Once the baby starts reaching out and grasping, begins the most exciting time of exploration. She is on the path of discovery and interacting with her environment. The first tactile material I offered V2 were rattles.
A rattle is a simple toy that the child holds in her hands. It develops her grasping reflex, refine her co-ordination, and slowly helps her make the connection between sound and motion of her hand as well.
Readiness for rattles
When you are a Montessori household, you know exactly when to offer what to your child. It is important that the material is given when the child is ready. Never set up your child for failure. Early successes encourage the child to keep interacting with the environment. A material that is not challenging enough will again disinterest the child.
I’ve tried to record the signs I looked out for, before introducing her first rattle.
1. Her Palmar grasp reflex (clenching fist) was minimal. Her fist was open most of the time now.
2. During floor time, she started reaching out to the playmobile above her or grasping the quilt.
3. She could easily open and close her fist.
4. Sometimes, she would bring both her hands to the front of her face to observe.
5. Her fingers naturally found her mouth easily for self-soothing.
6. When I would bend down to play with her, her hands would reach out to feel my cheeks, and sometimes bat my glasses.
7. She was eager to grasp her cloth book and explore.
8. She could consciously reach for and hold my finger.
9. When I would carry her, she would grasp my T-shirt tightly and easily.
I find myself gravitating towards natural materials because they are safe (no BPA, and other such). Natural textures are also interesting for the baby, to hold and study. Most importantly, they are super inviting to chew on.
Here is a visual timeline of the order in which we introduced rattles. Please note, this is a general guideline and you will have to modify it by observing your child. I have also added where you can source them in India.
These rattles are offered in increasing order of challenge, once the baby has mastered the previous stage.
Stage 1- soft crochet rattle
This is great as a first rattle for those delicate fingers that are still gaining coordination. Our favourite black and white crochet rattle is customised by MadeWithLove.
Stage 2- Bell rattle
We introduced the bell rattle next. I preferred this to the traditional Montessori bell rattle as this one is smooth and no worry of bells coming loose. Ours is from Thasvi Toys.
Stage 3: Circular rattle
There are variants to this. We started off with the acacia wooden one with tactile cloth (from My Little Bookshop) and moved to the beaded one.
Stage 4: Dumbbell rattle
This is a slight level up over the traditional stick type rattle in Stage 2. The circular rings offer extra tactile stimulation and the rattle in itself, I’ve observed, encourages a lot of mouthing and hand- hand transfer. Our acacia wood Dumbbell is from My little Bookshop as well.
Stage 5: Partitioned circular rattle
This one is a level up over the simple circular rattle and is introduced once the baby explores the interlocking discs or transfers from hand to hand comfortably. You can get yours here.
Stage 6: Rolling bell rattle
The rolling bell helps the baby track it visually and may inspire her to creep towards it as well. We love our neem wood rolling bell rattle from AriroToys.
Stage 7: Egg shakers
Ideally Stage 5 and 6 are interchangeable as per the child. V enjoyed her shakers well into toddlerhood, recreating sound patterns, etc.
And as always, the rattle is meaningless without the prepared adult. For it is us, who observes the child and offers the appropriate material. The one shows the rattle to the baby, shakes it and gently places it in their hands. The one who gently steps back to observe the magnificent work of the child.