In Episode 17, we talk all about the Child Development and Montessori perspectives of supporting the Development of Concentration in our sweet Babies!
We discuss things like...
For more info on the current research on TV and screen time for infants and toddlers, click here.
If you're interested in listening to our episode about daily language and music opportunities with babies, click here.
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Bianca A. Solorzano, M.Ed.
Host of the Montessori Babies Podcast
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 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: [00:00:38] Hi, everyone, welcome to Episode 17 of our Montessori Babies podcast. So this week we are talking about ways that we can support the development of concentration with our sweet babies. And so before I jump into that, I want to first start by thanking you wonderful parents and educators and caregivers who are all just so wonderful and working with our infants. And to everyone who's been reaching out, thank you so much. I love getting to know everyone. And I'm so, so grateful that we get to all join in on the wonderful world of babies. So I definitely wanted to start a discussion on focus and concentration and what this looks like in infancy. And so to start our episode, I want to go ahead and read a quote from the amazing Dr. Maria Montessori, who said, “The first essential for the child's development is concentration. It lays the whole basis for his character and social behavior. He must find out how to concentrate. And for this, he needs things to concentrate upon. This shows the importance of his surroundings. For no one, acting on the outside can cause him to concentrate. Only he can organize his psychic life.” That quote is from her famous book, The Absorbent Mind, and if you've read the absorbent mind, you know, it was translated from Italian. And so some of the ways that things are phrased are initially Italian, translated to English later on. But essentially, Dr. Montessori focuses on the development of concentration in a really, really unique and beautiful way and unique from a lot of other child development theorists.
Bianca: [00:02:23] And this topic is super, super interesting and one that I found is truly essential to working with babies and toddlers and kind of understanding how babies turn into toddlers and how we can just help facilitate and optimize all of that throughout their development. And so I have compiled my eight best tips to having babies develop concentration, and I am so excited to share them with you. So jumping into number one, the first tip that I have is labeled minimizing their toys. And I know I've spoken about this before and they're kind of different ways to approach it. But essentially less is more when it comes to the toys that we give our babies. And I mean this from, you know, a simplistic standpoint. So, you know, the types of materials that we're offering. So the big light up, big sound, that kind of thing type of toy is really attractive to the infant, but it does a lot of the work for them. So you say, you know, the main objective is pressing that button or, you know, opening and closing the slot box so the little pig makes a sound or, you know, that kind of thing. It doesn't require much beyond that for the child to kind of hone in on, you know, what this material does or, you know, trying to figure it out because they have that innate will to figure out what their world is about.
Bianca: [00:03:53] Right? And so if we give them kind of the more simple self-correcting type materials or even ones that they can just explore with their hands that make natural sounds or make sounds when they move it, so they're learning to transform their environment, stuff like that, then we're really offering that next level of concentration because, you know, the child is working to do something with it. Right. And something extra. And so as far as the less is more so that applies to the toy itself, but also the amount of toys. So if you think about it, if we offer a material, say you offer the object permanence box. Right. And so you're working with your child on that box, but they're surrounded by, you know, all other stuffed animals, say a couple light up toys over there when we offer this simpler box that they're working to figure out, but they're surrounded by a bunch of other toys and materials and, you know, other exciting things as well. It is a lot harder for them to kind of focus and hone in on that one material because our babies are hardwired to learn about their world. So they're excited about everything. So if we're surrounding them with a bunch of things to be excited about, they will be excited about all of those things, you know? So it's it's really helpful if we limit those materials, focus on that toy rotation, you know, put out materials into their toy area on their shelf or however you organize their space that, you know, really do interest the child.
Bianca: [00:05:24] And then just doing that rotation really helps facilitate that interest. And then honing in on that concentration, because there's that less is more a type idea that goes along with it. And so jumping into my second point, I labeled this one as minimizing their space. And this kind of goes along the same guidelines, the same idea as the minimizing their toys idea. And so within minimizing their space, one of the reasons I love Montessori is that she really looked at 100 percent of everything that affects the child. And one of those was the environment. And I'm sure, you know, if you've heard about Montessori before, you know that a whole big piece of it is the prepared environment and setting up their space in a particular way that helps the child, you know, trust the space and work with the space and things of their size. And, well, one of the ideas behind the prepared environment is a simple, beautiful environment as well. And that's because if there's a lot of, you know, bright colors and chaos on the walls and on the floors, those types of things are competing with the materials that we're offering. So, again, our babies are hard wired to really learn and explore everything going on their space.
Bianca: [00:06:44] And we know that they're attracted to those bright, beautiful colors and, you know, the lights and the shiny things and all of that. And so one thing to keep in mind is that having those things. All over their space can lead to a lot of stimulation and therefore competing for their attention, right. Whereas settling the colors, that's why you'll see a lot of the natural types of colors and woods and simple designs and isolated pictures and stuff like that in Montessori, because kind of that less is more approach is taken in Montessori. So you're really settling and minimizing the space. So there are toys and materials and all of the stuff that we want them to be drawn to is really what they're mainly drawn to within the space, naturally, and then even within their materials will find their interests in all of that as they guide themselves in that kind of thing. So and fun little fact. One thing that I learned when I was studying and just basic child development was this idea of, you know, the less is more simple, beautiful environments type approach is actually really helpful to all ages as far as concentration goes, but also within infancy, the development of concentration and kind of laying that foundation. It's important to know for that, but also for toddlerhood, for preschool age, as far as the amount of stuff and amount of, you know, I guess what's going on in every which area within their environment, basically less is more when it comes to that concentration and helping our kids really focus on, you know, what we're hoping that they can focus on.
Bianca: [00:08:25] OK, so now segueing into point number three. One way to really help with that development of concentration in infancy is having them choose their own materials so this can look like a directed choice at really any age and as a younger baby. So as a, you know, say three month old, for example, when they're just, you know, using those two hands and coordination and that kind of thing, when we're offering, say, a choice between two grasping materials, they're grasping or they're reaching toward what they're just innately drawn to. Right. And so we'll be able to just kind of lay that foundation of offering those choices and talking to them about what they chose and, you know, watching how they explore it and talking to them about that and, you know, that kind of thing. But it'll look very similar to the shelf that you put out when your child's mobile or they're slithering and they're slithering on over to the shelf or crawling over or walking over to the shelf and choosing their own material. So before that, you're laying that foundation by offering choices between a couple of things that we have out for them. And then later on, it looks like, you know, very much that child led Montessori environment.
Bianca: [00:09:42] And when we have a child who's driven by his own interest, that is just optimal for that development of concentration. Right. Because they're using that innate will that they already have to learn about their world to help them drive themselves to the materials. They're manipulating it with their hands and they're learning about it. And when we offer that lesson, there's ways that we can approach it to help hone in on aspects even within the materials that they are drawn to. And we'll talk about that in just one second is another one of my points. But basically just offering these choices and having the choices be driven by the child even as soon as when they're able to reach is just a great way to set that foundation of, you know, this learning is driven by them. You know, the learning is driven by the child. OK, so that point that I was talking about, so the little things that we can focus on within the lessons or within the materials that can hone in on the child's concentration is a Montessori term, and it's called points of interest. And this is something that we actually really focused on in our Montessori training. And so points of interest are essentially either pieces or moments within the Montessori lesson that you're offering that are really naturally attractive to the child. So, for example, this can be the sound of the ball dropping. For example, when you drop it into the track or the sound that the wooden bar makes on the wooden tracker when it's rolling down and drops rolling down and drops, you know, it can be the water drips from the sponge when you're teaching them to wipe the table.
Bianca: [00:11:33] It can be the sound of the rattle. It can be the sound of the rice pouring if you do, you know, pouring type activities or if you do transferring type activities on your Montessori shelf and you have say, you know, two of those metal pitchers, the sound of a rice pouring into the other metal picture is attractive to infants, so stuff like that, where it's moments within the lesson that can really help hone in on that concentration because it's exciting or there's water drips or there's sounds and you know, and sometimes, you know, if there's other stuff going on and you're really trying to, you know, help foster that excitement about this lesson, I mean, you can approach it also and really emphasize those points of interest. You know, talk about the water dripping, talk about the sound or, you know, the rice pouring into the metal tin or stuff like that. So essentially, these sensory type experiences that are babies are naturally drawn to within their environment are ways that we can help facilitate and hone in on these purposeful lessons that we're offering them. And so my fifth point is to slow down and give our own attention and interest to the material or lessons or experiences that we're offering.
Bianca: [00:12:56] And this kind of jumps back to that our babies learn from us in our modeling and all of that that we talked about a lot last week as well. I know basically because they learn from our modeling, if we slow down in these moments and do exactly what we're trying to teach our babies, they're a lot more likely to see, you know, an example of how to do it and therefore do it themselves. So, for example, if even taking this out of the Montessori lesson context, even something like walking outside, so say you're going on a walk outside with your baby and the wind starts to blow, which I love, love, love that face. You know, the babies make when they feel the breeze on their face for the first time. You know, it's like a wave of amazing sensory stimulation and you know that Mother Nature is ever so kindly provided. So in that moment, when you describe how you can listen to the leaves blow or feeling that wind on your face and you're talking about it and you're paying attention to it and, you know, talking about that being that joyful, you know, wow, the wind type experience, that type of moment adds up, you know, as far as that development of concentration goes, because you're helping your child hone in on one thing, kind of focus on this one thing that's happening.
Bianca: [00:14:19] So just something as simple as that can help on that longer term development of concentration. And taking that into the lesson setting, if you're offering a lesson on something you can talk about and really yourself focus on those points of interest and it might be something different from child to child, you know, whereas, for example, within, you know, the wiping the table lesson, there's a really formal wiping the table lesson. But I also loved to give as soon as my babies would start drinking from an open cup, which is typically as soon as they started their, you know, their weaning journey and they're able to use those two hands in coordination and bring it to their mouths. I would have a little tiny rag next to them. So if it did spill, I would be modeling how to wipe it up. And for some babies, you know, the water experience that feel of the water or the sound of the water, you know, dripping onto the floor, that was most interesting, whereas for others it was the feel of the sponge or the rag that I had, you know, so they might differ from child to child. But as a general concept, if you're honing in on these different points of interest in the different pieces of the lessons that you're offering, your child will be able to see that as well and therefore focus on that as well. So my sixth point is essentially a tip, and that's as often as you can, as often as possible, which I know it isn't always, but as often as possible focus on one thing at a time and then make a point to complete the task.
Bianca: [00:15:50] And so that's something that I was taught and I want to say training and something that was also valid in the developmental world, which was even if your child isn't, you know, developmentally ready to put their grasping toy back in the basket and then back in their play area on their shelf, or again, however you set up their materials, if you're modeling it, if you're modeling that completion and just showing them how you can just finish this one thing, then as they come into higher levels of consciousness, as they're developing, as they're growing, they're seeing that. And then you start to include them as developmentally appropriate. And then that also helps kind of hone in on, you know, the impulse control type things, too, because there's so many interesting things in their world, in their environments, you know. So when we help them focus on completing a task and that one thing that they're working on, we're really helping them with their development of concentration in that sense and kind of an extension on the same test if you are taking turns within. These experiences, so obviously as appropriate, right, so if you're outside and you're both feeling the wind on your face and or you're blowing bubbles or, you know, you're doing something fun, that's more of a group activity that everybody can do at the same time, then this extension to this tip wouldn't really apply.
Bianca: [00:17:12] But if you're doing a more traditional Montessori lesson and sticking with that object permanence box, for example, if you're showing them how to do it and they're reaching for it and you just show them how to do it and you just, you know, you say something like watch. And then they grab toward the ball and you just say, OK, my turn, I need you to wait my turn. And then you just show them how to do it right. So you're showing them the grasp. You're showing them how to release it into it. You're showing them how it comes out, and then you grasp it again. And then, you know, you show them the whole entire lesson and then you say, OK, it's your turn. You're really honing in on that impulse control. They're so interested and excited and ready, you know. So that's another way to help them learn and extend those moments of concentration, because we're really just extending that moment of interest while also helping them with, you know, learning about that turn, taking in that kind of thing. And that's something that I actually did quite often in my class. Everything was very childbed. So when the child was working on the material, I would never take it from them, you know, to do something like that.
Bianca: [00:18:16] But if they went to the shelf and they weren't quite working with it yet and I noticed it before it happened and it's something, you know, a lesson that they hadn't had. For example, I would walk over and just say, I can show you how to do this. Let's walk over here, you know, let's pull this off the shelf, roll out the rug or, you know, whatever the material was or whatever the situation was. And then I would just show them the list and give them a lesson. Watch, watch. You know how this goes like this or the language activity or whatever. And then at the very end or within it, depending on the material, I'm giving them turns, you know. So if it's typically the tiny baby lessons, it's very short. Just showing the grasp a couple of seconds of me showing them how to do it and then they have a turn. Whereas when it becomes, you know, the bigger lessons, when the child's a little bit more mobile or it's more of a language lesson and that kind of thing, that's more of that back and forth within the lesson. And then eventually the child works on it on their own. And and so, yeah. So for my seventh point, as far as supporting development of concentration, I want to lightly touch on TV and we will get into, you know, the TV discussion and its own episode.
Bianca: [00:19:31] It definitely deserves its own episode. But just touching on it as far as the development of concentration goes, it is one of those controversial topics in infancy, basically because our babies are born into technological societies. There's still a lot of research coming out about it. We know right now the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no TV time under two, but there is more and more research on this topic each year. And we'll get into, you know, like I said, a larger TV discussion at a later time for sure. But in relation to what we do know about the infant brain and how it develops, I want to just say that research does show our babies need to physically explore their world through their senses and have those, you know, back and forth interactions with their attached caregivers to learn optimally and support every area of development. So cognitive language, social, emotional, fine motor, gross motor. And we know our babies and toddlers are so attracted to bright lights and fun sounds. And so it does make sense that when the TV is on, they would be so into it. You know, but we do know that the research shows that up until between 18 and 24 months, depending on the child, their brain isn't quite ready for the information processing because they're still making sense of their world. So basically, when we keep the TV off, for the most part, we're offering amazing opportunities for our babies to explore their world and develop that focus and concentration on whatever it is that they're working on, whether they're exploring the beautiful Montessori shelf that has been set up for them, a gorgeous book corner with those comfy inviting pillows and a soft rug or even a small basket of kitchen utensils that you're crawling baby can explore when you're making dinner.
Bianca: [00:21:18] You know, all of those are so amazing to helping your baby develop concentration. And so that was just something I wanted to mention so that we can keep that in mind as we live our day to day lives with our sweet babies. And my last tip is actually one that I have spoken about quite a bit. I know, but it's all about reading and singing every day. So those slower moments where you're connected, you're having that back and forth, connected language experience and your baby is really honed in on this inner. And that you're having you are developing their concentration within that interaction and kind of like I mentioned in the music episode that we had, which I will link below for you. There are ways to help maintain our baby's interest as we're singing or as we're reading. And so having those moments of purposeful language also really, really helps develop concentration. And so when you have your little book basket or your bookshelf where you rotate their books and they're also driven to, you know, choose what book that they want or say you have a special when you read every day before bedtime or, you know, whatever, whatever it is.
Bianca: [00:22:34] In that sense, it's driven by the child connected experience and also helps develop that concentration. So these are all just things to keep in mind as far as how concentration is developed, what we can do to help optimize it. You know, they're born with this amazing innate inner will to learn about their world and their brain is ready to absorb it. And that's why everything from how we fell and set up their environment, how we move within it, will affect how our baby develops to concentration. And so I want to end on another amazing quote from Dr. Montessori, and that is, “The first essential for the child's development is concentration. The child who concentrates is immensely happy.” I thought that was the most beautiful quote to end this show. I want to give a huge, huge thank you to everybody who has been journeying with us through the world of baby development and Montessori and optimizing our baby development within our Montessori lifestyle. And I am just so grateful for our growing wonderful community. And I am so, so, so excited for our next episode. Episode 18 is an announcement episode, and so stay tuned for Episode 18 because we will be announcing something big. Thank you again for listening to Episode 17 of our Monastery Babies podcast, and I will catch you in Episode 18 bye!
Bianca: [00:24:06] 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 infant 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 your review to help other parents and educators find our show. Thanks again for listening and I will catch you in the next episode bye!