunities to participate. 

  • Offer a role: Like I said, these caregiving tasks are the seeds that will become full blown practical life work in toddlerhood. Giving opportunities for our babies to actively engage in caregiving tasks can make them more interested in the task (ultimately making it easier for us if they aren't rolling away) and helps them learn to love this task, and how to become more and more independent with it. Maybe it's simply holding the brush at first. Maybe it's mouthing it. One thing I like to have Penelope help with (even at 6-months-old) is to guide her hand to the straps on her diaper and help rip them off. There are a thousand ways to offer participation - make it fit your routine and baby.

Whatever caregiving tasks look like for you and your baby, make it a work you're doing together. Make it a point of connection and predictable love. And eventually, all that work will morph into a toddler that is engaging in this work for themselves. 

How do you approach caregiving tasks with your Montessori baby? 

6 tips to transform caregiving routines with babies. These Montessori and RIE inspired tips help you connect with love and make care tasks easier.

This post is week 26 of my Montessori baby series focusing on Penelope.

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Anonymous said…
Hello Nicole, In my family the worst rotine task is brushing the toddlers teats. How do you make it work smoothly but well done..??