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The importance of the Montessori Wall Mirror - and why you need one.

Otto in front of Montessori Mirror at How we Montessori at two months

Have you ever questioned why we put a mirror in our baby's room? It's common to see a low mirror in Montessori nurseries, in Nidos and infant classes. My number one reason is to promote movement. The mirror is placed next to our playmat and allows my child to focus, track movement all while he on the floor, free to move. And move he does! My second reason is because he is my third child, I love for him to be entertained so I can put the washing on, prepare dinner, and just put him down for a while. On his playmat he is happy and content to have free, independent and uninterrupted play.

At this age (two months) I'm not convinced that he makes the connection that he is looking at himself, but it encourages his movement and concentration and he loves it! Personally, I believe many infants today are not getting enough free movement and uninterrupted play. A mirror promotes this and can be achieved relatively cheaply and easily. 

Here are a few reasons we love the mirror:

  • Promotes visual tracking.
  • Promotes concentration - along with the mobiles you can see long periods of concentration in a very young child. 
  • Brings joy - often when you see a mirror in a store or even in the bathroom this will please the young infant, they may smile or may even laugh. Babies often love to look at faces, including their own.  
  • Promotes independent play - the child is not reliant on an adult to entertain them.
  • Promotes free movement - encourages parents to spend more time with the child in the movement area, gives the child more time to move and get to know their body. Can also encourage the child during tummy time. 
  • Promotes coordinated movement - Otto observes himself in the mirror and then reacts, he may at this age not know it is himself  in the mirror but he is beginning to make connections. He sees his leg go up in the mirror, then he puts it down and then up again. 
  • Allows the child to view the rest of their/the room and over time allows them to visually map the room, this is especially beneficial for infants that are not able to move or crawl.

The mirror doesn't have to be in the infant's room. Place it where it is convenient and where it will be used, a small space in the living area may work well. Put a playmat or soft folded blanket next to the mirror, I recommend not making it too soft (like a mattress) if you are going to use the area for tummy time. I also recommend making the mirror full length, so the infant can see the full length of their body. At this age I also recommend having some grasping materials nearby, some materials to act as a stimulus for movement.

Otto in front of Montessori Mirror at How we Montessori at two months

"The mirror that we attach to the baby's wall next to the child-bed further enhances her sight by showing a different or "mirror" image of the room. The baby also sees her own image reflected and begins to connect her movements with the reflected movements of the child in the mirror. Thus she discovers that there are more faces to examine than just her mother's at feeding time. Eventually, she sees other reflected in the mirror as they enter the room to play or talk with her. Encouraging the newborn to spend waking time on her stomach so that she can practice lifting her head makes these first visual experiences with wall mirror possible." - Polk Lillard and Lillard Jessen in Montessori from the Start

As you may know, this is my second child that I have used the wall mirror with and I recommend keeping the sleeping and play (work) areas separate. I suggest creating a movement area with a playmat, mobiles (if you are using them) and a mirror somewhere other than the bed, perhaps nearby in the bedroom or as previously mentioned in a living area. It needs to be convenient, if you have an upstairs bedroom but spend most of your time downstairs, find a space downstairs for the mirror and playmat. 

There are many of different types mirrors that you can use. You might already have one around the home that can be used. We have free-standing mirror with a timber frame that can be moved around, which I love aesthetically. If you have the space a mirror with a pull-up bar is a good option. But really any child safe mirror, secured to the wall will work. We used a real (glass) mirror with Otis and with Otto we use an acrylic mirror. I was initially concerned about the distortion of the image in an acrylic mirror but have been really happy with ours, the image is high quality (above the mirror image isn't clear because the camera is focused on the child). If you are concerned ask the store about their refund policy or ask about the image quality before purchasing. Here are a few good options:

Pull Up Baby Mirror or Low Level Wall Mirror - Designs for Education, UK

Baby Safe Mirror Panel - Manine Montessori Europe

Horizontal Acrylic Mirror - Educational Experience, Australia

Infant Coordination Mirror - Jonti-Craft (Amazon), US

Shatterproof School Mirror or Safety Wall Mirror - Lakeshore Learning, US

Adaptable Framed Mirror - Michael Olaf, US

The Nienhuis mirror with bar can be seen here.  

If you are interested in further reading here are some related articles I can recommend:

You can also get wall mirror ideas from two of my all-time-favorite Montessori nurseries:

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