Supporting the first 3 months

This is the 3rd post in the brain development series. If you haven’t already, please read the first and second posts before continuing.

Most people assume that all children do in the first few months is eat and sleep. This is inaccurate. Children are born ready to learn and need stimulation of their senses to support brain development from birth. Because the child is not mobile and mostly supine (lying on his/her back) in the first three months, visual mobiles are a great way to provide visual stimulation. I have to mention that I LOVE mobiles! I love making them, I love watching them and most especially, I love watching children watch them.  If you don’t know what mobiles are, keep reading to see pictures.

We were taught how to make some specific mobiles in our training.

  • They are ideal for the early stages of development and provide visual stimulation in different ways.
  • They provide opportunity for visual tracking (the eyes following a moving object) and are a good way to check that your child’s eyes follows objects as they move. *tell your doctor if it does not
  • They provide an opportunity for building concentration (which is crucial to intelligence) from a young age.
  • The mobile also encourage voluntary and involuntary movements from the child. I have seen children sway with them, or kick and flap their hands. All of these are beneficial to the child.

*Click on any of the pictures to make it bigger and see the details.

munari collage

The black and white (munari) mobile is usually the first mobile presented to the child because research has shown that newborns enjoy and prefer looking at high contrast (black and white) geometric shapes. This mobile is made with precise calculations and holds the attention of children as young as  a few days old for a long time. While I encourage you to make or buy this specific mobile, you can also cut any black and white image/shape to make your own mobile.

PicMonkey Collage

The next mobile (octahedron) is usually made from the 3 primary colors. In this case I made a modified octahedron and added the black and white polka dot piece. The original octahedron is just that… an octahedron. You can find templates online and cut it from red, blue and yellow shiny paper (gift bags can be recycled for this). The version I made is origami-ish and is easy to make once you figure it out. Each piece is made from 6 square pieces of paper. I may do a tutorial in future

gobbi Collage

Then the color gradation (gobbi) mobile which shows the same color with gradual gradation. This helps the child see the small color differences and is so fun to watch when put near a window that lets in sunlight. Each ball casts a shadow on the next ball and the lines make these circles. Just take my word for it that children love these mobiles. Unfortunately, I don’t have a personal picture of a baby using the gobbi but google to see pictures of lovely pictures of children with the gobbi.

The fourth picture is a flensted mobile that reminded me of the dancers
The fourth picture is a flensted mobile that reminded me of the dancers

The stylized dancers mobile is the final mobile in the Montessori visual mobile series. Like the other mobiles, it holds the child’s attention for a long time. The way they move make them seem like dancers (hence the name). Unfortunately again, I don’t have too many personal pictures of the dancers being watched by a child but  you can google!

The butterfly mobile below is not one of the “official” Montessori visual mobiles but it is one that we make in our training and which is developmentally appropriate. I have found it to be a favorite with children. I love watching children watch this mobile and to be honest, I have one in my house that I lay under and watch when I need to unwind.

butterfly Collage

I told you it was a favorite even with older children and adults!
I told you it was a favorite even with older children and adults!

Like adults, children get bored and also make progress so the mobiles are usually bought as a set (you can make them too!) and rotated as the child gets bored or loses interest (this is usually after about two or three weeks). They can come back in rotation later.

Apart from these mobiles, there are many other beautiful mobiles that provide interesting visual stimulation for children.

This mobiles can be made at home by you using paper!
This mobiles can be made at home by you using paper!
Flensted Mobiles
Flensted Mobiles

In choosing or making a mobile for your baby,

  • Select simple, beautiful and interesting mobiles
  • Choose light mobiles that move with the air current and does not need batteries or electricity
  • Visual mobiles are for visual stimulation and do no need to have music. It is easier to hone one sense when the focus is on that particular sense alone. In this case, the sight is the sense being stimulated
  • Look at the mobile from under. Remember this is the child’s view. What is he/she seeing?
  • Select mobiles that have either geometric shapes or real animals/items that they will encounter in real life. Basically, avoid cartoon characters
  • Choose bright interesting colors
  • I like mobiles that provide different views from different angles
  • Less is more. Ideally, mobiles for the first 3 months should not have more than 5-6 items
  • Ensure the mobile does not have too many elements and is not over-stimulating
  • Ensure it is not boring or under-stimulating

There are many beautiful mobiles that do not fit the criteria I have listed. They can be enjoyed later. Mobiles ALWAYS look nice in a child’s room even when the child is 5 but the best visual mobiles for the first 3-4 months that support the child’s development meet these criteria.

Example of mobile that is better for an older child. Can even be used as decoration in an adult space.*pictures taken at a craft fair
Example of mobile that is better for an older child. Can even be used as decoration in an adult space.
*pictures taken at a craft fair

Hanging Mobiles

When you hang the mobiles, just put the child under it. You don’t have to blow the mobile or do anything. I suggest you move away and just observe the child. You might have to adjust the mobile to see what works. I have found that some children will cry when it is directly above them but will enjoy it when it is moved a little to the side. If the child is crying, move him away, reposition the mobile or try another day. Mobiles and other activities are best offered when the child is full (not hungry) and alert (not sleepy). In the beginning they might observe it for a few minutes but gradually, the time increases. Remember the child is building concentration, so try not to interrupt or distract.

This is a very nice video of a boy watching his mobile. It is not in english but frankly no words are needed!

In the first two months, the baby is adapting to his/her new environment, bonding with his/her parents and just settling into the new world so between feeding the baby, talking to and singing to the baby, providing an interesting view (including mobiles),  and touching, holding, massaging the baby, I think most parents can provide enough stimulation and experience.

Grasping

From  birth, children grasp involuntarily. So if you put your finger in a child’s palm, he will close his fingers around it and grasp it. This is not a conscious action. To support the development of voluntary grasping, by the 3rd month, you can offer rattles or something for the child to grasp. Again, a lot of the commercially available options are not necessarily developmentally appropriate. They are usually too big or just not interesting and so it may seem like 3 months is too early to offer them. However the rattles and grasping materials I will discuss are developed specifically for that age group.

Here are examples of grasping materials that we are trained to make.

There's something in my hand. It makes a sound! Wow! I can cause it to make the sounds. How did I do that?
There’s something in my hand. It makes a sound! Wow! I can cause it to make the sounds. How did I do that?
  • As you can see, the size is perfect to fit in a baby’s hand.
  • It is about the size of an adult’s finger or thumb which we all know baby’s are able to grasp
  • It is made of safe  and easy to clean material (wood or fabric instead of plastic).
  • It is simple and attractive
  • The rattles have bells. Initially, the child’s grasp is involuntary but gradually, he learns that the sound from the rattle is as a result of his/her movement and then gradually, he learns how to control and refine the grasp. Imagine how many brain connections the child is making as he figures all these out!

When you put the mobile in the child’s hands, stay close so that you can put it back when it drops. Don’t interrupt or offer commentary. This is also an opportunity for independent play.

To recap, In the first three months, you can support brain development by providing stimulation to the senses. Talking, singing and reading to the baby stimulate the ears, handling, care and baby massages can stimulate the skin and mobiles provide visual stimulation.  My favorite toys/materials for the first two months are developmentally appropriate visual mobiles. Rattles and other small grasping materials can be added in the third month. While there are plenty options available, you should select options that match your child’s development stage. Remember simple is always better. Choose quality over quantity.

As usual, this post turned out WAY longer than I intended and this is after I cut out some things. I hope you made it to the end! Please leave I comment with any thoughts, contributions or questions. I love hearing from you.

Live a GoodLife!

Nduoma

Most of these mobiles can be made by you! I will do some tutorials in future or you can google for directions. If you understand the idea or mobiles, you can also fashion one out of things you have at home (assuming you are like me and have random things in your house). That said, all of the mobiles and rattles pictured above are also available for sale. I also offer mobile making classes which is a great baby shower activity or just a fun way to spend a couple of hours with other expecting women. Please contact me if you are interested in purchasing any materials or participating in a class. I provide all the materials for the seminar. If you want to make them on your own, I am happy to answer questions. 

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17 thoughts on “Supporting the first 3 months

  1. Fantastic post! My son loved the butterfly mobile you made ! And stil even @ six months he stil looks @ it! Even thouugh it goes straight into his mouth! He finds the shapes and colours !intriguing

    1. Thanks for the comment Chika! I’m glad to hear he enjoyed and is still enjoying his mobile. I’ll be sharing your extension of the Gobbi mobile in the next post for 4 – 6month olds!

      Live a GoodLife!

  2. I don’t have a Baby yet, not even married, but knowing I can lie with my baby and enjoy the intriguing puzzle of how it was made excites me. Yeah yeah, I know my kid will be more concerned with colours and movement, but as a grown up I want to believe i’ll be wondering how you made it……. Wait do you make them or do I have to order from America? (since na oyinbo babies i de see). Thanks for this blog Nduoma

    1. Hello Cima Brawn!
      I apologize for the delay in responding. I make them and I made the mobiles in the posts (including the ones with the “oyibo” babies!) except where indicated like the Flensted and craft show ones. I also made all the rattles and grasping materials in this post.You can order them by sending me a message through the “contact me” page. I hope to add an online store eventually. Thanks for asking as I am sure other people may have had the same question.

      Even though you don’t have a baby yet, you can get any of these materials as a gift for expecting friends 🙂

      Live a GoodLife!

  3. Hmm, Nice one Nduoma, m new here n m already lovin’ it especially the work of mobiles in helping develop the child’s concentration. I hope to share my little insight as time goes! Keep on the good work…

  4. Completely educational and awesome, evry new mum shud have you in their lives….*smiles*. I am rily interested in the grasping materials, my boy is 9weeks old but all d materials I have are plastic. Thank you

    1. Thank you for your comment Mummy K. I will be posting about month 3, which was around 9 to 13 month, next week. I hope you find some ideas. The good thing about grasping materials is that you can make a lot of them yourself very economically. Hopefully you can get some ideas!

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