Leo is nine months old now. Two thoughts enter my mind about once each every hour. First, I often think to myself, “When did you get so big?”. That thought is usually followed up by, “You are SO busy!”.
Leo is definitely in the age of exploration. He wants to get into everything. I mean EVERYTHING! One moment he’s reaching for the kitchen towel. Then he’s playing with the runner by the sink. Next, he’s over at the dinning room table pulling up on one of the chairs. “What’s that? Did Mama open the refrigerator?” And here he comes crawling faster than the speed of sound to get to the refrigerator door before I close it. And he just keeps going, and going, and going.
I know this is just how mobile babies are. When given the freedom to explore their environment, that’s exactly what they do. I have intentionally “redesigned” the layout of our home to give him freedom (within limits) to truly engage and learn from his home environment. We spend the majority of our time on the main floor of our home and the areas we do NOT want Leo in are either gated off or blocked by a closed door (i.e. the stairs, bathroom, mudroom, and my husband’s office). This gives him ample room to roam throughout the day.
Although it seems like he is constantly bouncing from thing to thing, every so often he slows down and actually chooses a work from one of his shelves (I use the term work because in the Montessori world, play is the work of childhood and each material on his shelves is there to help him develop a specific skill). Now Leo does have three shelves – one in his room, one in our main room/family room, and one small shelf in the kitchen.
He usually is using materials from either the shelf in the kitchen or the one in the main room because those are the areas we frequent. He may use items on the shelf in his room for a few minutes after diaper changes, but then he comes down the hallway to see what we are doing.
Now, typically our evening routine goes something like this – dinner at 5:30, bath, book, nurse, and then bed, usually around 7:00. Tonight, however, we were done with our book by 6:30. Now after we read our book he usually heads right to his shelf and I just sweep him up, feed him, and then he’s usually ready for bed. But since it was so early I decided to just let him play. So I closed the door to his room, laid on the floor, and just observed, which is something I wished I did more regularly. Between preparing meals, doing laundry, and getting ready to go here and there, I don’t sit and observe him as often as I’d like.
For thirty minutes I watched him and only him (well, I did take a few pictures, but I didn’t use my phone otherwise). At first he got out some books and flipped through them. Then he went for his bead maize and I realized that he’s now able to get the beads up and over the loop, which was something he was still trying to master last week.
Next he got out the wooden egg and cup. Before he would try to put the egg in the cup, but the cup would keep falling over. Tonight, however, I watched him knock over the cup, but then place it back right side up and try again. He did this at least five times before he moved over to the next thing. He put the bead maize on his chair, picked it up, put it back, and then picked it up again. Then he put his chair on its side, then its back, and then climbed over it only to stop halfway to explore the texture of the carpet. After that, he b-lined it over to his basket of grasping toys – a wooden caterpillar and worm (or is it a snake?) that you can twist and turn at the joints. Then he zoomed over to the basket of cloth diapers. He took out one prefold, one insert, and one diaper cover and flapped them around in the air as if he was comparing them somehow. In the middle of all of this activity he would crawl over to me and climb on my back or give me a kiss just to check in and then go back to his activities.
It was delightful watching him. I really think it’s something I need to build into our schedule, like going to the gym or taking a nap. When I’m cooking in the kitchen or cleaning up I do observe him as much as I can, but I really need to devote at least thirty minutes to an hour every day to observation. Not only does it help me to know what types of works he needs out on his shelves and which to rotate out, it also forces me to slow down, stop, and just enjoy my son. Because, let’s face it, he’s already growing up way too fast. There is always going to be something to clean or a load of laundry that needs to be folded, but my baby is only going to be a baby once.