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We've partnered with our friends at Monti Kids to empower families at home with the leading infant toddler curriculum: Montessori.


While many families don't become aware of Montessori until their children are school-aged, there are many benefits of using the Montessori philosophy at home, starting from birth.

The first three years of a child's life are arguably the most important in terms of development. "Eighty-five percent of the brain is formed by age three and these earliest years lay the foundation for all future learning," says Zahra Kassam, an internationally trained Montessori teacher and the founder of Monti Kids.

This is the time when children develop their sense of self and their sense of their place in the world. We want our children to emerge from infancy and toddlerhood feeling confident, independent and supported, and the Montessori approach can help parents achieve just that.

While using Montessori at home might sound daunting, especially in the already overwhelming time of welcoming a new baby into your family, there are a few very simple things you can do to begin using Montessori from birth and Monti Kids can make it even simpler.

Here's how to get started:

1. Create a development-centered nursery

Maria Montessori wrote that children three and under have an "unconscious absorbent mind." Babies do not need to consciously try to learn new things as they already absorb everything around them. Their environment becomes a part of who they are.

Because of the enormous impact of a baby's environment, it's important to put some thought into designing a room for them that isn't just cute, but supports them developmentally. Montessori nurseries are simple, orderly and aesthetically pleasing. They are beautiful, but also calm with plenty of open space and, ideally, natural light.

Two things that are done a little differently in a Montessori nursery are the sleeping area and the baby's play area: Many Montessori families opt for a floor bed rather than a crib—this can be as simple as a low firm mattress on the floor, although bed frames for floor beds are also available. This allows the baby to see their whole room with an unobstructed view and gives them the ability to get in and out of bed on their own once they start to crawl.

A baby's play space can simply be a simple rug or mat on the floor. You will often find a mirror on the wall as even young infants seem mesmerized by their own reflections. A mobile is generally hung above the baby's play area.

There is a specific progression of Montessori mobiles designed to follow newborns' developmental needs, progressing from simple black and white images to different shades of the same color as baby develops. A program like Monti Kids includes these beautiful mobiles in its Level 1 materials, as well as informative articles and videos to help you set up the ideal play space for your infant.

Montessori nurseries also use a low shelf to store baby's toys. This way, the baby can see the toys and become intrigued. They will eventually learn to roll, scoot, or crawl over and select a toy from the shelf on their own. Putting things within a child's reach is one of the ways that Montessori encourages independence, from birth all the way through school.

2. Communicate thoughtfully

From birth, infants are absorbing language. The way we communicate with our infants can have a real impact on their language development, as well as how they perceive themselves. There are a few things Montessori parents and teachers do differently when it comes to communication.

  • Tell the baby what you're doing: Even if it seems much too early for your baby to understand you, try telling them what you're doing, such as when you're going to change their diaper and talk to them about each step. Tell them you think they might be hungry and you're going to see if they want some milk. We don't know exactly when babies can understand what we're saying, but your baby will feel the respect you're showing them even before they can understand the words.
  • Ask permission: In the Montessori approach, we always ask permission before picking up a baby. We approach the baby from the front so that they can see us coming, rather than picking them up from behind. We might say, "you look tired, may I pick you up to bring you to your bed?" If you ask questions and wait for a response, you may be surprised at how soon your baby will respond in some way.
  • Use real words and rich details: Using rich language with your baby from birth is a great gift to your child. This is the time when she is listening closely, absorbing all of the language around her, so why not use the real words for things rather than simplified versions? Why not describe the view out your window in great detail so that they have the chance to hear beautiful language? The materials provided through Monti Kids offer interesting textures and colors, giving you lots of sensorial details to talk about with your baby.

3. Allow freedom of movement

Freedom of movement is a hallmark of Montessori classrooms, where children are free to walk around the room and sit where they please. This same principle applies to babies.

In the first year of life, learning to move and control their body is one of a baby's most important jobs. They are naturally driven to gain these new skills—to bring hand to mouth, to lift their head, to roll over. All we really have to do is get out of their way.

The Montessori approach does not use devices like swings and bouncy seats for babies, but instead gives them lots of free time on the floor to work on their growing skills. Helping you make the most of this floor time, Monti Kids deliveries include items like grasping toys to develop baby's hand muscles and textured balls that roll slowly, which encourage baby to start to scoot and crawl.

When a baby is learning to move, it's important to have a very safe space for them, likely their room, that is 100% child-proofed so they can begin to explore without being told "no" all of the time.

Montessori also supports natural gross motor development. We do not prop babies up in positions they can't yet reach on their own, such as sitting or standing. Letting them learn how to sit and stand and walk on their own gives them a great sense of confidence and pride in their achievements.

4. Support independent play

While we don't generally think of babies as independent, there are ways that you can support their developing independence as they grow, and one of these is providing independent play time.

Babies need lots of time with you being held and snuggled and loved, but they also benefit from time to play on their own. For an infant, this might mean playing in their play area while you sit nearby, simply watching.

Giving a baby time to take in the world without distraction gives them the sense that they can do things on their own—they'll let you know when they want to interact. As your baby grows, independent play might mean observing while they play with simple toys, fighting the urge to always play with them or show the "right" way to use something.

Montessori toys for babies are simple, made from natural materials and non-electronic. They are open-ended and meant to spark baby's curiosity and help her explore her emerging skills. Monti Kids deliveries even include short videos to guide you through how to introduce each new material, and then step back and observe your child making her own discoveries.

Many parents want to use Montessori at home, but it can feel complicated and intimidating. Monti Kids can help provide the scaffolding you need to use this philosophy at home, giving you confidence that you're supporting your baby's needs and raising a highly capable and independent child.

This article was sponsored by Monti Kids. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Christina is a Montessori teacher certified by the American Montessori Society. She currently stays home to take care of her son, James. She lives in Austin, Texas, and writes a blog, http://montessoriishmom.com, chronicling her journey through motherhood the Montessori way.

Monti Kids was founded by Zahra Kassam, an internationally certified Montessori teacher, who also holds a BA in Psychology and a Master's in Education, both from Harvard University. After becoming a mother, Zahra was frustrated that parents of newborns are left guessing how to support their baby's learning and development. To solve this problem, she created Monti Kids, a learning program for families at home based the Montessori method. Zahra leads a team of child development experts at Monti Kids' headquarters in Orinda, California, where she also resides with her two young children.


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My favorite part of every weekday is when I get home from work. As soon as I walk in the door, I hear a tiny voice scream, "Mommy, you're home!" Then my 3-year-old gives me the most amazing hug. Then a kiss. Then she grabs my hand and shows me whatever project she did in school. I always say, "I missed you today."

It's so different from my childhood.

My single Korean mother didn't get home from work until after 6 pm, so by the time she walked in the door, I was either doing homework in my room or out playing. If I was home, I'd yell a "Hi Mom!" and she would go into the kitchen to cook dinner. I knew she was tired, so I never bothered her. She rarely said a word.

I love being a mom, but it's profoundly difficult for me. I had to learn it was okay to openly express affection with my daughter. I have never felt like I deserve the overwhelming love she has for me, because I wasn't raised that way.

I love that my mother showed me how to be independent and instilled in me the value of hard work. But she was so focused on being strong that I often felt neglected. I just wanted to be loved by her.

Now that I'm a mother, I often think about how I'll raise my daughter differently than my mother raised me. It's not because I think she was a bad parent. I respect her more than anyone else in the world. I just want to make sure my daughter always feels loved.

1. I want my daughter to know it's okay to say, "I love you."

I don't ever remember my mother saying, "I love you" without me saying it first. I would hear the phrase in my friends' homes in daily conversation, and I thought it was strange.

In Jody Phan's 2016 article "Different Ways Asian Parents Show Their Love," she said her Asian parents never said it to her either. Soon, it became part of who she was, and it wasn't unnatural to not hear it.

I can say the same for me.

I tell my daughter I love her every day. Maybe it's selfish of me because I'm making up for lost "I love you's" my mother never gave me, but I like to think it makes her feel special.

2. I want my daughter to know it's okay to give hugs if she wants to.

The first time I met my best friend's family, everyone gave me a hug. When I tried to let go, they squeezed harder.

I never got random hugs from my mother. We didn't show physical affection.

In Mabel Kwong's 2014 post "When to Hug Someone. And Why Asians Don't Hug," she shares why it's a cultural thing. "In Asian cultures, getting touchy-feely with each other is frowned upon." For some Asians, it's also a way of getting dirty or catching germs, while others are just super aware of personal space.

I give my daughter massive bear hugs. The feeling of her tiny arms wrapped around my neck is something I never want to give up.

3. I want my daughter to know it's okay to have a sense of humor.

When I was younger, I remember sitting on the couch, shaking my leg. My mom said, "In Korea, they say if you shake your leg, you will shake all the luck out of your body."

She laughed loudly, and she never laughed when my brother and I told funny jokes. She was always so serious. In Elena Ruchko's article "Chinese Humor vs American Humor, and How to be Sarcastic," she says it's hard for non-Chinese people to understand Chinese humor because it's deep-rooted in cultural references that can't be translated effectively.

I see how I may not have understood her joke. I'm sure American humor, since English is not her native language, is just as confusing to her.

I make sure my daughter has deep-rooted belly laughs. It's usually when I'm dancing to the Trolls soundtrack. I want her to know laughter is the best medicine.

4. I want my daughter to know it's okay to cry.

The only time I saw my mother cry was by accident. I had walked into her room and she was sitting on the floor, weeping softly into her hands. When she heard me, she sat up and pretended nothing was wrong.

I didn't know how to react, so I walked away. I never brought that moment up because I know she would either deny it or feel embarrassed.

Was refusing to cry part of Asian culture? In Tia Gao's Medium article, "Why Chinese People Don't Cry," she says that for her parents, it was important for immigrants to maintain a positive outlook because "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger." And whenever she started to cry, her parents would brush it aside because they had suffered so much in the past.

I think my mother can relate. She had lived through the Korean War. She endured starvation. Both of her parents died when she was young. She married my father and moved to an unfamiliar country, only to raise two children alone.

She didn't have time to cry.

I tell my daughter it's okay to cry. Instead of bottling emotions deep inside, I let her know it takes more strength to let them out.

5. Finally, I want my daughter to know it's okay to talk about mental health.

Years ago, I had what I called my "early-life crisis." I went into a deep depression, was put on medication and started therapy.

I was terrified to tell my mother.

When I finally told her, she reacted how I expected: She refused to believe me. I needed "to get over it." And I felt as if I failed her. She had always been so strong and here I was, so weak. So, I hid my bouts of depression from everyone for years.

But I eventually learned not to be ashamed of my mental health. I also learned I'm not alone.

There's an insightful article by Ryan Tanap titled "Why Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders Don't Go to Therapy." It helped me see my mother's point of view: "There's an underlying fear among the Asian-American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community that getting mental health treatment means you're 'crazy.' If you admit you need help for your mental health, parents and other family members might experience fear and shame. They may assume that your condition is a result of their poor parenting or a hereditary flaw, and that you're broken because of them."

I don't blame my mother for refusing to believe I needed help. She had always denied her own need for help. But I want my daughter to know there is nothing weak about needing help, and there is immense strength when you finally ask for it.

There is nothing more beautiful or frustrating than being a mom. As much as I say I'm not like my mother, deep down I know I am. So I will take to heart everything I learned from her and try to be a good parent.

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Trigger warning: This essay describes a woman's emotional journey with losing a baby.

I'm used to being called names. I'm used to negative comments calling me fat, ugly and every name in between. That's life as a television news anchor—not everyone is going to like you. And that's okay. While I am good at brushing off the mean comments, when someone attacks my parenting, that's NOT okay.

I received a message that was not only hurtful, it brought me to tears, as my entire body began shaking. To the woman who called me sick because I talk about my children who died, my heart hurts for you.

As a mother who has experienced child loss, premature birth and infertility, I put my life out on full display. I write and share my family's story as a way to help others, all while getting the chance to share stories about all three of my triplets, even though two are no longer alive. Yes, the Internet can be filled with insensitivity, especially when I discuss topics that, even in 2019, are considered taboo. Most times, I can take the high road, but not today.

The woman called me "sick" for talking about my two children who passed. She told me to lay them to rest and move on, mentioning that I am dragging my husband and child through my "sick state of mind."

It's been five-and-a-half years since my triplets were born, and in all that time, never has a comment made me sick to my stomach. In the minutes after reading this message, so many emotions took over me. I wanted to yell at this woman. I wanted her to know how much words can hurt. And I wanted to know if she has ever lost a child. I tried to calm down, but that message kept coming back to me. I found myself awake throughout the night, quietly sobbing while my heart was racing and hurting at the same time.

I put my life out there on the Internet, so I have to realize that people are entitled to their opinion, even if it's negative. But here's the thing—If you've followed my family and our story for years, you would know that my life is not surrounded by grief and loss.

Social media is not an accurate view of a person's life. You only see snippets on Facebook and Instagram, and oftentimes, you only see the most glamorous, happy moments. I choose to show reality, and it's not always pretty. I share the heartbreaking moments of parenting children in both heaven and earth. Yet, I also show the wonderful moments of raising a daughter who is truly remarkable. If you've followed my story, you would know that I'm the happiest I've been in years. Yes, it's possible to find life after loss and it's possible for grief and happiness to coexist. My life doesn't revolve around grief, and no, I don't dwell over my losses every day.

My daughter is her own person, a unique individual full of joy and spunk. She will always know how special she is and we are constantly finding ways to celebrate her, along with remembering her brother and sister. Yes, my daughter is here. She's alive and present. But, I'm not going to forget that she was a triplet and I'm not going to hide the fact that I'm a mother to two angels above.

I woke up today, exhausted from a lack of sleep and worn out from the emotional toll of this cruel message I received. But, the more I think about it, the more I want to share. I have a unique platform through television and writing where I can be a voice for others. I can share the ups and downs of life and know that I am making a difference. If at least one person reads my words and feels like they are not alone, then it's worth it. For every one negative message I receive, I know that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of people around the world that can relate to my life.

Life has been difficult for my family at times, but we choose to look at the positive. The loss of two of my children is not a burden, I now choose to see it as a blessing. I would give anything to have them here today, but I've learned to find the good in our tragic situation. All three of my children have shaped who I am today. My children have taught me compassion, grace and kindness, all traits this cruel woman could learn from. It's tricky being a parent of child loss, but I'm doing the best that I can and I know all three of my children are proud of me.

Originally posted on Stacey Skrysak.

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Perinatal depression (defined as depression during pregnancy and the immediate postpartum period) happens to so many mothers, 1 in 7 of us, in fact. It can make pregnancy and early motherhood even harder than it needs to be and rob new mothers of a joyful time they were looking forward to.

And now, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) says there is a way to prevent perinatal depression in the moms who are most at risk. This week the USPSTF published guidelines calling on health care providers to identify at-risk women and connect them with cognitive behavioral therapy and interpersonal therapy.

These counseling interventions are effective in preventing perinatal depression, the USPSTF found, and, as The New York Times reports, the new guidelines mean the kinds of therapies that can prevent moms from becoming depressed with be covered under the Affordable Care Act.

Therapy can change and save lives, but it's often unaffordable. Now, more mothers will have access to it when they need it most.

👏👏👏

Any mom can develop perinatal depression, but certain women are more at risk. Those with a personal or family history of depression and those dealing with stressful circumstances like poverty, divorce, young or solo motherhood are at an increased risk. Past abuse or trauma, gestational diabetes, and experiencing an unplanned or complicated pregnancy also increase a mother's risk for depression during and after pregnancy.

Untreated, perinatal depression can have terrible outcomes for women, babies and families. A proactive approach—getting at-risk moms into therapy before depression hits—could actually prevent the disease and its personal and social consequences.

"We can prevent this devastating illness and it's about time that we did," Karina Davidson, a clinical psychologist and researcher who helped write the recommendations told NPR.

But it won't be easy to do that, says Harvard Medical School psychiatrist Marlene P. Freeman. In an editorial published alongside the USPSTF recommendations, Freeman points out that proactive intervention is a challenging task for the current health system. "Clinicians who provide obstetrical care may not have the expertise or time during clinical visits to perform assessments and tailor referrals to women who are identified," Freeman writes. "Availability and access to care present potential hurdles, and stigma presents another potential barrier for some women to seek and accept mental health care," she continues.

The system and our society are not currently set up to help get moms into cognitive behavioral therapy and interpersonal therapy, but maybe the adoption of these guidelines can change that over time.

Perinatal depression often goes untreated because mothers don't know how or when to ask for help. According to a 2017 study published in the Maternal and Child Health Journal, one in five new moms experiencing postpartum mood disorders doesn't disclose her symptoms to healthcare providers.

That's why the American Academy of Pediatrics released its own depression guidelines in late 2018, urging pediatricians "incorporate recognition and management of perinatal depression into pediatric practice."

If health care providers do what both the USPSTF and the AAP suggest, American mothers could have doctors looking out for their mental health at every stage of the perinatal journey.

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