Montessori Babies

The Prepared Adult: A Montessori Conversation with Junnifa Uzodike

May 13, 2021 Bianca A. Solorzano, M.Ed. Season 1 Episode 13
Montessori Babies
The Prepared Adult: A Montessori Conversation with Junnifa Uzodike
Show Notes Transcript

In Episode 13, we talk all about Dr. Montessori's idea of the Prepared Adult! This episode is an interview and conversation with the amazing author and Montessorian, Junnifa Uzodike. This weeks episode is for Montessori beginners and experts alike! Junnifa and I have an amazing conversation on...

  • Her and Simone Davies' highly anticipated book: The Montessori Baby
  • What Montessori's idea of the Prepared Adult?
  • Why is this idea important to infancy?
  • What is the physical, spiritual, and mental preparation of the adult?
  • And more!

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Bianca A. Solorzano, M.Ed.
Baby Development & Montessori Consultant
And Your Baby Tour Guide

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The Prepared Adult: A Montessori Conversation with Junnifa Uzodike

Bianca: [00:00:07] Welcome to Baby Tour Guide’s: Montessori Babies Podcast, I'm your host and Baby Tour Guide, Bianca Solorzano. And for the last decade, I have dedicated myself to helping parents, educators and caregivers optimize baby development through a Montessori lens. This podcast is all about evolving our Montessori practice to make our time with our sweet babies easier, relaxed, and so much fun. Let's jump into it!

Bianca: [00:00:39] Hello everyone, and welcome to Episode 13 of our Montessori Babies podcast. I am so, so excited for this week. I had the most amazing guest and conversation with this guest about the Montessori’s idea of the prepared adult. And for those of you who are familiar with Montessori, you likely know that this is such a big topic and one that we could not possibly cover in one conversation. But we definitely made a point to hit just all of the amazing main main pieces of info to help you get started and, you know, continue to evolve your Montessori practice. Now, the guest that we had is so, so special. And I'm just so grateful that she was able to come on our show. Her name is Junnifa Uzodike, and she is an amazing, amazing Montessorian. And she has the AMI training. So the international training that Maria Montessori herself created, and she has trained from zero all the way to age 12. So she has the zero to three training, the three to six training, the six to 12 training. And she runs her very own Montessori school called Fruitful Orchard Montessori in Abuja, Nigeria. And that's actually where she lives. So she lives there with her husband and her three young children. And she is just such an inspiration for parents around the world to bring Montessori into their lives by sharing her Montessori journey, which, as you will learn in this interview that's coming up, it was very much guided by her children, which is so Montessori, you know, anyway, you know, child led and she's just such an inspiration.

Bianca: [00:02:28] She offers a ton of resources on her blog and her Instagram, which I will have linked below for you guys in case you're interested in looking her up. And one of the most exciting things in Junnifa’s world is that she just released a book. So she actually co-wrote the book, which is super relevant to our community. It's called The Montessori Baby. And I'm sure some of you who are familiar with Montessori have heard about the book called The Montessori Toddler, written by Simone Davies. And Jennifer and Simone actually co-wrote this version for Infants. And it just has so much wonderful information. I loved reading it. And, you know, it gives a lot of great tips. And it's structured in a way that makes it, you know, so easy to read. You don't even necessarily have to read it all the way through, you know, cover to cover. It can be just looking at stuff that you're interested in within the world of Montessori. So let's go ahead and jump into the interview. I'm so excited for you guys to take a listen to it. It was such a treat to have Jennifer on our show. And so thank you again to Jennifer for coming on. And I hope to have her back one day. Let's go ahead and jump into our interview with Junnifa and talk all about the prepared adult.

Bianca: [00:03:47] We have such a special guest today. Thank you so much for being with us.

Junnifa: [00:03:52] Thank you so much for the opportunity. I'm looking forward to sharing with you and your listeners.

Bianca: [00:03:58] I have been just so excited for this conversation. You're just a rock star, Montessorian. And the more that I got to learn about your history and your trainings and everything that you're doing, it's just so inspirational. And so I was hoping, you know, you could tell our community a little bit about your history and Montessori Montessori education.

Junnifa: [00:04:17] Sure. I actually discovered Montessori completely by chance. I was working in the US at the time as a strategy manager for the company. So nothing to do with education or, you know, child care. And I didn't have children at the time, but my mom was an educator and she owns a school. So whenever she would be with us, she likes to visit schools. And one time I was her chauffeur and one of the schools we happened to visit in the area was a Montessori school and I was just blown away. I had never seen anything like it. We're observing one, the one we know, and the children would stand up, push images, put their work away, as I was watching a few of them set off the table for lunch with the tablecloth. And I'm just completely blown away and I wanted to know more about what I was seeing, and so I signed up to take a course was just an introductory course at the time, and it was like Montessori methods. And I don't even remember my school, but I fell more in love and I wanted to know more at the time I was married, but I hadn't had any children yet. So I thought, oh, I'll just start from the very beginning. So I took a zero to three training and I had my son one week after the training and how he was such a blessing and doing the training, I attended Montessori Congress, and there were all these people of different ages, older, younger.

And every time they would see me, you look like you're about to have a baby, you know? And I said, yes, I'm taking the training and saying, wow, it's such a blessing for you to have discovered this before having your children. And so I felt like I had felt the responsibility to use this. And so I had my son and I tried to put everything I had known into practice. And it just made that first year so beautiful and so different from everything that I had in my previous previous preconceived notions. He was a joyful child. He was happy. I always felt like I knew what to expect and how to guide him. And I just know more like I kept wanting to know more. So before his third birthday, I signed up for the three to six training, and I opened a Montessori school here in Nigeria. So all areas of my life are connected to Montessori at this point.

Bianca: [00:06:52] That is so beautiful. That is such an amazing story. And I love how your Montessori journey was also guided by your child in your child's development. That is just so beautiful. I love that. So the reason we have you on our show today is you have some very exciting things happening in your current life. Right? So you have you co-wrote a book that's going to be released really soon.

Junnifa: [00:07:19] So exciting. Awesome. Excited to share the Montessori baby with the world. And also to the caregivers, to the mother, to the father, just letting them in on this secret that I feel like was given to me on how to understand our babies, how to guide them differently and how to enjoy the parenting journey doesn't have to be overwhelming. It doesn't have to feel like we don't you know, so many people see there's no guidebook for parenting or nobody tells you what to expect. So we hope that this book can read that guide book for parents. It can be that you know what to expect from the Encyclopedia of Knowledge for parents. Right? They can read the entire book. You can read the entire book, or you can just take it in little sections. You know, when you're feeding your baby, you can take a look at your baby. You can not just you can look and just see and feed your soul with little bits of food. So, yes, I'm excited to share the book with the world.

Bianca: [00:08:32] It's such a beautiful, beautiful book to our community. I just finished it. It is so worth read. It has so many amazing and tangible tips. And I think that's kind of part of, you know, what's so beautiful about this, the way that you guys wrote the book, it makes it the Montessori method so accessible. You know, I read some of the things down that I really, really enjoyed. One of the things that I left is that you wrote a lot of tips of how we can observe our babies, you know, certain things to look for in my experience, working with parents and even new educators. Those those tips are really helpful to evolving your Montessori practice. And so I that was just so amazing.

Yeah. Oh, gosh. My list is long of the things that I loved about the book, but I'll just name a couple of them. I love how you have tips within each chapter of practice tips and observation tips, those little boxes that you have and they stand out to you. So for our community out there, when you're reading through the book, you know, she and Simone really highlight the different areas that you can focus on within each subtopic within Montessori babies. It's really, really awesome. You know, there's there's just so many amazing things. And you can just like Junnifa has said, you can read it front to back, which I just did. And it was an amazing read. But you can also. Just easily access what you're looking for within it, so, so amazing, so, so amazing.

Junnifa: [00:10:12] I'm glad you enjoyed it. Thank you. You know, when we wrote the book, One Day Needs to be a response, not just for parents, but anybody who spends time with children for grandparents, aunts, uncles or nannies or guides. So whoever you have a baby in your life in any form, whether it's your biological child or just the child that you love, we hope that the book will help you understand that child better and just know how to interact with them in a more respectful loved field and understanding. So, yes, happy that you found that you found the book accessible and relatable.

Bianca: [00:10:50] Totally. You know, I also felt like it was great even coming from having had some Montessori experience. It was a great inspiration, a great refresher with a lot of points that maybe some things I kind of forgot about in practice. You know, as time goes by, it's kind of like, oh, yes, this is such an amazing point, you know, and then you're just reinspired. And that's kind of the perfect segue into what we are going to talk about today, which is the prepared adult.

Junnifa: [00:11:23] And love talking about the prepared adult.

Bianca: [00:11:27] I'm so glad. And so to start. You know, I was hoping you could just tell our audience what this term even means. What is Montessori’s idea of the prepared adult?

Junnifa: [00:11:36] So the prepared adults is that person who cares for the child who when we when we think about our role as a Montessori adult, whether it's a teacher or parent or anybody who spends time with the child. Our role is that of a guide. And when we always talk about a triangle with the child, that's the environment. And then there's the adults. And I look at the adults and the environment is kind of together because those are the two things that help the child become who they're going to be. So when I think about the prepared adult analogy that I think about is the child as a seat and the adult as the garden. So the seed already has the plant inside of it. Life is not climate. You don't have to do. You're not the one who puts the plants in there. You don't have to tell the plants to come out. All you have to do is the gardener is prepare and put the seed in the soil and make sure that the conditions are right. You know, it's not too hot. It's not too cold. You're putting enough water, not too much. You're watching to see what's the how the plant is responding. Maybe the sun is too much for the soil. Maybe you need to move it to a shaded area, or maybe you need prune some leaves or maybe you need to add something new.

Junnifa: [00:12:55] So that's basically the rule of the prepared adult. You need to know what the child needs so that you can prepare that environment. So you need to read you need to gather that information. The rule of the prepared adults is also to just observe, because as you observe, you will learn from the plants or from your child. What they need, you'll see, is the lead wilting a little bit or is the you know, you can tell is the soil too wet? Is the sun too hot? You know, you can and we'll see how are they moving? How do they move? What sounds the making? How do they tell us when they're hungry? How do they tell us when we're tired? How did they respond to changes? We roll as the prepared adult is to look at our child and try to see what they're telling us and respond, modify or prepare the environment based on what we're seeing in the child. So that for me, when I think about the that I just put a gardener, well, the only thing is that instead of seeds, we're cultivating our children who are seeds, too, in a way that we're providing them with the warmth, with the love, with the understanding. So that's how I think about it.

Bianca: [00:14:14] That's such an amazing analogy. And so it just brings it to life, the role that we have, whether working in the home or the classroom, you know, if you're a nanny going in, you know, it's just such an amazing visual to help our Montessori practice. You know, as far as what we're supposed to do, the point that I want to talk about is how being prepared as an adult and just I guess being ready for the day to day existence is relevant to infancy specifically. So if you could touch on that, that would be so amazing.

Junnifa: [00:14:52] So I think being prepared for baby will involve several things. First of all, we need time with the baby. So for you to have time with the baby, time away from other things. In those first few months when the child is still adapting to this new environment, it calls for the parent or the mother or the primary caregiver to be present. So as an adult, I think that it's important to make sure that you have your systems, your support systems in place. It might be, you know, having a mother in law or like a mother or a friend, someone who helps you with some of the other things that you're supposed to do, having a community. I live in Nigeria and we talk about how it takes a village to raise a child. And I think, you know, many times we forget, we think that we are responsible for doing everything, for caring for the child, for making sure it looks great for working. I really think that, again, another plant analogy, I think that there are seasons in life and in that season where you're caring for a newborn or for a young baby, it's so important to slow down, to reduce the unnecessary things and just come in and be present. And I think it also requires us to feel ourselves.

Junnifa: [00:16:10] We need to feel ourselves, make sure that we're taking time to drink water. You know, many times when you're a teacher or a parent, you know that sometimes we can get so into what we're doing with our babies or children that we forget even simple things such as drinking water, simple things as eating nourishing meals, simple things as getting enough sleep. It's so important because if you're going to be slow and present and, you know, respectful and kind to your child, you need to make sure your basic needs are met. You need to make sure your emotional needs are met. So I think that as a result, those are some of the week, is that you prepare yourself so that you're showing off your presence in the way that your baby needs you to be meeting your basic needs, meeting your emotional needs, and then just educating yourself because some of these things are not it's your instincts are usually good. What our instincts are also leads to how we were raised. Sometimes it's good to expose yourself, rethink. There's so much information so it can be overwhelming. But when we choose and limit what we take in, choose the right ones and just prepare yourself. So that's how I see the preparation

Bianca: [00:17:30] That is so beautiful. I love how, you know, the idea behind just being ready and being present and slowing down. That was actually one of my favorite parts within your book and something that is actually it sounds simple, but is actually really intricate to convey, you know, and to kind of learn and be and and starting with yourself is so key. So thank you so much for that, because that was just really, really a beautiful description.

Junnifa: [00:18:03] I think that even in our thinking earlier that evening, I was asked the question. Somebody asked me about what? About parents who work for people who don't spend a lot of time with their children. And it said only that it sounds like you have to do so much. You have to be a stay at home mom or what? You don't have to. I think that even in the short interactions that we have with our children, we can slow down. It can be when you're feeding your child, being intentional about making eye contact and just slowing down when you're changing their diaper, talking to them, using slow and gentle hands and just being conscious, I don't think it's like it's always quality, right? When they feel spending an hour with the children, even if you spend 10 minutes just being slow, intentional and present. So I think that that's what being slow gives us, expands or extends any time we spend with the child. When you're slow, if you spend ten minutes, it feels a little longer to both of you.

Bianca: [00:19:06] Totally. And it can kind of be hard sometimes, you know, and the fast pace of of life, if you're at home with multiple children or even one child or if you're in the classroom with multiple children, it can be hard. But as long as it's at the forefront of your mind, you know, you can kind of reel yourself back in and and be there.

Junnifa: [00:19:27] Yeah, exactly.

Bianca: [00:19:29] Yeah. So, you know, within Montessori, one of the things that I really just adore about this idea is how she breaks it down between that physical preparation, the intellectual preparation and the spiritual preparation. And so I was hoping you would talk a little bit about that as well, because it's just such a beautiful idea to share.

Junnifa: [00:19:51] So I think that I've talked to the physical preparation of the environment. You know, we're thinking about the spaces that we create for the children, for babies. I think that, you know, then that period of the absorbent mind, when the things the. See, not only will we take if it becomes a part of them, so making sure that the spaces that we're creating for our babies are simple, orderly or beautiful are meeting the baby's needs. So I'm thinking about a place for the baby to be, a place for the baby to eat, a place for them to change and a place for them to be again. Many people, when they think about Montessori they think it may be expensive or like it doesn't have to be, it's more about simple and beautiful, attractive, aesthetically pleasing. And then if it means to be and then intellectually, I think it's going to concepts in Montessori that I think are so important for a parent or a caregiver of a human tendencies. Children, no matter where they are, actually human beings, not just children, no matter where they are in the world and no matter when they are born, have some basic commonalities. They have some basic things that they need to move. They need to or they need to communicate. They're curious. So if you know these things, regardless of where you are, you can prepare yourself to meet those needs for your child in the way that you can. So knowing that, knowing about the human tendencies and then knowing about the means of development.

Junnifa: [00:21:32] So children just like seeds, they almost transform. You know, there's some seeds that need to be in the nursery first and then you can move them outside. So it's the same with children from zero to six. There are different ways they need you to be different as a guide. They need you to be different as a parent. And then as they go from six to 12, they're different in the zero to six. They're trying to know how to do things for themselves. Their mind as they get older, they're more logical. They want to know how things work. They want to understand the intricacy of things, and they want to think for themselves. As they get older and more social, they're learning how to be adults. And so knowing this, knowing how your child is going to change from place to place is the intellectual preparation that you can be had. I think the spiritual preparation is kind of what we talked about, just learning how to be present, you know, learning how to slow down, how to observe, how to enjoy each moment. You know, babies kind of invite us to slow down to to be present, to take little little things, to go outside with them and look at the leaves, look at the grass and just enjoy all of those things. I think for me, that's the spiritual preparation, that ability to slow down, observe. So for me, those are some ways that you can prepare physically, intellectually and spiritually.

Bianca: [00:23:07] So beautiful. I thank you so much for offering this advice. What I love about your book is that it touches on so many big topics within the world of Montessori and starting in pregnancy. And just it is such an awesome way to, you know, feel your Montessori practice and be prepared to write. It offers so much amazing information to support your journey with your child, whether you're a parent, caregiver, educator, working and home classroom. Does it matter? Or if you're just curious about, you know, baby development and Montessori, it's a good read.

Junnifa: [00:23:51] That's what we were hoping you would be so. Well, we it's really like a love letter, right? It's a love letter to the baby, a love letter about the baby, a love letter to parents, to caregivers, to anyone who loves the child. It's an invitation to see our children differently, to see them as capable, to see them as humans deserving of respect and an invitation to just treat them with love, with one's standing and with respect to talk to them, come down to their level, use gentle hands and slow down and just enjoy, enjoy being without beacons. So, yes, that's exactly what we were hoping for.

Bianca: [00:24:35] Oh, my goodness. And it is just that everyone. So I will have everything linked below. I'll have the link to your website and your social media account as well so we can go and find you. You and Simone Davies wrote just the most beautiful, beautiful book. So congratulations.

Junnifa: [00:24:55] Thank you so much for this opportunity, for having me. Thank you.

Bianca: [00:24:59] And that was our interview with the wonderful Junnifa Uzodike. I want to give a big thanks to her again for coming on our show and talking all about the prepared adult, and I will have all of her resources linked below. I will also have her links to the Montessori baby, the book that is now available below for you as well. So if you're interested in that, definitely, definitely check it out. It's an amazing read. And as per usual, we're going to go ahead and do the quote to just kind of get our wheels turning on this topic. So this week, the quote is “Plainly, the environment must be a living one directed by a higher intelligence arranged by an adult who is prepared for his mission.” -Dr. Maria Montessori. 

I hope this week you guys got a lot of really great info about the prepared adult. In my experience, this topic has felt just as important as having a prepared space or prepared environment because and especially working with infants. At the end of the day, you know, infants are still very much dependent on us to regulate their day and set up their space and, you know, know you know how to read their cues and stuff like that.

Bianca: [00:26:21] And so if we go in with just a calm present mentality and we're there, we're observing, we're working with our baby, your babies, you know, it just makes the experience just so much more peaceful and beautiful and just really pulled together, which is exactly what Dr. Montessori said about everything within the environment, you know. So anyway, I hope you guys enjoyed this week's episode. I am so excited for everyone to listen to it. And thank you again to the wonderful parents and educators and caregivers who take the time to listen and join in our community and reach out. I love talking to everyone, so feel free to send me an email. My email is, and that's about it. So thank you to everyone for tuning in to Episode 13 of our Monastery Babies podcast. Our podcast is now officially a teenager and I will catch you guys in the next episode bye.

Bianca: [00:27:30] Hey, it's Bianca, your Baby Tour Guide here, hopping back in to say thank you again for listening to this episode of Montessori Babies. If you found this episode helpful and would like more information on over to and download my free Montessori guide to join our community and receive the latest on optimizing development through a Montessori lens. You can also find me on Instagram and Facebook @Baby Tour Guide. Also, if you found this episode helpful to your Montessori practice, I would absolutely love it if you would leave a review to help other parents and educators find our show. Thanks again for listening and I will catch you in the next episode. Bye!