Applying Montessori Principles from Birth: Handling the child

Handling

With this series, I hope to highlight some of the philosophical applications of Montessori that are often ignored while people focus mostly on the materials. One of them is the attitude to the child especially during handling.

In her book Understanding the human being, Silvana Montanaro defines handling as body contact with the child mainly with the hands (of the caregiver). It is usually performed with the child lying on a surface  examples include diaper changes, baths, and dressing up be child.

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In the Month 1 post, I mentioned that it is recommended that the changing table be set up in such a way that the child can face the caregiver. While we were able to do this with our temporary first set up, when we set up his room, we did not have the space or the layout for this but we still tried to follow the principles. Below are the suggestions from the book “Understanding the Human Being” by Silvana Montanaro

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“While providing care to the child, we should look at him and he at us.” For this reason, we did not have a mobile or any pictures of things that may distract the child hanging around the changing table.

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We can smile and talk to him and view these opportunities as a privileged occasion for spending time together; an occasion for meeting and expressing feelings

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We should do these routines slowly and repeat the motions in order to let the child try to understand what is happening. We should explain our actions to the infant, in a simple and short way, touch the different parts of his body gently, name them and ask him to collaborate with us. This collaboration can begin from the moment of birth but it requires a little more time and for us to have a view and trust of the child as an intelligent human being who is eager to interact with us.

Another thing that was very important to me was that body functions not be made to feel unpleasant. We were careful not to scrunch our noses, look upset or make negative comments when changing diapers. It’s very common and might seem ok for parent to say things like “stinky!” or “you little pooper” or just look irritated when changing a diaper. While it might have no effect on some children, it might also give some children the impression that these normal body functions are negative or unpleasant. So we much make an effort to be consistent with our handling of him whether bathing, dressing him up, changing a wet or soiled diaper.

Elimination Communication

This is not a Montessori principle but it is based on observation and following the child which are both cornerstones of Montessori so we used it. During his second month, we observed that he would start babbling and rubbing his feet together when he needed to poop and if I put him in a sitting position on my knee, he would poop without struggling or discomfort.  I mentioned it to my mum a few times and she asked me to get a potty. I thought it was early and never got around to it.

She visited when he was  13 weeks and made me get a potty. While she was here, she put him on it about 4 times and he pooped 2 out of those times. When she left, I continued and he pooped 90 percent of the time so we never stopped.

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8 thoughts on “Applying Montessori Principles from Birth: Handling the child

  1. A beautiful and subtle observation of early signs a child is about to defecate. You are passing on important signals, an art really, of how we can help the child in early stages of their development to becoming clean and dry. I really appreciate the way you have embedded this within a reflection on loving, gentle and respectful handling. Thank you for the way you highlight and value the ‘invisibles’ of Montessori.

  2. Whenever I tell people my children were potty trained by age 12-18 months, they find it hard to believe, thanks for buttressing that fact with this post. I never had any difficulty with potty training or bed wetting. Well done sis.

      1. so true! I am constantly being surprised by the clever things my daughter does (as most parents would attest to, about their kids), and in turn reminded to stimulate her mind and encourage growth, even though she is only five months old.

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