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September 26, 2022

Open Ended Playthings at 7-Months-Old

As you may know in the Spring of 2021, I completed the RIE®️ foundations training. In this training I did a deep dive into the teachings of Magda Gerber and her approach toward infants (birth to 3.) While the RIE®️ approach is similar in many ways to Montessori's approach toward infants and toddlers, there are some differences. One difference that I noticed was in the materials. 

In purely RIE®️ inspired environments, the materials - which they call playthings - are more open ended. They can be used in a variety of ways without a "right" or "wrong" way. They are meant to be explored in all senses of the word - tasted, touched, banged together, thrown, rolled, stacked, put in other things, and taken out. There is no clear direction, no starting or ending point. The idea is that the more passive the materials, the more active the child. 

This can be very different from Montessori materials and how they are used and presented. In Montessori, the older a child gets (even infants and toddlers) the more directed the playthings become. They often (but not always) have a specific starting point and a specific aim. Take the popular object permanence box, for example. Its purpose is to place the ball in the hole and have it roll back out into the tray. While babies definitely find other ways to explore that material, there is a beginning, middle, and end to the work. The work is also presented to the baby in that way. This approach isolates specific skills and gives a child confidence as each is mastered. 

Mixing RIE and Montessori at Home with Your Baby

Now, home environments are much more fluid than traditional classroom spaces.  I can see the validity of each approach for our home. There are plenty of Montessori homes that use a lot of open ended materials.  We certainly do! But, this time, more than ever I have been providing Penelope opportunities for open ended exploration along with more traditional Montessori materials. It's been really fun to see some of the ways she has chosen to play and what she has discovered. 

Here are a few of the open ended opportunities we have had available to Penelope at 7-months-old: 

There are so many other opportunities to explore for Penelope in our environment, but these are been some fun ways to create an environment just for her. As she gets bigger I'm sure we'll both find other open ended options and blend those together with some of our Montessori materials for this age.

As always we will follow her lead in what Penelope is interested in and ready for. My observations of her open ended play will be most important in determining what kinds of opportunities we should make available to her here at home. 

Balancing Montessori and RIE principles in our Montessori home with our 7-month-old's playthings and toys

This post is week 33 of my Montessori Baby series focusing on Penelope. 


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Anonymous said…
Put out some little metal bowls for my 7 month old and he loves them! Has been playing with them for 20 minutes so far. Also, since I put them out last night, my toddler found them first and he also had a lot of fun with them, pretending they were tea cups and tea pot.