Recently I came across some articles about creating a Montessori environment in the home. I found these very interesting, especially in light of my child development/education background. I am not trained in Montessori education, but I know a little bit of the methodology, and I believe in creating spaces that are accessible to children. I had always assumed I would make modifications to our home as LL grew (putting his toys where he can reach them, designating a drawer at his level for his sippy cups and plates so he can help, etc.) but it never occurred to me to implement these same ideas in his bedroom as an infant.

Since LL is not mobile yet, we decided now was the time to start. Looking at his room, there were already several “Montessori friendly” elements included. I had a mirror at eye level so that he can see his reflection during tummy time, and a bookshelf that is attached to the wall at his level so that he can easily access his books when he is a little bigger. I knew, though, that there were more changes that we would need to make for safety reasons, and a few that I wanted to make to create a more child-centered space.

1. Floor Bed – The biggest change we decided to make, after reading this article and many others like it, was to get rid of his crib. This seems somewhat shocking, but the more I thought about it the more convinced I became. Most people that I have talked to have stories about their babies struggling with sleep once they were old enough to pull up on the rails and/or climb out. I also hear stories of difficult transitions, and two year olds who have a very hard time staying in bed at bedtime because the physical restriction has been removed. It seemed to me that, safety aside, it made more sense to make that transition now, when he doesn’t know any different. In theory, if all he really knows is his floor bed, there won’t be a difficult transition later.

Of course, leaving your infant alone in a room overnight with no physical boundary means that the entire room must be childproof. Safety is incredibly important when giving any child more freedom, much more so if the child will not be 100% supervised.

This sounded overwhelming at first, but I realized that at some point the room would need to be that childproof anyway. Whether he was free to roam at 5 months or 18 months, the room would still need to be safe. In theory, he will learn boundaries as we go rather than waiting until he is a toddler or two year old who is asserting independence and challenging our authority.

Our floor bed is simply his crib mattress on the floor. If this goes well we will end up moving him to a twin mattress when he gets a little bigger. For now we are leaving his quilt on the floor next to the bed in case he rolls off, since we have hardwood floors. We do use a blanket because the weight helps him sleep. I tuck it in on one side by the wall, and it tends to stay in place. If he was a more active sleeper I would consider not using the blanket.

2. Basket Close to Bed – Part of the idea of the floor bed is that when the child wakes up, he has access to quiet activities that will keep him from immediately needing adult assistance and will lessen frustration. We have a basket near LL’s bed that contains some soft toys and an extra blanket right now. Later we will include one or two favorite toys or books (and rotate them frequently) so that he has easy access to a few things to do when he wakes up.

 3. Basic Childproofing – There are several things that we did in this room that we probably won’t do in the rest of the house (we will be houseproofing, not childproofing in every other room). We covered outlets, bolted the top heavy furniture to the walls and attached all large frames to the walls with screws instead of nails. . We moved the glider to our bedroom, since the tracks at the bottom could easily pinch little fingers. We also made sure that all outlets that have things plugged in are covered by furniture, so that no cords are exposed. Also, the curtains are extremely secure…I think I could probably hang from them myself…and there are no loops in our mini-blind cords.

3. Lowered Pictures – After replacing all of the glass with plexi-glass, the frames that were on the toy shelf were moved to the floor where LL can see them. Pictures that were on the wall were hung lower, with Command picture hanging strips instead of nails.

5. Designated Play Area
– We wanted it to be clear that there are different places for playing and sleeping, so we moved the furniture and rug to create a space that is just for playing.

6. Easy Access to Limited Toys – The last thing I want is to wake up in the morning to find every toy we own thrown around the room. We rearranged the baskets in LL’s toy shelf so that the baskets he is allowed to choose from are low, and the ones he isn’t  allowed access to are high where he won’t be able to reach. I also added an open basket that contains some of his favorite toys. This shelf will change as he gets older, but I don’t plan to ever have more than a few toys accessible at once. The rest of his toys will be stored in the closet and rotated on a regular basis. I love that I will be able to easily put these baskets in the closet if this develops into a problem.

7. High Shelf – We did have a couple things that we did not want to be in LL’s reach, so we hung a shelf high above his changing table/dresser to display these items.

8. Doors that Close
– We didn’t add these, but they are an important safety feature. LL has a door to the bathroom and the laundry room in his bedroom, and these both will need to be closed when he is unsupervised. The cloth diaper pail and trash can may need to be put behind closed doors during nap time, just in case. We will cross that bridge when we come to it.

So far we have not noticed any change in LL’s sleep habits at night with the switch, and we are thrilled about that! We know the big test will be when he learns to crawl in the coming months. Just like with anything in this new parenting journey, we have no idea how it is going to turn out! We still have the crib in the attic, ready to be put back together if we need it!

How have you created a child-centered space in your home?