“The things [the child] sees are not just remembered; they form a part of his soul.” Maria Montessori. MD.
Parents, who wish to raise their infants the "Montessori way", generally ponder – what type of mobile is developmentally beneficial, when should is be introduced and for how long. There is not a lot written in a comprehensive but concise manner about Infant Montessori Mobiles. I also feel that the topic is very important, while it may seem overwhelming with all the unfamiliar terminology. So, I decided to write a summary on mobiles we had been using with Adrian, whom we are raising since birth with Montessori principles in mind. I strongly believe that by providing an optimum infant environment, we can facilitate our child's "growth [which] comes from activity, not from intellectual understanding.” (Dr. Montessori). All the mobiles in this post are the actual mobiles we had used (and some are still using:) So, I am writing from a first-hand experience, and the research behind this summary comes from numerous Montessori books, as well as from many wonderful Montessori blogs. First, there is a concise outline summary on what type of mobile and when to introduce. Thereafter, there is a more detailed explanation about each mobile, as well as where the particular mobile can be purchased.
IN A NUT SHELL
A mobile, an essential part of a Montessori infant environment, is something that you hang above your baby to stimulate him or her visually at first (VISUAL Mobiles), and later physically (TACTILE Mobiles). Montessori Mobiles are generally most utilized from birth till about six months, at which point your baby is venturing into new territory, and new points of interest arise. Montessori mobiles are introduced according to the child's developing vision and concentration. It is important to observe child's interaction with the mobile in determining when it is time to move on to the next mobile according to child's developmental needs, but generally, you would change mobiles every two weeks to prevent child's boredom, and since each mobile has it's own unique benefits. That is what Dr. Maria Montessori called "living environment."
“The environment must be a living one, directed by a higher intelligence, arranged by an adult who is prepared for his mission, … [and it] must be rich in motives which lend interest to activity and invite the child to conduct his own experiences.” Maria Montessori. MD.
- VISUAL MOBILES (introduced in the following order "from the age of – till" ):
- BLACK & WHITE PICTURES mobile (birth – 2 weeks) – maximum of 5 pictures at a time;
- MUNARI mobile (2 – 6 weeks) – a glass sphere and flat black and white geometric shapes;
- OCTAHEDRON mobile (5 – 8 weeks) – 3 metallic paper octahedrons in 3 primary colors;
- GOBBI mobile (7-10 weeks) – 5 spheres in graduated shades of one color;
- DANCERS mobile (from 8 weeks until 3 months) stylized paper figures made from light metallic colored paper;
- PASTEL WOODEN FIGURES – stylized wooden figures painted in pastel colors.
- TACTILE MOBILES for reaching, grasping, batting at and holding – usually introduced at …
- BELL on a ribbon (can be introduced as early as 2 months);
- PRIMARY COLOR Mobile (usually introduced at 3 months);
- RING on a ribbon (introduced at 3 -4 months to reach up to especially during tummy-times);
- WOODEN MUSICAL Mobile (at 5 months).
I. VISUAL MOBILES - Birth to 3 months
VISUAL mobile should be hanged within the baby's focus, about 8 – 12" from the face, and about 30+ cm above the baby’s chest, so that the child can see the mobile when looking forward, but out of reach of the baby's grasp. (Opening a window might provide a little breeze to facilitate some movement in the mobile).
Babies "learn" to see (focus their eyes and move them accurately) over a period of time, just like they learn to walk and talk. Also, in order to understand the world around them, infants need to learn how to use the visual information the eyes send to their brain. Before babies learn to reach and grab with their hands or crawl and sit-up, it is their eyes that provide information and stimulation important for their development.
1. BLACK & WHITE PICTURES Mobile (offer from birth till 2 weeks)
Newborn's vision is quite fuzzy, ranging only 20cm to 30cm (able to see the face of the person holding them, but not much beyond that). At birth, babies have not yet developed the ability to easily tell the difference between two targets or move their eyes between the two images, nor can they effectively distinguish between colors, but they may intently look at a highly contrasted target. Black and White provides the most contrast, and pictures of real animals such as butterflies, birds, fish — something that moves through air or water are most appropriate. Visual mobiles stimulate infant's visual development, but to prevent over-stimulation, it is advisable to start with only three pictures, gradually adding to a maximum of five pictures at a time.
(as featured in Adrian's Infant Space post)
Let these cards grow with your child: let the infant focus on them, then frame the cards as wall art, then use them as matching cards for older children. Use these cards to discuss different types of animals – vertebrate and invertebrate (animals with bones and without), identify four of five vertebrate groups and their characteristics, habitat and food: (1) Butterfly/ insect, (2) Panda/ land mammal, (3) Lizard-salamander/reptile which you could construe as an amphibian for teaching purposes, (4) Dolphin/ ocean mammal, (5) Bird and (6) Sea Turtle/ ocean reptile.
2. MUNARI Mobile (introduce from 2 weeks till about 6 weeks)
Munari mobile (a glass sphere and flat black and white geometric shapes) is very attractive to the baby because babies reflexively prefer to look at high-contrast patterns and they love the reflected light shining from a glass sphere.
Adrian has been spending a lot of his awake time on his floor-bed looking at the wall mirror and having tummy time. Since black and white provides the greatest contrast suitable for the infant's developing vision, this mobile is developmentally appropriate, while not overstimulating or overwhelming. Munari mobile encourages focus as it attracts child's attention, and builds up concentration when an infant is able to continuously sustain the attention while watching the mobile gently move with the slightest air-current.
3. OCTAHEDRON mobile (introduce starting from 5 weeks till about 8 weeks)
Octahedron Mobile, named after an ancient Greek philosopher Plato, is designed to lay the foundation for understanding the world of geometry, pattern and shape. It consist of three metallic paper octahedrons in three primary colors (blue, yellow or gold and red) made of a special holographic paper that glimmers when placed near the light.
4. GOBBI mobile (from 7 weeks – till about 10 weeks or longer if transform it into a TACTILE mobile)
By eight weeks, eye-hand coordination begins to develop as an infant starts to track moving objects with his or her eyes and reaches for them. By this time, the baby’s visual sense has developed such that the baby can distinguish the shades and subtle variations in color. As such, Gobbi mobile is a perfect transition, as your baby will enjoy focusing on these five color-graded spheres, thus stimulating infant's visual senses, while an older baby might enjoy physical stimulation from desiring to reach for it and eventually batting at it. The spheres are styrofoam balls covered with either an embroidery thread, silk or wool in gradated shades of the same color, hung in an ascending order from the darkest to the lightest. When Adrian was eight weeks old and exhibited a desire to bat at it, we lowered the Gobbi mobile, transforming it into a TACTILE Mobile (See below).
We purchased our Gobbi in green color, but it comes in a variety of colors, so you can pick the color that best suits your child:)
These beautiful Gobbi mobiles come in a variety of colors (permitted by the trainer of A.M.I.) and are made by a certified A.M.I. Assistant to Infancy Course teacher in either 100% silk yarn for Japanese dressmaking, embroidery thread, or knitting wool – So lovely 🙂
5. DANCERS mobile (introduced from about 8 weeks until 3 months)
Dancers Mobile can be introduced as early as birth, but are usually introduced at about 8-12 weeks and till about 3 months old. These stylized paper figures of light metallic colored paper move with the slightest current of air. The way the light catches the colors helps the baby develop his or her depth perception and focus. It's relaxing to watch the light play off this mobile as the dancers gently spin around.
6. PASTEL WOODEN FIGURES
We actually did not utilize stylized wooden figures painted in pastel colors (which is the 5th and the last traditional Montessori Visual Mobile as described in Montessori from the Start book), since we had three organic pastel Teddy bears hung from his bouncer bar, so Adrian was batting at them all the time :)
The medical consensus is that it is neurologically impossible for an infant at three weeks to purposefully bat at something since without the development of the myelin sheath, which is a gradual process taking place on a different timetable for different parts of the body, an infant cannot purposefully activate his or her muscles. So, you be the judge whether the batting was purposeful or reflexive 🙂
This is a short excerpt from Montessori's Planes of Development post on hand development:
- 0 – 2 months: grasp is reflexive – an infant can bring objects to his/her body but not intentionally;
- at 2 months: reflexive grasp diminishes, but intentional grasp is not yet fully developed (the myelination of nerve fibers controlling the arm and the hand is still incomplete, making an intentional grasp neurologically impossible);
- 3 – 5 months: infant’s prehension becomes purposeful – can intentionally reach and grasp, and can purposefully close his/her hand around an object to gain information about it for the brain; TACTILE MOBILES for grasping, batting and holding are introduced.
7. In addition to classic Montessori mobiles, we also used and interchanged the following two visual mobiles, which turned out to be our favorite and which we still use. Each can be introduced during the same time as the DANCERS mobile.
This beautiful Butterfly Mobile can be introduced from eight weeks till 4 months or longer :) Hung out-of-reach above the sleeping mattress, or above the daytime play mat of the infant, the butterflies are large enough to engage visual study as they move on the air currents of the room. Five beautiful butterflies are painted on both sides and include a monarch, orange sulphur, red admiral, Eastern tailed blue, and tiger swallowtail butterfly. Each is made of solid-core art board — even the edges are hand-colored!
Adrian was fasciated with the way the butterflies glide, swirl, and dance in the lightest air-current
In this video, you can see Adrian's purposeful attempts at 5 months to reach for butterflies
Adrian at six months (this Critter Organic baby quilt Betsy custom-made for us; I just love hand-made items from Etsy!)
Now, the Butterfly Mobile is in Julia's new room 🙂
HARMONY WINGS RAINBOW Mobile
This mobile can be introduced from 8 weeks until the time to introduce TACTILE Mobiles – at around three months. The colors of the wings are in the colors of the rainbow, and your baby will love watching these wings fly, swing and whirl with the slightest breeze. Carefully made and assembled by hand in Germany from the light balsa wood and finished with non-toxic, environmentally friendly dyes, this colorful rainbow wing mobile moves in harmony with the wind in a gentile, gracious and soothing way. We simply love it, and we still use it in Adrian's room, two years later …
Adrian's new room (here you can read about the Earth Collage Project as seen on the background)
II. TACTILE MOBILES 3 – 6 months
Babies generally begin to follow moving objects with their eyes and reach for things at around three months of age. From three to five months, infants’ prehension becomes purposeful – they can intentionally reach and grasp, and can purposefully close their hand around an object to gain information about it for their brain. It is now when TACTILE MOBILES for grasping, batting and holding are introduced to stimulate infants' sensations of touch and texture. Since infants are eager explorers, they gather information from the physical interaction with their environment – such as from sensations produced from light touch, vibration, pressure, shape, and texture. Thus, TACTILE Mobiles are designed to be touched since among the most important work for the child at this age is reaching, grasping, releasing, and exploring sounds and textures. For this particular work, we bought a Wooden Tripod Toy Hanger. The three legs are held secure by rubber rings at the top, and it can be adjusted to a variety of heights. It is easy to fold up and move from room to room as the child spends time with the family in different areas of the home. It is made in USA of light-colored hardwood so the hanger does not distract the eye from the hanging toy. (Later the tripod can be turned into a completely enclosed cave, tent, or play house with a simple bed sheet—children LOVE little hiding places.)
1. BELL Mobile (introduce as early as 2 months)
A Bell on a ribbon is generally the first tactile mobile, which can be introduced as early as 8 weeks. An infant is also learning the cause and effect, which is fundamental to all natural science, especially physics. Adrian loved hearing a jingle every time he would successfully bat at it :)
2. PRIMARY COLOR Mobile (usually introduced at 3 months)
This highly interactive Primary Colours Mobile was Adrian's favorite amongst the TACTILE mobiles. This mobile is so carefully crafted, that with the slightest push or tag, it will twirl, like a table-top – fascinating your child. Designed to be bat at and grasped on starting from three months, it consists of three bright contrasting primary colors (red, yellow, and blue) wooden discs that look like spheres when spinning. It not only aids in eye development, but meant to be hung close enough so that the infant can reach the discs to aid in hand development as well. The wooden "spheres" have a non-toxic paint and non-toxic varnish on them, ensuring they are safe for the young child. A small elastic at the top ensures this mobile is safe for the infant to pull at.
In the beginning, an infant would wave his or her arms a lot in an attempt to bat at it. Although, initially, Adrian might have only "connected" with spheres a couple of times, those few times were so worth the effort, as the way the disks spun really fascinated him.
3. RING on a ribbon (can be introduced at 3 -4 months to reach up to especially during tummy-times)
Wooden Ring on a ribbon allows for adjustment to the exactly right height, and the elastic allows the baby to tug on it.
4. WOODEN MUSICAL Mobile (at 5 months)
We hung the Wooden Bell Chimes Mobile at around three months. This Montessori inspired chime mobile makes a lovely wind chime sound as the baby learns to reach out and grasp the hanging ring. This can be introduced as early as three months. It consists of four wooden chimes, which are hung from the top and are rattled by a wooden bead in the middle which is connected to the hanging ring. This mobile helps the child learn to grasp and connect their own motion with the sound that results. All of the wood is sealed in a natural homemade beeswax and olive oil blend. The bells are dyed in colors of pink, green, yellow, and purple. These colors are created through homemade dyes, using all natural ingredients: blueberries, red cabbage, beets, and turmeric, resulting in colors that are more subtle than commercial dyes.
At 4 months, once Adrian would get a grip of the ring, we would pull the Chimney Mobile so hard! However, the metal rod the mobile was connected to was designed to withstand over 100 lb being pulled on, so I did no worry about it breaking or falling on him. (But, be mindful, that infants can pull really hard at this age.) As you can see, Adrian enjoyed this mobile a lot - he loved the jingle, the rattle, and the shaking sounds the chimney bells made! Visual, Sound, Physical (reaching for and pulling) - all-in-one!
Five to Eight months
What to expect from a five months old baby: depth perception, which is the ability to judge if objects are nearer or farther away than other objects, which is not present at birth, is now gradually being developed where the eyes are capable of working together to form a three-dimensional view of the world and the child begins to see in depth. Although an infant's color vision is not as sensitive as an adult's, it is generally believed that babies have good color vision by five months of age. Also, it is about this time when your baby would want to be more mobile, and most babies start crawling at about eight months old, helping further develop eye-hand-foot-body coordination. While we kept some of our favorite mobiles much longer than recommended (and we still enjoy a few), with mobility, come different interests and different materials.
p.s. Montessori from the Start: from Birth to Age Three is a wonderful resource describing in great details the five classic Visual Montessori mobiles. Although the Black and White Pictures Mobile is not one of the five traditional Montessori Visual mobiles mentioned in the book, it is generally the first to be introduced from birth till about 2 weeks, when an infant is ready for MUNARI Mobile.
I would love to hear how you incorporate mobiles in your home :)