The Munari

For a brief stint in the early part of the 2000s I lived in Los Angeles. While there I went to a show at a small hole-in-the-wall bar and caught Mary Lynn Rajskub and Karen Kilgariff performing as Girls Guitar Club. I thought they were hilarious and phenomenally talented, which led me to make their songs regular inclusions on all of my mix CDs. "Vintage Store," their most popular song, contains the line, "my grammar school was Montessori," and that show may have been the first time that I heard the term. I only had vague notions of what "Montessori" meant and why it was funny; something about it being a private school that was on the crunchy side of things. Things have changed since then. Mary Lynn Rajskub went on to star in 24 and I moved back to Iowa where I had a baby and suddenly find myself really into all things Montessori.

Even though at times I think all parenting philosophies take themselves a little too seriously, I do dig the Montessori Visual Mobile Series. It makes me feel like I'm doing something active to encourage Silas' development in this time when babes are really just soaking up the world around them. I don't really know if I buy the whole "designed based on a precise formula," but I can say that Silas interacts with his Munari Mobile (the first in the series) very differently than he does with his other mobiles. It holds his attention for an incredibly long time. I watch his eyes as they move from shape to shape as he studies them, his body completely still and relaxed. Then, suddenly, his breathing will get really rapid, he starts kicking his legs and he'll let out a loud coo of delight. It's really something to watch.

I couldn't afford to buy the kit that's offered on the website linked above, so I made my own and it cost me around $5. Below are some notes on my process. It's less of a "tutorial" and more of a "tips and tricks" I learned along the way.

Materials: Clear glass sphere (e.g. Clear Christmas ornament), Black card stock, White card stock, Wooden dowels (I bought two and cut them down to size), Sand paper, White spray paint, Black spray paint, Black duct tape, glue, hot glue gun, hole punch, thread.

The Math: All of the elements are created using a mathematical formula, based on the size of the glass sphere. I used the formula provided on these instructions. It's really not that complicated. Trust me. I have an English degree; math is not usually my friend and I was able to muddle through.

1. First figure out the measurements of everything and write them down.
2. Cut your dowels, sand the cut ends as well as the surface until smooth. The longest and the shortest should be painted white and the middle one is black. Once they are dry, tear a thin strip of the black duct tape and wrap around the shortest dowel to create the black/white stripe.
3. Cut out the three black and white shapes. I used a brush to apply the glue and let them all dry between two sheets of paper, under weight, for 2 hours so they wouldn't curl.
4. Assemble. I laid everything out on the table and tied the elements to the dowels based on the schematic. Then, I hung the whole thing up and fiddled with the placement of each element (from top down) until the whole thing was balanced. Then I placed a dot of hot glue where each string was tied around the dowel to hold them all in place.
5. Hang above your babe, listen to a little Girls Guitar Club and enjoy your afternoon!


  1. He is getting bigger- I like the idea of doing things in series- and I like the idea of making your own- I went to Montessori for preschool and I can still remember the class room layout and centers.

  2. Wow! I like how you put together your own. I need some motivation to make some similar for Phoebe.
    Silas is soooo cute!

  3. Thank you so much for the tip! I found you while google-ing munari visual mobile series. One question, how are you hanging your mobile?

  4. @Marisol: Thanks for stopping by! To hang I just tied a loop to the middle bar. I was using my husband's guitar stand as an improvised mobile stand and just slipped the loop over the top. I also have a chain hanging above the changing table and I use an S hook to hang mobiles from there. Hope that helps!

  5. what is the schematic for hanging the different parts of the munari?

  6. @Anonymous: If you click the link for "instructions" (located under the heading "The Math") it will take you to the schematic that I used. Happy mobile-making!

  7. What is a good size diameter for the glass ornament?

  8. Also, what is the diameter for the dowel rods?