One of the questions I get asked the most is: I don’t know where to start. What should I do? Many times, these are expecting mothers, unsure of where to begin to create a Montessori environment, specifically for their babies. Let’s take some time to discuss how to prepare yourself for your Montessori baby, what materials are convenient to have (and why), and what books are nice to read.
When I was pregnant with Yvann, I didn’t know about Montessori, and we ended up spending money on baby gear and toys that ended up becoming unnecessary. By the time he was about one and a half years old, I was deep in the world of Montessori, completely hooked, and reading everything I could possibly get my hands on.
By the time I was expecting my second child, Natasha, I spent a lot of time reflecting on how we wanted our home to look, how we could create her space, and tried to implement. I wanted my pregnancy to be calm and peaceful. If you are brand new to Montessori, it is important to realize that Montessori is a lifestyle. I whole heartedly believe this. It is not (just) about shelves, pretty wooden toys, or educational activities.
Living a Montessori life style means your child is treated with dignity, respect, kindness, and love. We show our children (and babies) that we view them as capable individuals with their own opinions, desires, and needs. In terms of Montessori baby spaces, this means you create your space with your child’s needs in mind, not your own convenience. How do we do that?
Montessori for Infants: How to Prepare for my Montessori Baby
If you are pregnant or just getting started, I really think that it is important to start by preparing yourself. There are many aspects of Montessori that are different than “mainstream” parenting or that go against convention and fads. All of those battery operated toys, colorful cartoon figurines, and toys, cluttered play spaces are omitted from Montessori homes. Swings, jumperoos, playpens are also missing.
To start with then, take some time to read books. The first book I recommend to anyone completely new is How To Raise An Amazing Child the Montessori Way by Tim Seldin. This is an easy to read guide that can really help to give you a solid overview about Montessori at home. Afterward, look through some of the titles in my Recommended Montessori Reading article. My top recommendations for beginners are:
- Montessori from the Start: The Child at Home, from Birth to Age Three
- Teach Me to Do It Myself: Montessori Activities for You and Your Child
- The Joyful Child: Montessori, Global Wisdom for Birth to Three
Dr. Montessori’s own books are also useful to read, but can be a more challenging and more intense. Plan out more time for them. To start, I recommend these:
Parenting as a whole is a beautiful journey, but can be very challenging. There are several books specifically about parenting, patience, and emotionally connecting with children that I found particularly useful. Even though these books are not specifically “Montessori” books, they do provide insight into parenting with peace and respect.
- No Bad Kids: Toddler Discipline Without Shame
- How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk
- No Drama Discipline
This is not an exhaustive list of Montessori book recommendations. Again, do read my Recommended Montessori Reading article for more titles. These titles are meant to give you an idea of the types of books you can start with if you are beginning your journey.
A Montessori bedroom looks very different from a traditional nursery. Montessori Baby bedrooms or sleep spaces are designed to give baby the most independence possible. Do keep in mind that we still do need to have a comfortable space and solution for diapering and taking care of children. When preparing for your Montessori child, you will notice that there are many things you do not need.
Because baby will be moving around so much in this space, you need to take extra care to baby proof. Find out the recommendations for this in your country, but minimally do keep in mind that:
- All furniture should be secured to the walls! This is very important for shelving units, mirrors, and anything else you have that could fall on your child.
- Outlets need to be secured for baby. I have seen conflicting articles about whether you should cover them, so I recommend doing your own research. Because we designed our house, all of our outlets are out of baby’s reach.
Before you design your baby’s space, figure out where that will be. Remember, during the day, it is important that your infant is in the main living area (but in a safe place). Infants sleep a lot, but we always kept N “around” when she was awake, and really whilst she slept. This allows them to feel included, and is so important for them. I liked that N got to see the action while Y played with his cars, while he and I played board games, or read books. She was a part of the family in this way from the beginning.
What goes into a bedroom?
There are several basics key features of a Montessori bedroom:
- A floor bed consisting of a mattress covered with a tight, fitted sheet only
- A shelving unit with a few toys or books within baby’s reach
- Baskets or bowls are often used for holding toys
- A mirror secured to the wall (often a pull-up bar is later added to assist baby in learning to stand up and walk) in baby’s play area
- A rug for coziness and warmth
- Visual stimulation mobiles followed by Montessori tactile mobiles in baby’s play area (not hanging above the mattress where they will be expected to sleep)
- Low hanging, realistic art work at baby’s eye level, ideally placed above the low shelving unit
You can see several ideas in my article: Montessori baby spaces. You can also read about my recommendations for what you need to prepare for your baby. This is a general list of baby care materials, and not toys or Montessori furniture.
Why a floor bed?
Often you see cribs in nurseries. In Montessori homes, you typically see a floor bed. This is as simple as placing a good quality mattress on the floor. This is done for multiple reasons, concisely summarized to be:
- Comfort for the child
- Respect for the child
- Ease of use for the child
- Fostering independence in the child.*
- Safety – babies can fall out of cribs and injure themselves
*Because a Montessori bedroom is set up to be the child’s question, you want your baby to be able to get in and out of bed independently. A floor bed allows this as babies can crawl in and out of bed without falling (too far). Some parents choose to place something soft next to the bed, such as a nice mat or rug.
The play space
In a Montessori baby’s bedroom, you can also often find a shelving unit for toys, a mirror, and a pull-up bar. Ikea is a great source of full-length mirrors and Montessori friendly shelving. This shelving unit (Kallax) placed horizontally is absolutely perfect for babies and young toddlers. You will not overwhelm the baby by providing too many toys. Plus, infants can use it to pull-up on. If you would add a second level of shelves on top, then baby could hit his or her head when pulling up. We have this one and I just love it!
Above the shelving unit is the perfect place to hang some wall art for your baby. You can use black and white visual stimulation cards for an infant. As baby’s eye sight improves, and they begin to see color, you can invest in some realistic artwork.
The designated “awake” area is where you will want to place a mirror and pull-up bar, as well. If you place a mirror by the place you want your child to sleep, it can be overstimulating and will prevent him or her from being able to fall asleep. Seeing another face in the mirror will be very interesting to a baby. Always secure the mirror to the wall so it will not fall on baby.
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For an infant, you can place a soft mat for baby to lay on next to the mirror. From the ceiling or your wall, you can hang Montessori mobiles. Begin with the visual stimulation mobiles before moving onto tactile mobiles, such as this one or this puzzle ball mobile.
When it comes to toys, I think it is safe to say, many people feel overwhelmed by them even if they don’t apply Montessori principles to their homes. What kind? How many? Add finding Montessori friendly materials, and I think it’s easy to become completely confused and unsure of what to get.
Here is a small (but not exhaustive) list of some amazing Montessori friendly toys to purchase for a baby.
- Infant Rattle
- Bell Rattle
- Interlocking disks
- Bead Ball Rattle
- Infantino Textured Multi Ball Set
- Classic Rolling Baby Rattle
- Tactile Ribbed Balls
- Puzzle ball
- Egg and cup
Additionally, I recommend this article from I Believe in Montessori about how to choose a stacking tower, a typical toy you see in Montessori homes and play spaces. The article explains very well many important concepts and things to consider when choosing your toys.
For a baby, we typically have 3-5 options out at a time. It is important that baby can access his or her toys.
I love to watch my daughter become increasingly independent. I love how she knows where her toys are, even if she does often prefer to play with her older brother’s cars. Luckily, he always leaves a few for her.
As a beginning, these things are the starting point. Get the space ready for your baby, but do keep in mind that the environment will change. Baby’s needs are constantly changing. It will be important to evolve your space as your child changes.
Do you need some help setting your child’s Montessori bedroom?
I have a quick guide you can download to get started today!
More Help Getting Started?
I hope you have a fabulous day!