One of the most beautiful montessori material during the infant stage is the playmobile. These were the ones I handmade with V and they hold a special place in my heart. I have been asked many times about these, so I finally got down to writing about the visual mobiles.
What are visual mobiles?
The montessori mobiles are exceptionally beautiful to look at. But apart from that, they serve a purpose. They stimulate the child visually and support the child’s growing vision and concentration.
It hung about 12 inches from the baby’s face and above her chest, so that she can see it comfortably while lying down. Lying down under the play-gym while hanging it helped me understand how it would look for her. I usually keep the windows open when V2 is under her play-gym so that the mobile moves gently with natural ventilation. Our play-gym is from CuddlyCoo.
At this stage, the child is still making sense of the world around her. She is understanding how to use the visual information provided by her eyes. The montessori mobiles help her do just that. Below is a list of the visual mobiles we used.
It is usually said that changing mobiles approximately every 2 weeks keeps things interesting for the baby. However, I have refrained from giving an exact timeline, because it is essential to observe how the baby interacts with the mobile to know when to progress to the next one. And sometimes, we brought back previously used mobiles as well.
The first of the series, the munari is made of 2-d shapes in high contrast black and white. They’re balanced off a glass sphere that reflects light. Because of the weight, it moves slowly in air and is easy for the newborn eye to track. It is said that the elements are designed keeping specific proportions in mind, that ignite the baby’s innate mathematical intelligence. Our munari is from Thasvi toys.
The second mobile we introduced at approximately week 8 was the octahedron. It consists of 3 octahedrons in primary colours and made of shiny paper, just when her eyes are ready to perceive colours. They’re light weight and move easily in natural air. The metallic paper and sharp edges also reflect light, and help the baby coordinate the use of both her eyes together. Our mobile was a DIY project with a printable off the internet.
The Gobbi mobile
By 3 months, V2’s visual sense was more refined and she was getting good at tracking. Made of embroidery thread with colour gradations from dark to light, the Gobbi challenges the baby to differentiate shades of the same colour. This is one mobile we keep bringing back well after we moved to tactile mobiles, because V2 loves batting the balls. Our Gobbi is handmade by a dear friend and is also available at Thasvi Toys.
This has got to be one our favourite mobiles. Again, a DIY project with V, this fun mobile is made of 4 dancing human forms with moving body parts. By this time, V2 had started moving her hands and legs- not completely out of reflex, and not intentionally either. The graceful, fluid movements of the dancers help the baby develop her bodily expression and depth perception. It is also a greater visual tracking challenge for the baby as different parts of the dancers move seperately. Some days we would find her keenly concentrating, and other days, happily waving her hands and legs with them.
The last of the series, is using complex 3d objects or figurines. We used the butterfly mobile that we DIYed, although we briefly introduced it previously as well. It is a simple mirror from whose sides hang 4 realistic butterflies.
This is at about 4 months, and we move on to the tactile mobiles next.
Are montessori mobiles essential?
Is it necessary to invest in the play-mobiles? You are the best judge of that. One can easily DIY most of the playmobiles. It is more important to follow the principles.
Here are some principles that I keep in mind while making the playmobiles.
The mobiles are used when the child is awake and active, and not to lull her to sleep.
They do not over-stimulate the baby, hence 3-5 elements on the playmobile at a time only.
They are as real as possible to help her relate to her environment better. Hence flying butterflies, but no flying lions.
And lastly, the principle of observation. One can use almost anything as a visual mobile as long as the child enjoys it. For example, V2 would love being carried to the balcony to watch the leaves sway. Unfortunately, we do not have access to open trees to put her underneath them, so we just used a creeper.
It is us, who observes the baby at work, stays back so as to protect her concentration and swoops right in when she is done and needs comfort. It is us who observes that she is ready for the next challenge and introduces the next mobile. And it is us, who have the joy of watching the child, content in he concentration.