Montessori Infant/Toddler Room Setup & Floor Beds
Many of you have followed me since my very first blog, Montessori Meet Mot, which has sadly been long gone in the course of life events.. I also had a rough bought with doubting myself/thinking others were uninterested in hearing some of the things we do, I was wrong, and that makes me feel great! Thank you <3
One of my blog posts was very successful, and I still get asked about it, and no longer have a link :( So I have decided to re-write it, and update!
Sleep is a huge topic in parenting, and we did have great success following a Montessori style bedroom set up. For those who aren't familiar with the Montessori Method, I will do another full post about it... but in most simple terms, it is an educational approach that follows the child. I love it to an extent, and we modify the concept in our home to better fit our family style/needs. *REMEMBER THIS IF ANYTHING EVER* Each child is different, and not one child develops or learns the same. Never ever think you should follow a rigid parenting style or concepts you see working well for others. Always take from parenting advice/ideas the best things that would benefit you and yours, and adjust as necessary!
So the idea with Montessori in general is to advocate for your child's learning by allowing them to lead by finding their own independence through discovery. Boundaries are important, you may have seen a Montessori classroom, and children 'doing their work' (playing,) on carpet squares, or within a blanket laid out. This is providing them the freedom to play about the area as they please (independently) as well as giving them clear boundaries (staying within the area designated for this type of work.)
I don't have many examples of this, but managed to snag a few that are still floating around on Pinterest from when Mason was a babe! Here is Mase painting on construction paper with water. He is about a year here, he has a glass of water, paint brush and the paper on tray which establishes limits... but I also always had a mat laid out so he wouldn't feel compelled to move it around the room if we weren't at a table.
This is from when he was about 8 months. I had put spices in baby food jars and covered them with scrap fabric so he could smell them. A sensory bin, and I will explain these later in more detail... but you can see here he has a little mat laid out (which I think was a burp cloth) so he knows he can sit at that spot and smell, not rolling them all over or throwing them/carrying them off. You may doubt yours will stay within the area, but it's oddly satisfying to see that they almost feel obligated to for some reason.. lol! A few times of bringing them back to sit down, they tend to grasp this concept fairly easy. If not, then I suggest putting the activity away until they are able to respect the idea.
(If you are interested in the smelling jars, you can use old clothes or t shirts and tiny jam jars! I would put hot glue all over he bottom of the jars and then add the spice. This would keep it from shaking all around and getting on the fabric or spilling out.)
Anyways, you may be wondering why on earth I am elaborating about "freedom within boundaries" and what the hell this has to do with sleeping! So here's how they connect... a child must learn by way of exploring. We tend to hurry along processes that are actually opportunities for learning and understanding the great big world around them. If we take the mat concept and apply it in a larger way to the child's bedroom, you can see that they will have more opportunity to self regulate their sleep habits as well as waking habits.
The most important part before beginning to set up is to make sure everything is safe. All furniture and shelving bolted into studs to keep them from tipping, all artwork secured by screws, all small pieces removed from the toy selection, etc... make the room okay for them to have full range of while not being fully monitored. I always say, make their room their crib. This seems to resonate better, because it really helps you see that the concept of free range access is not much different than a crib. If you are using their rooms to store things that may not be safe while alone, you might consider moving them to a different room, or a closet.
When taking on a Montessori room setup, take into consideration their size for all you do. Can they enjoy a nice piece of art hung 5ft up a wall? Absolutely not. Not only is the art going unappreciated, we might also make them feel unworthy of enjoying something adults are able to freely see as they wish. I remember being a little one and getting frustrated when my parents would say "Oh my look at that!!" and it was out the window I couldn't reach to see out of! Think of that happening daily in your OWN room! No fun! So the really get on their level, bring down art, wall hangings, shelving, etc... so they can really enjoy. You will see we have a Gustav Klimt print screwed into our wall behind her pillows, we removed the glass so it was safe and she couldn't knock it down. It's eye level for her and she can enjoy the work as she pleases.
We also hung (secured by screws) a door mirror horizontally beside her bed (they also make acrylic mirrors which are more safe.) Mirrors are a very good way to help your child explore her self by way of witnessing her own unique expressions/movements. She is now able to be more aware of her own actions/reactions. This is important when discovering ones self. Here, Oakley was only 7 months old.
A nice textured carpet by your child's bed is significant for two reasons, 1. self guidance, so if they do find themselves out of the bed they are more easily able to distinguish where they are at in relation to their sleep area, and 2. tactile stimulation, as they are exploring they are making so many brain connections with all of their senses. Touch is a very important sense when it comes to developing motor skills and coordination.
Providing different textured surfaces such as rough, smooth, silky and patterned and so forth, by giving your little one a range of different textures to explore, this helps their brain break down the input into familiar, recognizable concepts and ideas, such as rough, smooth, patterned, lined etc... This is important in developmental growth. (I really like using faux fur rugs by their bedsides, and they are fairly cheap!
(I change my home around often, one of the rugs has ended up on our playroom couch to snuggle with... don't mind the paw print on the pillow either!)
A small activity cube is fine to have, this used to be her favorite! Too often I see these being stored fairly high up on tables or shelves which doesn't allow the child to manipulate them as they are intended. They should be floor level, so they can follow through with carrying a bead or object up and over to the other side without getting frustrated. I see these in doctor's offices and always move them to the floor when I do! It's a pet peeve of mine!
Now let's talk about decor. When you find out you are pregnant one of the first things, if not the first thing you start planning for is the nursery! Crib, Decor, Character, etc... Children's room's should not be overstimulating this young, really at any age (I say that and my now 4 & 6 year old have flashing lights, swings, etc lol.. but that's another story with sensory processing stuff... a perfect example of adjusting your home to YOUR child's needs as they grow!) One rule we set for our choice in infant/toddler room stages was no characters, cartoons, etc... we stayed slightly neutral with color choices only having a small palette (which has also changed as they grew)
As they got older, we incorporated a small table and chairs so they could go in their rooms and do some of their work while looking out of their window during the day. I would set out small activities near by on a low shelf so they could grab and do independently. Rooms should not be a place for punishment, or discipline when they are this age. Side note, it is absolutely fine to tell them to go into their rooms to take a break or reset and play/read, but never "Go to your room!" when the have problematic behavior otherwise they will associate their bedroom as a negative place. This will set you up for failure with sleep routine. We did also add photos higher up (shown in this picture, as he was a bit older (2.5) but this was just us experimenting, and changing things up a bit.
Their room should be a fun space for them, but do limit they types of fun that is had in the room. Refrain from storing loud battery operated toys (especially young ones I worry they could open and choke,) or too many toys for that matter. You may have storage space issues, and if this is the case, don't feel compelled to have every toy you own out. It's okay to store some in the garage, or closets and rotate. This is actually a great way to them interested and also allows for them to display their beloved toys in plain sight, but put away nicely at the same time.
I showed these little bins from the dollar store in our playroom post, and will show them again here as they would be perfect for bedroom shelves as well and easy for the child to handle. Obviously for infants and toddlers, as is the purpose of this post, I would not suggest legos, kinex, or small blocks... I would suggest using them for sensory bins with very low stimulating manipulatives such as geometric wooden shapes, pink tower, brown stairs, sand paper letters, books, etc...
(Mason at 6 months old)
This little book was popular. I went online and printed out famous artworks, and put them into sheet protectors, and secured with a keyr ing. He would carry it around with him, and it was super easy to clean/wipe off!
Now onto the bed itself. We simply placed a twin size mattress onto our floor. Why so big, and why not a crib size? This goes back to the idea of having freedom within limits. Infants and toddlers are learning about their bodies in relation to their space. They need to stretch, roll, experience different heights (safely of course,) and be comfortable in doing so. Being able to spin around and turn is a great thing, and it helps them with proprioception, which is their body and where it is at in that particular space. This allows them to explore at their own will, and really get a grasp on navigating their space.
The most frequent question I would get was "what if they don't stay in their beds?" and my response, "they are fine up and exploring, and will learn over time to make their way back when they get that tired feeling (helpful in them understanding their own cues,) in the meantime if you find your little one sleeping on the floor next to their books, that's okay. If you'd feel better you could pick them up and place them gently in their beds if you don't think they'd wake up... however I wouldn't personally suggest disturbing their sleep. If they are uncomfortable, they will adjust.
When mine were really young, I would lay with them in their beds (another perk of a twin) and read to them until they started dozing, then I'd quietly make my way out. This again helps them correlate that dozy feeling with comfort of their beds. That's not to say though that toddler hood is the same... lol it's not. I would lay in their beds, read a few books, and then leave quietly telling them to get some rest. Not every nap will be a success no matter the sleep set up, remember this. The idea of this set up should be incorporated into your daily lives as they grow. The entire concept focused around limiting frustrations, and enhancing your child's environment to benefit their development through independence. It can take some time, and research on why this method is beneficial, and again remember you can modify all things in general to fit your family's needs. What works for one may not work for you, and that is OKAY!
I thought this was a great compromise for those unsure of having a floor bed, this way they can try it out and see how your child uses it during the day, keeping the crib for night time only. Slowing the transition may make it easier to notice the progress!
Here are some more photos you can also find more on my pinterest board:
I will try getting a general Montessori post up, it's a lot harder than it seems to break down into a semi short post, being we have been incorporating it into our lives since our youngest was born I have so much to share! So many different areas to touch on, but I will try to keep it simple and not overwhelming, because it really isn't! In the meantime, here is a good book to start with: