For Small Hands

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1. Infant Fine Motor Development

In Montessori infant development, emphasis is placed on the use of the hands as an extension of brain development (hand-eye coordination, hand-brain coordination) beginning in the first few months of life and continuing on into infancy and well into the toddler and preschool years, as the brain continues to grow and develop.

An infant, when grasping an object for example, is receiving information about that object and sending it to the brain, creating a "continuous feedback loop of hand-to-brain-to-hand." And it is for this reason that the infant be allowed to explore (safe) objects as soon as three-to-five months of age, when grasping for objects becomes intentional. Throughout infancy, the baby's continuous reaching and grasping for objects will also aid in his development of depth perception, the pincer grasp, and his own sense of self, apart from mother and father.

The key, then, in Montessori infant development, is to find the right balance between the hand and the mind, a unity: "the level of muscular skill and coordination [that] matches the level of mental development"; otherwise, a mismatch, a disunity, will occur.

One way to keep the hand and brain development in sync is to allow the infant enough time to repeat his exploration of the same objects, so as to allow lots of time for the hand and brain to create those "feedback loops," rather than to overwhelm the infant with a continuous stream of new toys and objects.

Rotation, then, is what is needed for the infant: a rotation of objects, activities, and toys each week, or each month, for the infant to explore. We must limit the infant's choice of toys, activities, and objects so that he will 1) repeat his interactions with them, 2) gain knowledge of them, 3) develop is fine motor skills, and 4) create those feedback loops to the brain (so the knowledge sticks!).

Secondly, we want his interactions with the objects in his environment, and his toys and activities, to be challenging: not too easy so as to cause boredom but not too hard so as to cause frustration; we want to match his mental abilities with his fine motor abilities.

To know when an activity, toy, or object is just right for your infant, spend a few moments each day observing him: which activity or area in the house does he go to first? Which activity or task does he seam to repeat the most? What are his favorite objects or toys? If he continuously ignores certain objects or toys, he could be bored with them. If he throws certain toys and objects, or acts frustrated and cranky upon interacting with them, perhaps it is because they are too challenging.

Our ultimate goal for the infant, when he reaches early toddler hood (fifteen months) is to "stay with a focused task." We therefore want to build his attention span, his focus, and his concentration during his infancy, so that when he is a toddler, he will not flutter from one activity, toy, and object to the other, unable to focus and concentrate on the task and skill at hand.

Between the ages of fifteen and eighteen months of age, your new young toddler will begin to slow down a bit, he will stay with certain toys and activities for longer periods of time and show a preference for certain ones. Perhaps he will spend more time playing with his trucks and his balls (or chasing the cat around the house!).

After the infant reaches early toddler hood, he will instinctively want to be involved in the daily chores and tasks (the "fundamental needs") of the family, requiring a certain level of attention and focus: dressing and dressing as in care of the self, food preparation like pouring and spooning, caring for the environment like watering plants or feeding the pets, as well as helping out with household chores. The infant-turned-toddler wants to copy the adults in his environment in their daily activities, doing what Montessori termed, practical life activities, or the "practical work of life." This is a transition from the learning exploration by the infant to the doing and working by the young toddler.

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2. Hunting for an Object photo slideshow (or use this link here). The photo slideshow lesson works best in Chrome browsers.

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