In Episode 15, we talk all about offering language lessons to babies! In this episode you will discover...
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Bianca A. Solorzano, M.Ed.
Baby Development & Montessori Consultant
And Your Baby Tour Guide
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 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.
Hello, welcome to Episode 15 of our Montessori Babies podcast. This week we are talking all about language, but specifically offering language lessons to babies, which I'm sure sounds super funny, you know, because babies are hardwired to acquire their language. But what I mean by this is the Montessori lesson that you would have on your shelf or the moments of activity where you could hone in on various language experiences, you know, that kind of thing. And it's actually very different offering language lessons to babies than it is to toddlers and young children. And so we're going to talk all about, you know, the types of lessons you can offer your babies Montessori lessons, of course. And then also, you know, the different tricks and tips that I've discovered while working with infants that hopefully can help your practice with your Montessori baby. And then we'll also be going over how to offer specific lessons, so ways we can hone in on concentration. The actual lesson giving when I took my Montessori training and when all Montessori educators take their training, you actually go through a process of learning how to give the lessons in a really purposeful way and in ways that hone in on direct and indirect purposes.
Bianca: [00:02:06] So directly say we're giving the child a language lesson and directly the grasp that we're using to show the lesson is a grasp that they can practice that they'll need later on, or we lay the cards out, the language cards out in a slow progression from left to right, which is how they'll read later on, you know, stuff like that. That's what's so cool about Montessori, is that there's all of these hidden objectives that are preparing our children for the next step and in ways as they're observing their environment. So as they're taught those things later on, those things are easier to learn and implement and get the hang of. So for those of you who have been following our show, you know that I am very quote happy. I love quotes as inspiration, and I'm always reading different articles and finding different little sayings and phrases that continue to inspire my practice. And so what I hope in sharing these quotes are pieces of info is, is that it can be something similar for you and your interactions with your child or children. And this week, our quote is that language and the quote is “language and culture are the frameworks through which humans experience, communicate and understand reality.” And that was said by Lev Vygotsky.
Bianca: [00:03:24] And he is actually a development theorist and one that I studied in college. And he's a psychologist who is best known for his work on studying the psychological development of children. And so I thought, what better way to open this episode? You know what super about Montessori is even you know, I know I keep referencing my training, but even when I was in my training, we studied other child development theorists. And it was just such an amazing, well-rounded experience because, again, I know I say this all of the time, but it's just the most important one of the most, if not the most important points to consider when implementing Montessori. Montessori education is an educational approach aimed at optimizing the natural progression of human development. And we continue to learn more about development. And there are a lot of people who study different areas of development. And so, you know, I think it's such a Montessori thing to consider all research. Right. And all theorists, when we're trying to understand this big picture of the development of the child and then using a lot of Montessori principles with the understandings that we get is just an amazing way to really hone in on that optimization. So focusing on language, our babies are born ready to learn their language. Right. And so kind of like I mentioned in our earlier episode about language, the best things that we can do for them to really acquire that everyday conversational type.
Bianca: [00:05:05] And so kind of like I mentioned in our earlier episode about language, the best things that we can do for them to really acquire that everyday conversational type language is speak to them every day and just, you know, full language, read to them every day, sing to them every day. Those really interactive back and forth experiences are so amazing for them to learn their language. But there are ways that we can encourage our infants to learn specific types of words, to start to relate words to objects. And the way that we do that is by giving language lessons now for babies. Again, kind of like I mentioned, it does look a little bit different in infants, you know, whereas with a toddler less than you might see a three step language lesson, in infancy, it's more of an introduction. Right. But what you can do is have materials out on your shelf, materials ready for, you know, special moments throughout the day, that kind of thing where you can really hone in on when your baby's needs are met to have those calm moments of connection and offer those lessons. So to offer you some ideas, the first idea is a traditional Montessori basket of known objects. So that's where you would have a little basket filled with things that are found around the house. It can be anything like, you know, safe and soft kitchen utensils, cleaning brushes and objects. Obviously, everything's clean and soft and safe. Fruit. I've had it where I have prewashed, fruit like grapefruit, orange, lemon and lime.
Bianca: [00:06:39] Those are really fun to have because they're categorized even within the fruit category, you know, stuff like that, all in this basket that you can have on your child's shelf, and that you can if you know there are nonverbal baby, you can pull it off the shelf when you're doing your activity time. And if they're a mobile baby, they can obviously drive themselves to the shelf. And then when they're showing interest, you can offer the lesson. So that's one idea. Another one is having nomenclature objects. So that's essentially little figurines and ones like you could find at Micheal's or Target or stuff like that. Again, I've categorized different types of animals. Maybe you have sea animals out during the summer and, you know, mountainous animals out during the fall and or maybe creepy crawlies during the fall and mountainous during the winter and, you know, types of bugs during spring or something like that where you're rotating these different types of animals out as it applies during the season that they come out in or, you know, stuff like that. And again, driven by the child with the mobile child and then with the non-verbal child, you would take the activity out during their activity time and actually the nomenclature objects. Whereas some of my favorite objects to have out on the shelf, especially, you know, babies are so interested in the fun creature animals, you know, that they find out in nature and on their monastery shelf and having the traditional, you know, psycho sensory wooden Montessori materials is amazing.
Bianca: [00:08:21] And they will be driven to those at different moments. But I've seen so much interest in having the animals and the fruits and all of that out. You know, they just bring color and excitement to your shelf, you know? So definitely offering those is a good idea. I remember when I first started in Montessori, gosh, all those years ago, I obviously went in as an assistant. I entered as an assistant and was not a lead yet. And the Montessori teacher that I was working with, the lead teacher, had put out a basket like a small basket of sea creatures, and they were nomenclature objects that were actually larger. A lot of the times when you find them at Michael’s and Target, they're smaller. They come in these, you know, they're like three inches tall, you know, just smaller. She had this single basket of nomenclature objects and they were sea creatures and they were bigger. And so rather than being in a tiny basket on the shelf or a tiny tray on the shelf, they were in their own little solo basket next to the shelf on the floor. It was so cool and the crawling babies would crawl over and explore it. And it was just such a cool little basket.
Bianca: [00:09:35] And I remember thinking, you know, this is such a good idea. Definitely going to do this one day when I have a glass of my own. And I did so definitely recommend it. All of my babies loved it. So nomenclature objects a little figurines are a definite must for language opportunities for infants. You can also do language cards. The way to offer language lessons within Montessori is to offer the actual object first, label the object and then relate it to the photo. So the babies that I had in my Nido where anywhere from two and a half months to two years, and because I have that wide of a range, I offered a wide range of materials on the shelves that I had. And they, you know, all the materials were open to all of the children. So if they showed interest in it, I would just offer the lesson. And they were obviously both modeled the lesson by the teachers and the other children that were in the class. And yes, they were free to explore all the materials, including the language cards. And I found that, you know, a lot of my babies really loved gravitating toward the language cards. So that's another idea is to either make or buy your own language cards. Biggest tip that I can have as far as having Montessori language cards is having it be a real photo size appropriate and just the object with a white background, if you like, theming your Montessori shelves and keeping everything kind of on a similar rotation with similar inspiration.
Bianca: [00:11:09] That's really fun to do. And you can even, you know, coordinate and correlate your nomenclature objects a little figurines with the language cards that you're putting out. So it just totally depends on what you want to do with it. You can get creative with all the materials you're offering, but having just, you know, a basket of known objects on the shelf is an amazing language lesson opportunity. Having language cards out is an amazing opportunity for language. And then if you're able to match the real object to the photo, that's also another language lesson, opportunity and step. Now, those are the more traditional language lessons that you would find on a Montessori infant shelf. But there are a lot of different ways that you can offer lesson type experiences. So not as free flow as just talking, singing, reading, lesson type connected experiences with your babies throughout the day. One of those things is going outside and labeling things that you find or see, you know, with your baby. If you go on a daily walk and you notice your baby observing something, talk about it, label it, say it. Three times three is the magic number for language development. So say it three times, talk about it and then, you know, continue on and label something else.
Bianca: [00:12:29] Say, you know, they are observing the tree and then you find a pinecone and you you know, this is a pine cone, pine cone, you know, and let them watch your mouth and you know, as you're saying it, because that's the way that they acquire their language. So there are different ways that you can do it. And the outside experience, you can also do things like a label, food at the table. So when you're feeding them, you can talk about what it is that they're eating, what you guys are eating together. You can literally hold it, you know, and offer it to them as your labeling it so they can you know, when you watch you watch your mouth, have that back and forth connected experience, but you're purposely labeling this object so that they can learn it so that they can, you know, relate the word to the object. Another thing that you'll start to see is that your baby will begin to hand you things, whether it's intentionally with purpose or not, depending on the age of your child. That's another great opportunity to label what it is that they're handing you. Or if your baby's reaching toward something, you can label that these couple of ways are always to kind of hone in on objects and moments of purposeful labeling, which is a very Montessori language lesson moment.
Bianca: [00:13:49] One of the things that I love to do with the babies that I had in my Nido was go outside, put a quilt under the trees and have them do both tummy time and back time on the quilt. Actually this is just a little pro tip as far as tummy time goes, babies are naturally calmer outside. You know, they have the fresh air. There's all the natural nature sounds. And so trying tummy time outside, I mean, you can even bring a baby and try it on a baby, on a quilt outside. But trying tummy time outside is awesome because they're already more relaxed. So if your baby has a harder time with that, that's just one little inserted. Protip but while they're on their tummy, you can have something either ready, you can have a saying little nature basket with a leaf and pine cone and a stick and a flower and just stuff that you would find outside, maybe something that you can collect as they're laying there right around them. Or you can point to stuff depending on where your child's at in their development, if they're past the newborn few months old faves and they're able to see, you know, a little bit further than you can point to things that are near. It really just depends. But there are a lot of ways to incorporate, you know, Montessori, purposeful language lessons throughout your day depending on what you're doing.
Bianca: [00:15:15] So kind of circling back to the lessons that we would typically offer on the Montessori shelf. Let's go ahead and go over the general way. You would offer those lessons to an infant. So the first and most important thing is to find the right time with infants. They're most settled, as I'm sure most of you know. If you're listening to this Montessori babies podcast, they're most settled when their needs are met. So that would be not too sleepy, not too hungry. Fresh diaper. You know, needs are met, basic needs are met. So then they can really hone in on other things like language lessons. So step one is finding the right moment, the opportune moment, if you will, to offer any type of lesson to our babies. So once you've found the opportune moment, you'll go ahead and bring out the language lesson. And depending on the age and stage of your baby, if it's a non mobile baby, you would bring it out again when their needs are met. If it's a mobile baby, you will have just met their needs and maybe they're exploring their shelf. You just put out a new language lesson and they crawled over to the shelf and pulled off the basket. That's your moment. So go ahead and hone in on that. So sit with them in a way that they can observe both your mouth and the object for a mobile baby.
Bianca: [00:16:45] They're typically able to crawl and put themselves to a set unless there is slithering baby. And if they're slithering, baby, you may want to do something like lay on your belly too, so they can observe your mouth a little bit more. It just kind of depends or maybe even help them to a it if they are a stable sitter but can't quite put themselves to. Is that yet? It just kind of depends. But just be positioned in a way where they can observe your mouth, where you can grab objects and they can just look at the entire lesson. If it's a non mobile baby, then again, you're bringing out the language lesson and you can do it in a couple different ways. So you can do it on tummy time so you can do it where it's a new object and it's an exciting object. So it's something intriguing as your child is practicing being on their belly. So it's kind of a little bit of an incentive for them to push up and see what's going on. You know, you can do it on tummy time on the baby. So there's a little bit of space from the baby in the ground and you can put the objects in front of the baby so the child can observe them and then also have your face. Maybe you're laying on your belly so they can observe your mouth.
Bianca: [00:17:56] So that's a bit of an incentive for the tummy time. You know, having exciting activities while they're on their tummy is amazing. But then it's really easy to have them observe now and the object when they're on their back. So if, say, you know, they're laying on their movement mat on the floor and you're laying in front of them and a direct, you know, 45 degree angle and you're pulling things, objects, cards, whatever it is that you had on yourself out of the basket, labeling it a couple of times, letting your child explore it and then removing it and putting it back in the basket or, you know, once they let it go, kind of depending on the moment and the child. But I would just do your best to go object by object to hone in on the object, continue to label the object, talk about it, you know, describe it. And my biggest tip within that would just to be to really slow down your language and your movements within language lessons and all Montessori lessons, but especially language lessons with infants. You really want them to be able to observe the way that your mouth is moving, you know how you're articulating your word, because that's the way that they'll learn. So we want to really give them an every opportunity to absorb it at its fullest. Right. Kind of like I mentioned earlier in this episode, it's also wonderful to label it at least three times. Three is that language magic number.
Bianca: [00:19:23] So labeling it three times and then waiting for your child to respond is not only going to, you know, really encourage that learning of the word. So labeling the object, but also it's going to encourage that back and forth conversation between you and your baby because you're giving your baby a chance to respond and say they babble something back. That's first step to that responding via verbal language. And that's just the amazing thing about the infant brain, is when we just slow down and honor these moments of opportunity, that's how they start to learn that conversation and really practice and become confident in their vocal expression. So after you leave. The object three times, like I mentioned, let your child explore it a little bit and then move on to the next thing, so put that object back in the basket or to the side and let your child explore the next language object that you have available and do the same thing. Then let your child freely explore all the materials, you know, maybe labeling as they grab something. You can say, oh, you grabbed the orange, that's the orange, you know, and as there is still exploring it with their hands, you can take orange. You know, it may sound or feel silly repeating things so often, but repetition is just so amazing for language acquisition and really all types of learning.
Bianca: [00:20:48] But as far as these language lessons in infancy, the more opportunities that we give them to hear the word, the more opportunities they have to learn it. And so once your child is freely explore the basket, maybe you're labeling as they're grabbing things and exploring things. Once their interest is done, then you just put everything away inside the basket. You can even label as you're doing that, talk to them as you return it to the shelf or wherever it goes. And that's pretty much it. I do want to clarify, you know, as we're reaching the end of our episode, that language opportunities don't just look like Montessori language lessons. As I mentioned earlier in this episode and in my previous language episode, you can literally just be sitting there talking to your child about your day. You can sing to them as you're cooking dinner, or you can read to them in the morning and at night. And there are just so many beautiful ways to incorporate moments of language throughout the day. And essentially, the more words we give our baby, the more language and learning opportunities they'll have later on. There are a lot of studies that show that the amount of words a baby hears before the age of three does affect things like reading comprehension later on, which is just so amazing. You know, the more that we learn about the importance of infancy and toddlerhood and the rate at which their brain is developing, the more that we know that these moments and these opportunities for language and learning are so important.
Bianca: [00:22:25] So anyway, I hope that this episode was helpful to you and your baby and your Montessori practice and whether you're a parent working in the home, caregiver working in the home with somebody else's sweet baby or an educator working in a nido, I hope that these tips that I've learned along the way can somehow either benefit or inspire your Montessori practice. So, yeah, that's about it. I hope you guys enjoyed today's episode and I will catch you on our next one. Bye. 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, hop on over the babytourguide.com 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 @ babytourguide. 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.