In this article, I want to share why you don’t need to use many baby items (from jumperoos to swings to bouncy chars to baby walkers), what you could do instead, and what the Montessori perspective is on this.
Movement is extremely important, especially for infants. According to Montessori, infants have a sensitive period for gross motor development. Parents can encourage these skills by making sure that their babies have ample opportunity to explore and are not restricted in their movements. Avoiding baby gear provides babies with these opportunities.
Avoiding baby containing devices
Natural Gross Motor Development
From a Montessori perspective, whenever it comes to baby’s development, we should follow their lead. Walkers, jumperoos, or pillows that put baby in a sitting position before they have done so on their own place babies in an unnatural position for their bodies. This is because these items put baby in a position that they otherwise would not be ready to be in at the time. This can cause stress to their bodies and discomfort.
Having the ability to practice standing up on their own (using a coffee table or couch, for example), your baby is gaining muscle strength, developing their coordination, and stimulating their brains. Babies’ brains are learning to give signals to various body parts and allowing for smoother movements. Placing baby in a standing position in a jumperoo before she or he has learned to stand and pull up on his own may even discourage them from learning to do so on their own.
Babies will sit, stand, and walk when they are ready for it – when their muscles are strong enough and their brains can send signals to their limbs. If we are frequently restricting their movements (by not providing enough opportunity for free exploration) or if we place them into these positions before their muscles are strong enough, then it could be that we are limiting their development rather than encouraging it.
Our pediatrician very clearly said that these items can even lead to improper bone development and can really be damaging to their hips. I encourage you to ask your own doctors/care providers about this to be fully informed.
By placing a baby in a walker, their movement is being restricted and limiting their natural ability to explore. But how? It seems like a walker would allow a baby to ‘walk’ and move around the room before they can actually walk.
Yes, in theory, but it does not allow a child to reach objects that they want to touch, explore, and handle. Jumperoos and stationary toys like this prevent crawling and movement more obviously.
Remember, freedom of movement is a very important aspect of Montessori philosophy and baby development! When a child has the ability to move around on their own, reach objects they want, and do things for themselves, this encourages confidence and independence. It’s truly a beautiful process!
For our family, we really use these objects with our babies. For example, our oldest learned to stand up by using the coffee table in our living room and loved navigating around it for a little while before letting go! He took his first steps around 10-11 months old and there was no stopping him!
Healthy development and positioning
We want to encourage our children to naturally feel the movements of walking, standing, sitting etc. What I mean is that these types of contraptions place the baby into a particular position that allows them to stand or ‘walk’. However, this positioning is not the natural way that our bodies move, nor would it be the natural way that babies would learn to do so on their own.
Many of these toys have the child hanging, with toes barely touching the ground. When the child then ‘walks’ or jumps, they do so only by placing pressure on their toes rather than the entire foot. This can contribute to poor posture and toe walking later, especially if babies are in these toys for extended periods of time.
Our health care providers also advised against them due to a risk for causing damage to hip development. However, for more information on this, please, seek the advice of your own health care providers, paediatricians, etc.
We really just wanted to let our babies explore the world around them in their own way. Of course, there were times I needed to go to the bathroom or place them down as babies. For these instances, we did use a “box” (a wooden, rectangular space that’s wider than a crib). You could also set up a movement area for your baby, where everything is baby proof and safe.
Dr Montessori believed that children should be allowed to experience and develop their gross motor skills naturally. This means providing an environment that enables crawling, rolling, pulling up, and eventually walking without excessive interference or assistance. Montessori believes that such unimpeded movement is crucial for a child’s physical development, self-confidence, and the development of their sense of autonomy and mastery over their body.