Can Montessori Be Used With Newborns?

Written by Dan

As new parents, we constantly search for the best methods to aid our little ones’ development. One of these methods that has gained considerable attention is the Montessori method.

But can this educational approach, typically associated with older children, be used with newborns?

This might seem like a far-fetched idea, but it’s worth exploring. In this article, we will delve into the world of Montessori, its principles, and how it can potentially be applied to the youngest members of our society: newborns.

So, whether you’re a parent, an educator, or simply someone interested in early childhood development, join us as we explore the possibility of Montessori for newborns.

Understanding the Montessori Method

The Montessori Method was developed by Maria Montessori, an Italian physician and educator, in the early 20th century.

This educational approach was born from her research with children from diverse socio-economic backgrounds. It emphasizes independence, freedom within limits, and respect for a child’s natural psychological development.

Maria Montessori believed that each child is born with a unique potential to be revealed rather than as a “blank slate” waiting to be written upon.

Her main objective was to help children everywhere reach their maximum learning potential while becoming well-balanced individuals able to cope with the pressures of modern-day life.


There are several fundamental principles of the Montessori approach :

  1. Child-Centered Environment: The Montessori environment is designed to meet the needs, abilities, interests, and developmental stages of the children in the class.
  2. Autoeducation (Self-Directed Learning): Children are seen as the active agents of their learning, exploring and interacting with the materials in the environment with guidance and support from the teacher.
  3. Sensitive Periods: Montessori identified specific periods of sensitivity to particular types of learning, and the environment is prepared to respond to these periods.
  4. Prepared Environment: The teacher carefully prepares the classroom to encourage independence, freedom, and the opportunity for discovery and exploration.
  5. Role of the Teacher: The Montessori teacher acts more as a guide or facilitator, observing and supporting the natural development of each child rather than being the centre of attention and the primary source of information.

As we’ll explore in the following sections, understanding these principles can help illuminate how this method might be applied to newborns.

Montessori and Early Childhood Development

The importance of early childhood development cannot be overstated. From birth to age five, a child’s brain develops more than at any other time.

During these formative years, children acquire social, emotional, cognitive, and physical skills that lay the foundation for future learning and well-being.

Research indicates that early experiences significantly impact brain structure, establishing the neural connections that shape future cognitive, social, emotional, and health outcomes.

This underscores the need to provide enriching, stimulating environments for young children – where the Montessori method comes into play.

Montessori principles align remarkably well with the developmental stages of early childhood. Here’s how:

  1. Child-Centered Environment: Children are innately curious and eager to explore their surroundings from birth. A Montessori environment, designed around the child’s needs and interests, fuels this curiosity and encourages active learning.
  2. Auto education (Self-Directed Learning): Even as infants, children display an inherent desire for autonomy. Montessori respects this drive for self-directed learning, providing opportunities for children to explore and learn at their own pace.
  3. Sensitive Periods: Maria Montessori identified specific ‘sensitive periods’ in early childhood when children are particularly receptive to learning particular skills, such as language or motor skills. Recognizing and responding to these sensitive periods can optimize a child’s learning potential.
  4. Prepared Environment: A carefully prepared environment can stimulate a child’s senses, promote exploration, and support their developing motor skills. For newborns, this might mean providing a variety of textures to touch, objects of different shapes to grasp, or visually stimulating items to look at.
  5. Role of the Teacher: In a Montessori setting, the adult’s role is to observe and respond to the child’s needs rather than directing their activities. This respect for individual development can foster a sense of security and confidence in young children.

The next section will delve deeper into how these principles can be explicitly applied to newborns.

Applying Montessori Principles to Newborns

The question of adapting Montessori principles for newborns is not a new one, and evidence suggests that it’s not only possible but also beneficial for the baby’s development. Here’s how we can apply these principles to newborns:

  1. Child-Centred Environment: This could create a safe and engaging space where newborns can explore their surroundings. This could include a mobile with different shapes and colours to stimulate visual tracking or a variety of textures to touch.
  2. Auto education (Self-Directed Learning): Even newborns can exercise some choice. For example, offering two toys and allowing the baby to reach for the one that interests them most promotes self-directed learning.
  3. Sensitive Periods: The earliest sensitive period identified by Maria Montessori is the acquisition of language. Speaking regularly to your newborn, singing songs, and reading books can all support this critical developmental stage.
  4. Prepared Environment: Prepare an environment that encourages free movement and exploration. Avoid confining devices like bouncers and instead use a soft blanket on the floor with interesting objects just within reach.
  5. Role of the Teacher: Be attentive and responsive to your baby’s needs, helping to create a healthy attachment. Observe their interests and adapt to the environment accordingly.

Practical examples of Montessori-inspired activities for newborns can range from simple everyday interactions to more specific tasks. Here are a few:

  • Communicate Thoughtfully: Talk to your baby about what you’re doing, whether changing their diaper or preparing a meal. This supports language development and makes the child feel involved.
  • Encourage Free Movement: Allow plenty of tummy time and freedom to move. This aids in physical development and fosters independence.
  • Introduce Varied Environments: Let your baby experience a variety of settings, from a sunny window to the sound of a bustling kitchen. This stimulates their senses and introduces them to the world around them.
  • Provide Stimulating Materials: Offer toys and objects of different textures, shapes, and colours to engage with. This promotes sensory development and curiosity.

Remember, these are just guidelines. Each child is unique, so watching your baby’s cues and adapting as needed is essential.

Benefits and Challenges of Montessori for Newborns

Applying Montessori principles to newborns can offer numerous benefits, but, like any approach, it also comes with its challenges and considerations.

Potential Benefits of Using Montessori Principles with Newborns:

  1. Stimulates Cognitive Development: The Montessori method encourages exploration and discovery, which can stimulate cognitive development from an early age.
  2. Promotes Independence: The Montessori method can foster independence by allowing newborns to make choices and explore their environment.
  3. Supports Physical Development: The emphasis on free movement can support physical development, including motor skills and coordination.
  4. Enhances Sensory Skills: Providing materials with different textures, colours, and shapes can improve sensory skills and curiosity.
  5. Fosters a Love for Learning: The Montessori method’s focus on self-directed learning can foster a lifelong love for learning.

Possible Challenges and Considerations:

  1. Requires Time and Patience: Creating a Montessori environment and observing the child’s reactions requires time and patience. This may be challenging for busy parents or those with multiple children.
  2. Needs Regular Adaptation: As your child grows and their interests change, the environment must be adapted accordingly. This requires continuous observation and flexibility.
  3. Can Be Misunderstood: The Montessori method is based on respect for the child’s autonomy, sometimes misunderstood as a lack of discipline or structure.
  4. May Not Suit Every Child: While many children thrive in Montessori, it may not suit every child. It’s essential to consider your child’s individual needs and personality.

Despite these challenges, many parents find the benefits of the Montessori method outweigh the potential difficulties.

Careful consideration and adaptation can provide a rich, engaging environment that supports your newborn’s development.

Expert Opinions

Gathering insights from early childhood educators and Montessori experts can provide valuable perspectives on applying Montessori principles to newborns.

Dr. Maria Montessori, the founder of Montessori education, once said: “The first essential for the child’s development is concentration. The child who concentrates is delighted.”1

Renowned Montessori expert Angeline Stoll Lillard, author of “Montessori: The Science Behind the Genius,” argues that the Montessori method is scientifically sound.

She states, “In Montessori, children make creative choices in their learning, while the classroom and the teacher guide the process.

Children work in groups and individually to discover and explore knowledge of the world and to develop their maximum potential.”2

Tim Seldin, President of the Montessori Foundation, emphasizes the importance of the prepared environment in Montessori education.

He says, “The Montessori-prepared environment ensures children can choose and carry out their activities at their own pace.”3

While there are many theoretical insights, real-life experiences can also be illuminating.

For example, a case study featured on the American Montessori Society website discusses how one family successfully implemented Montessori principles with their newborn, emphasizing the importance of observation, respect for the child’s rhythms, and creating a prepared environment.

These expert insights and real-life experiences underscore Montessori principles’ potential benefits and applicability for newborns.


  1. Montessori, M. (1966). The Secret of Childhood. Ballantine Books.
  2. Lillard, A. S. (2007). Montessori: The science behind the genius. Oxford University Press.
  3. Seldin, T., & Epstein, P. (2003). The Montessori way: An education for life. The Montessori Foundation.


In exploring Montessori principles for newborns, we’ve discussed the potential benefits and challenges and expert opinions on the matter. The key points include:

  • Montessori principles can be beneficially applied to newborns by creating a child-centred environment, promoting self-directed learning, acknowledging sensitive periods, preparing an engaging environment, and adopting the role of a supportive teacher.
  • The potential benefits range from stimulating cognitive development, promoting independence, supporting physical development, enhancing sensory skills, to fostering a love for learning.
  • Challenges may include the time and patience required, the necessity for regular adaptation of the environment, potential misunderstanding of the method, and the fact that it may not suit every child.

Applying Montessori principles to newborns can be a rewarding approach to early childhood education, encouraging independence, curiosity, and a love for learning from the earliest stages of life.


For parents interested in applying Montessori principles with their newborns, the following resources are highly recommended:

These resources provide a wealth of information and practical advice on incorporating Montessori principles into the care and education of newborns.

About The Author

I'm Dan Higgins, one of the faces behind The Teaching Couple. With 15 years in the education sector and a decade as a teacher, I've witnessed the highs and lows of school life. Over the years, my passion for supporting fellow teachers and making school more bearable has grown. The Teaching Couple is my platform to share strategies, tips, and insights from my journey. Together, we can shape a better school experience for all.






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