Many Montessori parents are attracted to the Pikler approach when their children are infants. There are a lot of similarities between Montessori and Pikler (focus on free movement, respect for the child) but also differences (Pikler has a simplified environment, no mobiles or hanging toys, no high contrast images/low art). I love to read about early childhood education and find Pikler's approach interesting. I also love to read about and explore materials used in early childhood education. I recently came across the Pikler Ball. We have a very similar ball, which is woven from New Zealand flax, so I went on to read more!
In the Pikler approach infants are encouraged to spend as much time as possible in free play to explore the environment and to gain a greater understanding of themselves. The environment is very simple as not to impose anything on the child. The materials are mostly natural and include things like balls, wooden rings and later climbing frames, ramps, and tunnels.
"We do not force a toy on a child; we don't put it into his hand. We just put it next to him... If he notices the toy and is interested in it, he will reach for it." Dr Emmi Pikler.
So what is there to love about the Pikler Ball?
- Handmade by skilled artisans.
- Beautiful, natural colours and aesthetically pleasing, we want to 'surround the child with beauty'.
- Made from natural materials, is non-toxic and compostable (except the bell).
- If made locally has a small footprint.
- Lightweight and easy for the child to kick, push, roll, or grasp.
- Will only roll small distances when pushed or hit by the child, making it a good material for creeping or crawling babies.
- The balls with bells in them are perfect for learning cause and effect/action and reaction, the bell provides an auditory stimuli and makes the ball very attractive to the child.
- Provides a stimulus for movement.
- Suitable for the child to use to coordinate hand movements and to use for hand to hand transfer.
- It's an interesting design!
I also like that the ball can be used like a tactile mobile (as shown directly below) for the child to visually track and bat at. Personally, I really like the balls with the little bell inside - it is a big part of what makes this ball special!
It appears Pikler Balls are mostly available in Europe, this store sells them on Etsy from Germany (some with bells, some without and in different sizes). We have this woven ball, which is so similar. Otis uses it with Otto a lot and I've found it to be very sturdy, it would withstand an infant mouthing it or kicking and throwing it. It's such a clever design too, can you see how the bell is also safely enclosed in a smaller woven ball!
Want to see how other Montessori families are using the Pikler Ball? It is featured here at Montessori en Casa , in Anna's beautiful home here (can you spot it in the first and last photograph) and at la tela di Carlotta (Montessori bedroom at 7-9 months).
Image: la tela di Carlotta.
Above Otto with the woven ball, the outer ball is a woven icosahedron and smaller ball inside is a dodecahedron! Have you seen this type of ball before? Until recently I hadn't, it's well suited for a Montessori home.