Recently, I wrote about the items that my family really considers to be baby essentials. Today, I want to talk about something pretty specific pertaining to that list. The reason I put the baby essentials list together is because I’ve been seeing a lot of long, overflowing baby essentials lists with tons of baby containing items that you need to buy – from jumperoos to swings to bouncy chars to baby walkers. In this article, I want to share why you don’t need to use these items, why you should be avoiding baby gear, what you could do instead, and what the Montessori perspective is on this.
Why you should be avoiding baby gear
Natural (gross motor) development
From a Montessori perspective, whenever it comes to baby’s development, we should follow their lead. The problem with objects like walkers, jumperoos, or using pillows to sit up baby’s before they have done so on their own is that it places baby in an unnatural position for their bodies. This is because these items put baby in a position that he or she otherwise would not be ready to be in at the time. This can cause stress to their bodies and discomfort.
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.
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 baby. I encourage you to ask your own doctors 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.
For our family, we really didn’t use these objects with Y. He 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! Of course, this also meant we had to baby proof the house to keep him safe, but it was definitely worth it!
With baby N, it has been a challenge for me to provide the same opportunities because I am now paralysed (Y was born before I was injured). This has led to some creative solutions, but it has really been worth it. She’s so strong, curious, and busy on the go!
Healthy development and positioning
Aside from freedom of movement, the big reason that we avoided all of these contraptions is because we wanted to encourage our son 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.
A lot 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, pediatricians, etc.
For us, we really just wanted to let Y explore the world around him in his own way. Of course, there were times I needed to go to the bathroom or place him down as a baby. For these instances, we did use a pack and play for a while. With baby N, I do this, as well. You could also set up a “yes space” for your baby, where everything is baby proof and safe. If you have this space where you feel comfortable leaving baby alone, this is a great option. For my family, I don’t mind “containing N in a pack and play while I do go the bathroom for 5 minutes. I feel more comfortable, and I suggest you do exactly that – find what you feel comfortable and safe with.
Even before we knew anything about the Montessori approach to raising children, we really just wanted to do what was best for our child. Y seemed happiest when he was able to get around on his own, and we loved seeing his progress in reaching milestones when he was ready!
More Montessori baby articles
Curious about how to set up a Montessori baby space? Checkout our article about Creating a Montessori Baby Space.
Read about our resources for Montessori babies and useful ideas on this page.
You can read about the differences between Montessori Weaning versus Baby Led Weaning.
Here are some great ideas for setting up a Montessori weaning space.
Breastfeeding can be a difficult process. This article has several ideas for helping moms to breastfeed!
This simple DIY can create such a fun movement activity for babies.
Respecting babies is important even if they are so young. How we talk to them and how we treat them has so much value!
This article contains several ideas for activities for babies to help them explore senses.
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