Fischer and Matteo, Musical Babies
Children from Birth to Three have an “absorbent mind”. They take in everything that is going on around them.
A child in his earliest years, when he is only two or a little more, is capable of tremendous achievements simply through his unconscious power of absorption, though he is himself still immobile. After the age of three he is able to acquire a great number of concepts through his own efforts in exploring his surroundings. In this period he lays hold of things through his own activity and assimilates them into his mind. — The Discovery of the Child, Maria Montessori
The role of the AMI Montessori Assistant to Infancy has always been first and foremost to support the parents, the child’s first teacher, in the home. This was done initially in Rome, Italy in 1947 when the program was first designed, to help prepare for as peaceful and successful birth as possible, to help the family prepare the home in such a way that the needs of the infant and the family would be met, and to be there for several days after the birth to help however possible. But over the years it has grown to be even more thanks to research by neuroscientists. We realize the importance of keeping even the very youngest child in the middle of the daily life of the family, of learning to observe the infant to see what he is trying to see and do, to share our interests and daily work with him. In this blog post I am using music as just one example of how to do this.
RHYTHMS – FISCHER
When our grandchild Fischer was born, his musician uncle Michael made a CD for him. Many of the rhythms of traditional music of various cultures were on it. To help him experience these rhythms Michael would hold and move Fischer, dancing in a way, following the same speed as the music on the CD.
SECOND PIANO LESSON – MATTEO
For a week after giving talks and consulting in Lima, Peru in August, 2016 I stayed with friends from years ago when I was teaching in Colegio San Silvestre. There was a piano in the home but no one had played it for years. I said if they could have it tuned by the time I returned in November I would play for baby Matteo. The following video clips are from “Matteo’s piano lessons” in November.
Second Piano Lesson? What was the first? It was sitting on his mother’s lap watching me play the piano. He watched carefully, not looking away. From the beginning of life a child is carefully observing what is going on around him in the family. Gradually, according to the level of physical development, he is able to follow his strongest desire, which is to join in.
So, after watching me play the piano, for his second piano lesson he sat on my lap. I was careful to hold him firmly around the tummy but to give him enough wiggle space to reach the piano keys with his hands if he wanted to, and to be sure that his legs were comfortable and not pressed up against the edge of the piano.
To get him used to this position I kept my left arm around him and only played with my right. Even though it would have been easy for him to reach the keys with both hands he kept his right hand in his lap and touched the keys only with his left. Maybe he was imitating me in playing with only one hand, but is family (parents, two older siblings and their friends, and his grandmother) have noticed that he seems to use his left hand more than his right. He carefully watched my hand as I played.
THIRD PIANO LESSON – MATTEO
For the third lesson he sat still and peacefully in my lap so I played with both hands. Then, with no help from me he placed both of his hands on top of mine and could feel, as well as see, what it is like to play piano. It was clear to me that he also loves Chopin.
FOURTH PIANO LESSON – MATTEO
We started noticing than when Matteo was being carried as one of the adults walked through the living room, he often leaned toward the piano as he passed it. In the forth lesson he seemed to have mastered it! He was very excited as we sat at the piano, played with both hands with great confidence, and when I was finished playing he carried on with a solo! Soon he was also playing piano in the lap of other members of the family.
BAA BAA BLACK SHEEP – FISCHER
When a child learns language, he first watches and listens, and then he gradually imitates. First some nouns, family labels like mama and papa, gradually filling in all of the elements of grammar with no tension or stress. By age 6 he masters a language in a way that would take so much effort by an older child or an adult. It is the same with music. In this little video clip, Fischer has no idea that he is not playing and singing exactly like the adults he has seen play and sing this song. And with a little help he could learn to do it perfectly when he is ready.
FUR ELISE – FISCHER AND UNCLE MICHAEL
In this video clip Fischer is showing his Uncle Michael a song that he really enjoys hearing and is figuring out how to play on his own. Michael is improvising a duet with him.
FISCHER AND FAMILY
Art is not in some far-off place. A work of art is the expression of a man’s whole personality, sensibility and ability. When love is deep, much can be accomplished. — Shinichi Suzuki
Fischer (next to his Papa) is now taking Suzuki piano lessons.
MATTEO AND FAMILY
During these piano lessons with Matteo and his family in November 2016, I was able to be a true AMI Assistant to Infancy. Beginning in August the family have been reading my book, The Joyful Child: Montessori, Global Wisdom for Birth to Three. I had also shared with the whole family (almost everyone in the picture above) the PowerPoint presentation given in a hotel in Lima. Matteo’s two siblings are university students. They and their friends all love and want to provide the very best for Matteo, this tiny gift to the family, and they are all learning about Montessori. I feel so honored to have this opportunity to bring AMI Montessori to Peru in the very best way, starting with one family.
But music is not all the family is learning. This is just one way to think about including Matteo in the life of his family.
I asked Alheli, Matteo’s mother, to tell me some of the things they had learned, both from the book, and from my visits in these 3 months. This is what she told me:
— We have learned to respect Matteo’s concentration and not to interrupt him when he is looking at something or trying to do something.
— We do not look away when there is eye contact and Matteo is staring at us.
— We all have learned to speak his language by repeating his sounds, exactly as they sound. Now we have long “conversations” with him.
— We talk to him gently and ask for his permission and understanding.
— We value moments like changing his diapers and nursing as moments to develop attachment. We do not rush through them but we understand that every interaction is important.
— We can see the importance of a mirror for Matteo to see himself, to watching himself and others move.
— Rather than providing a lot of baby toys we now know that simple objects we have at home are the best toys. We realize that he wants to handle and explore the things he sees other people using
— We know that his mouth since the beginning has been the most important part of his body to learn about the world.
— We try to understand his sounds and physical signs in order to be empathetic to him.
— We understand he gets upset or cries not only when he is hungry but also more often when he is bored.
— We know the importance of tummy time. And have created a place at home (middle of the house) for him to practice moving and to watch the family.
— We have learned to dress Matteo in clothing that allow him to move and explore with his whole body and his hands. No more socks.
— Playing is also working and he gets tired (happily tired).
— The most concentrated playing time he has the more time there is between nursing, because food was the only “fun” thing for him before we learned about his other needs.
— Exposure to music that shown us that he is a musical boy!!!
What Mama Alhelí enjoys the most: Music time
What Papa César enjoys the most: Concentration time
I hope this musical post makes you laugh and smile and think, and that it is as valuable to you as the experience has been for me.
All of my best wishes for a musical and joyful holiday season.