I call the mobiles in the above photo the trifecta because they are the most common mobiles in the Montessori visual mobile series. Others include the stylized paper dancing figures, stylized wooden figures, and three colored spheres. As amazing as it would have been to have all the mobiles ready for Paloma, I found it tricky enough just to remember to offer her these three. Remember, I also have a 3-year-old, so I really only took these out while he was at school. That shiny glass ball was too enticing for Hunter to ever leave the Munari mobile out! ;)
Purposes for these mobiles include developing the child's tracking ability, engaging the child with objects in her environment, and providing an opportunity to learn concentration (yes, even a newborn can learn to concentrate).
Here is how I used these three mobiles with Paloma:
At less than a week old, I offered Paloma the Munari mobile. I hung it in her "movement area" at a 45 degree angle about 30 cm from her face, taking it out in the morning when she was most alert. She didn't seem very interested in it the first few weeks (notice in the photos above she doesn't even look in its direction), but I continued to offer it to her at least once a day. Closer to one month old, she started to track the very slight movements of the mobile, but it didn't keep her as engaged as I thought it would.
Since she didn't seem very interested in the Munari, I offered her the Octahedron right at one month old. I offered it in the same manner as the Munari. This mobile seemed to attract her immediately (although it doesn't appear that way in the photo). I couldn't tell if it was her age or the colors, but she definitely found this mobile more engaging. I tried to take out the Munari again once or twice to see if it would engage her, but she still preferred the Octahedron.
At two months old, I offered the Gobbi in the same manner as the other two mobiles. Like the Octahedron, Paloma quickly took to this mobile. It was amazing to watch her eyes move back and forth from ball to ball. Of all the mobiles, she seemed most engaged with this one. I started offering her the first tactile mobile right before she turned three months, but even after that, I continued to offer her the Gobbi.
THE TACTILE MOBILES
The two tactile mobiles are "bell on a ribbon" and "ring on a ribbon." The idea is to hang them from the ceiling or a play gym at a distance that allows the baby to bat at them. At first she will bat at them, and then eventually she will be able to grasp and pull on them. To make the tactile mobiles, I recruited my mom to help me. They are actually super easy to make. I could have just tied ribbon around a ring and another to a bell, secured each with a bit of glue, and called it a day, but I saw this image on etsy and thought they looked so beautiful. Since my mom crochets, I sent her the image (instead of the link) and asked her to make them, but I didn't really give any specifications or an explanation on how I was going to use them, so while the ones she made were adorable, I did have to tweak them a bit to make them work. I will explain in detail in another post, but basically what I got were rattles with rings on the other end. The cool thing about going about it this way is that once Paloma is sitting up and no longer working with these objects as "mobiles," I can offer them to her as rattles. See, it worked out after all!
Purposes for these mobiles include encouraging the child to track, reach, and grasp; the opportunity for auditory feedback from her movements (the bell); improving hand-eye coordination; engaging the child with objects in her environment; and learning concentration.
Here is how I used (and am still using) these two mobiles with Paloma:
At 3-months-old, I introduced the bell by attaching it to her IKEA play gym (tied a string from the wooden ring to a disc that attaches to the gym). For an entire month I offered this to her with not much interest on her end. Occasionally, I would hear the bell ring and look to find it swinging above her, but I am pretty sure each time it moved she had unintentionally hit the bell. I really can't be sure she ever batted at the bell on purpose since she did spend some time playing on her mat alone while I did laundry or dishes or something.
Then, around 4-months-old, it was like overnight she decided to start grasping objects, so I took the bell down and flipped it over so I could now offer her the wooden ring. Instead of just tying it with string again, I tied it with elastic so it would have some give once she started grabbing and pulling on it, which she took to immediately.
Once I was confident in her ability to grasp, I offered her a bit more "challenge" by offering the other two rattles my mom made. One is simply two small bells tied with orange ribbon to a ring and the other is also two bells but covered with crochet yarn. She grabs at both bells, sometimes one bell with both hands and sometimes one bell in each hand. These two "mobiles" are not part of the Montessori series. I don't know if they would be discouraged in the A to I program, but I make sure to watch for cues that working with them isn't getting too frustrating. If it gets to the point of frustration, I take the material away and give her a break.
I only ever offer her one tactile mobile at a time. Even though the IKEA gym has three slots for attaching three toys at once, I only ever offer her one at a time. Giving her one object to focus on helps her develop concentration without the distraction of a bunch of toys hanging in front of her face, especially since she is already distracted enough by the spinning toys on the sides of the gym that I have not gotten around to taking down.
I will continue to offer her the tactile mobiles until she is no longer interested in them, but especially once she is already sitting up. At that point, I will cut off the elastic and detach them from the disc so that they will no longer be used as mobiles but as rattles.
PRACTICAL NOTES & DIY TIPS
I used this tutorial to make the Munari mobile. I found it to be the most difficult one to make because it took quite some maneuvering to balance all three levels of the mobile. Also, most people use a plastic sphere when they make this mobile for safety reasons, but I prefer the glass sphere because of the way it reflects light. I did, however, have to replace a broken glass sphere once after I got the Munari back from my sister (I made it originally for my nephew) because I didn't handle it carefully. Tip: Plan ahead if you want to make a Munari mobile, and stock up on transparent spheres during Christmastime. I have two more glass spheres and two plastic ones just in case.
For the Octahedron, I did not follow the original design which calls for two wires bent into semicircles because I already had several wooden dowels on hand. I saw some tutorials that placed all three figures on one dowel, which would be super easy to make, but I like the movement of the Munari with its three levels, so I decided to create two levels for this mobile using two wooden dowels. (Click here for different tutorials.) The pattern for the three figures I got from my friend's A to I album. (Email me if you'd like to have it.) This was by far the easiest to create. If you only make one mobile, make this one. Tips: Use glue to hold down the folds. Double-sided tape did not work for me. Whatever pattern you use for the figures, print it onto the white side of the metallic paper rather than tracing it onto the paper -- much easier!
Finally, I followed this tutorial to create the Gobbi. This one is my favorite for its aesthetics. Just so lovely to look at, but it was the most time-consuming to make. The following photos show my tips and suggestions in detail. Tips: Spread the thread out as you go rather than how the tutorial suggests, which may cause the thread to bunch up, in other words, spreading it out allows you to cover the foam more evenly. Make sure that when you use the dowel to make the hole in the middle of the foam ball that you wriggle it around to make it even a bit bigger. You will run into problems if the hole is too small. Loosely tie the strings to the dowel, but do not glue until you have created the proper angle.
The visual mobiles, especially, are such "beautiful, useless machines" (Bruno Munari 1907 - 1998) that I can't bear the thought of just using them for a month each and then getting rid of them. The plan is to pass them on to my sister when she has her next baby, and when she is all finished with them, I'd love to get them back and hang them in the children's room as art. For now, how do I keep them safe and organized? I keep them in a decorative letter box along with the sticks used for hanging them (see my Montessori page for details -- scroll down to the bottom). I occasionally still take one out and offer it to Paloma because the Montessori books tend to say, "Take it away when the child loses interest." She still seems a bit interested in them, but she doesn't stare at them as long as she used to, and I also hang them further away from her because at the usual distance she can hit the pieces with her hand, and her face looks a little overwhelmed by that.
As with all the materials I offer Paloma, the most important thing is to watch her interact with them and gauge whether or not the material is still appropriate for her. If it's not, we move on and pass it on to another baby who could use it. :)