Weaning is a very important part of every child's life and for each child, it should happen at a time and pace that is tailored specifically to their individual needs. It's a good idea to start thinking about weaning before you even intend to start the process so that you can prepare your home environment thoughtfully and adequately.

Some people might be thinking - "What? Don't you just put your baby in the highchair and feed them some rice cereal? How hard can it be?"
Well we certainly don't disagree that it could be this easy (for the adult). However we suggest a gentler, more child-focused approach to weaning that requires a bit of preparation and a lot of sensitivity to the child and the signals that he is giving.

We invite you to read this little article, courtesy of the Michael Olaf website which will serve as an introduction to process of weaning. How I Weaned Myself

Things you will need to set up a weaning area:

1. Choose a spot in your home where you will begin the weaning process. Think proximity to kitchen, water source nearby, washable floor coverings. Since children under the age of three have an incredible strong sense of order, their need for "sameness" and constancy in their environment is very high. If you have chosen your spot well, you won't have to move it around, keeping your young child happy in the knowledge that this where they will be eating. They will appreciate this consistency and will begin to anticipate meal times when they are offered the same routine in the same place every time.

2. Get yourself a weaning table and chair. These can be easily made, or you can splash out on a funky designer one. Below are a few pictures to help you choose something appropriate. Bear in mind that the average child's table and chair set is designed for children older the 3 and these are not appropriate for weaning. The chair and table should be very low to the ground, in anticipation of the day when your crawling baby can pull up and seat themselves. They won't be able to do this if the seat is too high. Also, when they are seated the tabletop should be at a comfortable height.

3. Get yourself a set of little glass bowls for serving the food in. Glass!!! It does require a change of mindset to use glass in your baby or toddler's environment. After all it is...well...breakable! But in Montessori, this is the whole point of using it. It is building what we call Control of Error into the child's environment. This means that the child will invariably break a few items, but if we handle the accidents in a calm and matter of fact manner ("Oh dear, the glass dropped on the floor and now it is broken. Would you like to help me clean it up?", not "Look what you've done, that's the third bowl you've broken today.") children will soon learn that glass breaks and that breaking it is undesirable, and will learn to be careful. By contrast, children who hurl plastic cups and bowls across the room with no visible consequences for their action, will find it more difficult to learn the concepts of careful, gentle, breakable, precious. Using clear bowls will make it easier for your baby to see the contents of the bowl and to make a connection between what they are seeing and tasting.

4. Find a tiny spoon (smaller than a teaspoon) for baby's first tastes of fresh fruit juice and other tasty pureed things. Remember that these first tastes are offered in response to signals that your baby is giving you and not according to a set age. The sensitive period for weaning in most children manifests between 4 and 6 months of age. Babies of this age are ready to begin solids due to better renal function, mature digestive enzymes, an active intestinal immune response, mouth and tongue mobility (the baby is able to move food to the back of his mouth and swallow safely), and good head control when in a sitting position. The introduction of food other than breastmilk (or breastmilk substitutes) is really not a nutritional exercise and is mostly to offer the baby a new experience and an opportunity to connect with mum or dad in a different way. Introducing food earlier than 6 months means that one must be aware of an increased chance of developing allergies (particularly if they run in your family) and of introducing pathogens into your baby's immature gut. Therefore one should only offer the highest quality, freshest and cleanest food that can be sourced. Delaying weaning to much after 6 months can also lead to issues such as anaemia, insufficient energy intake and delayed motor control of the mouth and tongue. Also since this is the sensitive period for weaning, learning this new important skill comes much easier now than at any other time.
A child's kitchen cupboard

A weaning placemat

Our little cutlery pack, available for sale in our shop, includes a tiny spoon that is just right for little mouths and extra small tastes of food. The spoon also comes in handy when baby is progressing to the point where he wants to hold his own spoon and participate in the feeding process.

5. You will also want to find some little glasses, bowls, plates etc. These should be made of natural materials like glass, porcelain or pottery. Wood and enamel may also be used if you really can't bear the thought of breakages. These will be used when your baby is old enough to start setting their place at the table. They will need a little placemat to help them to figure out what they will need and it's great if you can set aside a drawer or cupboard shelf in your kitchen/dining area with all of their things in it. This means you don't have to worry about precious crockery getting broken but also lets your child feel important and useful and allows them to be independent in this small way.

You will also want to find a bib that fastens on the shoulder with velcro so that your baby can learn to take it off for himself - as a signal that he has had enough - and later to put it on by himself.

And then you should be good to go...

Also check out the following links for more information...

How We Montessori has several very interesting posts about weaning
An interesting article about Montessori and Baby Led Weaning from the Natural Parents Network
Montessori Ici has a wealth of information about the prepared environment for the kitchen
A lovely video and some great info at The Full Monte(ssori)