Montessori discovered the role of hand in developing intelligence. She saw hand as an educational tool that is undeveloped at the time of birth. New neurological studies now validates Montessori’s findings. At the time of birth, a newborn can only use his hands to feel the texture and sensation of his thumb. This is just enough information for his developing brain. The hand and the brain should work in harmony. The hand reports to the brain, the brain guides the hand and this loop continues resulting in the development of brain and the function of hand.
Maria Montessori said “never give the mind more than you give to the hands”. Montessori believed if the hand is not developed in unity with the brain, the undeveloped hand holds the brain back. That is why she introduced a hands on approach to education.
In the first two months of a baby’s life, he does not have intentional grasp. His arm and hand work as one unit as he is yet not able to bend his wrist. The myelination of nerve fibers that control the wrist are not fully developed yet therefore, this intentional grasp is biologically impossible. If the hand is not developed for intentional grasp, an adult should place the item in the child’s hand, he may let it go before he has gained enough information from that item. similarly, if he has developed intentional grasp but is not given the opportunity to grasp materials, his brain is held back from gaining information. This is an example that brain and hand should work in harmony. When the baby is capable of grasping, we give them objects to explore. That is why at this time we introduce mobiles that the child can hold and explore (e.g. bell on a ribbon/ ring on a ribbon) rather than mobiles that are hung just for visual development. Here the child is the source of movement of the object not an adult or a machine. He learns that his movement affects the objects yet he gains understanding of the cause and effects.
One very important thing is to remember is to give your child as much time as they need to explore an item. Giving too many items rapidly to the child’s hand affects their concentration and doesn’t allow them to gain enough information from that particular object. One thing we need to keep in mind is to be aware of the infants’ capabilities at each stage of her development, providing suitable materials that are serving a purpose. We need to constantly observe the child to this purpose. What else could be important in parent’s life than assisting the development of concentration and intelligence of the human being that they have conceived.
This post is my understanding of the relationship between development of hands and brain as discovered by Maria Montessori. For a detailed and more in depth understanding of this concept I highly recommend to study chapter 4 of the Montessori from the start book as I have shown here.
Here, I have purchased a few new items for S to explore which I believe are right for her at this stage.
Twisty moby, it is easy to hold and grab, can be manipulated and twisted. The rings create sound and movement, good for hand-eye coordination.
This bright wooden rattle is perfect for little hands, features a bell to provide sensory stimulation.
Bell and ball cylinder, light to lift and shake, rolls away on the floor, providing encouragement for movement.
small egg maracas, easy to hold and shake, and cymbals with wooden handles are easy to hold. both create sound, not too loud so great to use at a young age.
S is now almost 7 months old, she has been working with these materials for the past 6 weeks. She still is very much engaged when working with them. The interest is still there but I think its time to introduce some new materials to her. I will share her new toys in another post later on.