Maria Montessori Would Not Approve

The ideal Montessori environment: uncluttered, beautiful, scaled to child size, simple. Something like this. I looked around baby D’s nursery today and realized that I have turned it into something quite different. I will spare the gentle reader from a photo, but suffice it to say that baby D’s nursery is cluttered and scaled to accommodate my needs, not his. I guess my next project is returning to my Montessori ideals and bringing order, simplicity, and beauty to his environment. I am an experimental mom, and this experiment took a wrong turn– but it is salvageable.

He is sleeping mostly in his Pack n’ Play. I still thoroughly believe in the concept of the floor bed, and he has slept on his floor bed sometimes. I just don’t feel comfortable with the floor level environment in his room. That is my fault. I have not maintained a child-safe floor level environment. So, momma, get it together! Montessori would not approve.


Our Montessori Bed

Montessori Floor Bed

Our simple floor bed, ready for baby.

The nursery is ready for baby! I spent today doing all of the finishing touches– hanging new blinds and curtains, putting everything away, cleaning, arranging and rearranging the furniture… and setting up the Montessori bed. It is very simple, no toys or pillows as that would not be safe for an infant. I am displaying the lovely hand-knit blanket that a relative made for the baby, but it will be removed for safety while the baby sleeps. Ideally a shatter proof mirror would be securely mounted to the wall next to the bed for visual stimulation and encouraging the baby to explore and “interact” with his or her reflection, but we do not have one. So, following the principle of having a simple, clutter-free, developmentally appropriate environment for the child, I resisted the urge to add more “stuff”. We used a very firm crib mattress, although a low profile twin size mattress designed for bunk beds or a futon mattress would work as well. A floor bed must be low enough that a baby will not be harmed by rolling or crawling off, and firm enough not to sag and cause a suffocation hazard. Look for a mattress with the most coils you can find, and test it to be sure that it properly supports baby. Some parents choose to put the mattress in a wooden frame to provide a more finished look. We decided to forego the frame for budget reasons and also so that there is nothing hard between the baby and the floor once he or she is mobile. The reason for using the floor bed is to allow the child to get into and out of bed independently. A pre-mobile infant benefits from the floor bed by having an unrestricted view of his or her surroundings, which encourages visual and eventually physical exploration. When the infant becomes independently mobile, the transition from visual to physical exploration happens seamlessly– there is no crying to be taken out of a crib. When the child is ready, he or she crawls off of the bed and into the nursery environment. For this reason everything must be safe for the baby to touch. It sometimes helps to think of the whole room as the crib and prepare it accordingly.
An excellent description of the Montessori floor bed– one of the most thorough I have seen online, can be found at:
Please, please, please check out the link. If you have any apprehension about the floor bed concept, or if you need a place to direct curious (or furious) people, this is the post to read. The whole site is worth looking at– lots of articles and videos that explain many aspects of Montessori philosophy.
Once our baby is born I will post about how the bed is working out. It won’t be long now!

You Aren’t Using a Crib?!

    The first childhood development and education theory that I became familiar with was the Montessori Method. I am not a trained Montessori guide, and I have no affiliation with any Montessori school. I am just fascinated by the concept of ‘freedom within limits’ in the prepared environment , and with allowing children to do independently what they can. I like the concept of letting children do real tasks– household tasks, dressing and undressing themselves, preparing their own food, planting and tending their own gardens, etc. Montessori contends that children want to do these things. In fact, she says, they would rather do real tasks than engage in pretend play.

     The very first Montessori concept that I am incorporating into my child’s life is the floor bed. Although not a new idea, it is still decidedly countercultural. The idea is that by placing babies on a mattress on the floor to sleep rather than in a crib, the child will have an unobstructed view of his or her environment, and will have independence of movement. Once the baby becomes mobile, he or she can move onto and off of the bed without needing to cry until someone comes to remove the child from a crib. The whole room is really seen as the crib. Everything is child safe, and everything within the child’s reach is okay for him or her to touch. This fosters independence and maturity by allowing the child to learn that he or she can move to meet his or her own needs. Some parents who use the Montessori floor bed report that their children do not cry upon waking– they just crawl over to a toy or book that has been left in the child’s line of sight on a low shelf and play contentedly. Some of my favorite posts about the floor bed concept can be found here and here. A nice picture of a baby’s room with a floor bed can be seen here. I will upload my own photo when my baby’s room is complete, but I think the picture from Sew Liberated is one of the nicest I have seen.

     One thing that is vital to remember when choosing to do anything that contravenes societal norms (especially as regards the care of a baby!) is that you will receive criticism, and that is okay. For things like the floor bed, many people are likely to be shocked and concerned for the child’s safety. All an experimental mom or dad can do is explain the concept, tell the concerned party where more information can be obtained if desired, and let it go. It is not productive to be offended or defensive when someone criticizes or seems horrified by your choices as a parent. As difficult as it may be, remember that people are just concerned because they likely have never heard of what you are doing before. Know when explanation is helpful and when it is not. Then go forward confidently with your plans as a parent. If something doesn’t work out like you hoped you can always change it. If you avoid something just because others think it is weird you may regret it later.