L is currently still in her infant bedroom, although she will be upgraded to a new toddler room soon (hopefully in August, if I can get organized by then) to make room for Baby #2. That being said, the things in L’s infant room are still great for a 15-month-old and even older. So let’s talk a little about Montessori environmental design, in this case regarding setting up a bedroom for an infant.
Maria Montessori set up numerous guidelines in her writings for how to design the optimal environment for a child to naturally develop independence. Many of these guidelines can be applied to even the youngest infant. Here is what L’s room has looked like from birth on:
L slept in this room beginning three nights after we brought her home from the hospital. This was simply a personal choice that I made based on my own needs — when she was in our room, I woke up every time she made the slightest little noise or movement, sure that something was wrong. But she was fine! Our bedroom door is literally 5 feet away from hers, so we moved her next door and turned on the monitor. We all slept better from then on.
No, L has never slept in a crib. From day three, she has slept on a twin-sized mattress on the floor. Even for newborns, this allows for greater space for freedom of movement during the night. We have two pool noodles under the fitted sheet — one on the side against the wall and one on the open side — because L rolls. They keep her in the bed while she’s asleep, but don’t prevent her from getting out when she’s awake. Once L began to crawl, she could get into and out of bed by herself. After that, there was never a morning or naptime that she would wake up and just sit there screaming until I came in. She crawled out of bed and entertained herself. Or she crawled over to the door and knocked on it until I came in — a much nicer sound than screaming.
Because a floor bed enables freedom of movement, there are times when L is up and unsupervised in her room. This means that everything in the room needs to be completely safe and secured to the walls — all furniture, wall hangings, etc. I am completely confident that she cannot get severely injured while she’s alone in there.
One of the few pieces of furniture we have in L’s room is a bookcase. This minimizes distractions so she isn’t tempted to get out of bed in the middle of night or naptime to play, but it also provides something for her to do when I’m not ready to come get her yet. L’s books are set out face-up so she can see what each one is before she takes it. You can buy expensive bookcases that provide this feature in an up-right position, but I wanted to save money, so I used a bookcase that I painted when I was a little girl. The books are all currently board books that she cannot damage, not that she tries to anymore.
Saving money again, I opted not to buy an expensive rocking chair or glider in favor of reusing an old chair that didn’t really fit in my living room. This has the added benefit of being safer for L when she’s moving about while unsupervised — no pinched fingers!
This is L’s clothes station in her room. Each night, we hang L’s outfit for the next day on the hooks on her closet door. When I come to get her in the morning, she knows to walk over and bring her clothes to the bathroom. After she’s changed, she takes her pajamas to the hamper and puts them in. These are not activities we forced on her by any means — she simply watched us do them so many times and, entering that well-known phase of toddlerhood, now wants to do things “BY MYSELF!” Placing the hooks and the hamper at her level allow her to exercise that independence in a safe and appropriate manner, one of the core tenets of the Montessori philosophy. When L is a little older (probably when she moves into her toddler bedroom), we will lay out two different outfits for L to choose from each day — just two. It is too difficult for a toddler to make a decision when there are more than two options to choose from.
Decoration in L’s room is kept to a minimum — this is, after all, primarily a place for sleep. We have a few framed pictures hung securely on the wall at her level, so she doesn’t have to look up a mile to see them. There is also a long, low mirror alongside L’s bed. She enjoys looking at herself while she’s falling asleep, and it also provides a self-entertainment factor for when she wakes up — I can’t tell you how many times I would walk in after nap to find L quietly licking her own reflection. When L was younger and still slept on her back, I had a mobile hung over the bed.
As you can see, everything in L’s room was chosen for a specific purpose and with an infant’s developmental needs in mind. In August, L will be moving next door to a toddler room, and I’ll be sure to post pics of that. When Baby #2 comes this fall, she will move right into this room as-is.