While we love following Dr. Montessori's principles at home, we decided not to use her methods at mealtimes. Instead we used baby-led solids (a.k.a. baby-led weaning). These approaches do have similarities, but some very fundamental differences. Melissa from Vibrant Wanderings did an excellent comparison of the two here, so I will not try to re-create. While we have been very happy with our decision to use BLS, we have decided it is time to introduce a few more skills.
As I explained in a previous post, one of my primary reasons for choosing BLS when introducing Q-ball to solids was that it recognizes babies' developmental capabilities. I believe it is absolutely necessary to give babies and children opportunities to do things themselves. This is critical for them to demonstrate and further master their capabilities. Dr. Montessori absolutely agreed. As she explains in The Montessori Method, "nature has furnished [the child] with the physical means for carrying on these various activities, and with the intellectual means for learning how to do them. And our duty toward him, in every case, that of helping them to make a conquest of such useful acts as nature intended he should preform for himself."
And, yet....a few weeks ago I realized that we have not given Q-ball very many opportunities to drink from a cup or to use silverware. So, how do you implement Montessori feeding methods a little late? Here's what we are doing:
Using A Spoon
At least during one meal a day, I give Q-ball a child-sized spoon. The first few times, I gave her the spoon after she had already eaten some food as that she would not loose complete interest in eating. But, I realized that this was not as necessary as I expected. While she was very excited about the spoon, she typically continued eating (except for a few times when I think she was pretty much finished eating anyway.)
When presenting her with the spoon, I demonstrate scooping up food from her plate (kept on the table- not her high chair) and then using the spoon to eat the food. I've had the most luck doing this at breakfast when we are eating sticky oatmeal vs. dinner when we are eating rolly-polly peas. In accordance to BLS, I do not feed her from the spoon. I simply place the spoon in front of her.When she requests more food, I continue serving her food on her spoon.
Has it worked? Not quite yet. At first, she looks at the spoon with a big smile, and then use her fingers to dig the food off of the spoon. Now she does occasionally get the spoon in her mouth, but sans food. I believe she has the concept, though. She does hold the spoon correctly, and it hasn't been thrown to the floor nearly as much as I anticipated (unlike last night's dinner of potatoes and green beans...)
Using a Cup
As for drinking, we have tried a variety of things, but Q-ball seems to big one of the biggest proponents of breastfeeding around and is confused as to why she should bother with anything else. She refused a bottle, thought a sippy cup was a really fun teething toy, and did start to use a straw cup, but never really mastered swallowing. So, now I am just presenting her with a cup filled with a little water at the end of our meals. Before placing the cup in front of her, I demonstrate how to drink from it. She gets very excited. Then she picks up the cup looks curiously at the water inside and rolls the cup around in her hands, moving the water in the cup. And then dumps the cup on her high chair table and tries to use her hands to drink it.
Has it worked?
Obviously, not yet. But, I'm certainly not giving up. She'll obviously get it soon enough.
Montessori, M. (1912). The Montessori Method. New York: Fredrick A. Stokes Company. (Trans. Anne E. George).