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.
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.
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
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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!
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.