Now that Reuben’s crawling I’ve found I’ve had to divert his attention away from a lot of things. No Roo, don’t eat that plant. No Roo, don’t touch the laptop. No Roo, that mobile phone charger is not tasty to eat. No Roo, don’t go near the top of the stairs.
In a Montessori inspired environment the baby is free to go where they like, and everything in the environment enables him to do this. It should all be safe and beautiful and full of natural materials. There should also be nothing around that the baby can’t touch, therefore encouraging his independence and respecting him as one of the family.
I would love to have a home like that but it just isn’t practical. We don’t have enough high up storage space to keep everything he can’t touch out of reach and in reality I think it’s a good idea for children to be told ‘No’ every now and then so that they understand that they can’t touch everything – especially when they’re not at home!
So although I have tried to make my home Reuben-friendly, it is by no means fully child-proofed and I am starting to create boundaries that must seem arbitary and bizarre to him. I admit, I feel a bit guilty about that!
So to make things a little more friendly I’ve used his naptime today to create an ‘Invitation to Play’. An invitation to play is basically any activity that you set up and let the child discover for themselves. So instead of sticking a new toy in the toybox, you could put it somewhere they aren’t expecting it. You don’t introduce the activity, or tell them how to use it. You just let them discover what you have previously put out for them.
I’ve put Reuben’s ‘invitation’ in a fairly obvious place (the middle of the lounge carpet!) so he can’t miss it. At the same time I’ve tidied up all his other toys so he will clearly see it. He can still get to his other toys and is quite adept at pulling them out of their boxes, so if he chooses not to take up the ‘invitation’ he can.
The ‘invitation’ is simply a mirror that I’ve placed on the floor with some translucent objects. I’ve used a couple of egg poachers and plastic pots which I’ve thoroughly washed to remove any traces of egg.
He really enjoyed stumbling across this ‘new’ thing that was in his reach. He crawled straight over.
He compared the different things.
He gave them all a good chew.
And he looked at his reflection too.
In all he spent almost 20 minutes playing with these materials.
It worked so well that since then I’ve tried some different invitations to play. They’re normally just things from around the house that are safe for Roo to play with. At the moment he’s really into opening and closing containers, so I’ve found some empty wash bags, boxes and even a small ring box. Of course, Reuben doesn’t know the difference between these things that I have deliberately left out, and things that I’ve accidentally left out! So I have to be careful!