The Ultimate Guide to Creating the Perfect Montessori Home for Your Growing Baby
T he Perfect Montessori Home
Your baby grows and changes rapidly in the first few years of life. Besides taking the time to respond to and celebrate each new development, it is important to provide your baby with a safe, loving, and stimulating environment to learn, grow, and development, both physically and emotionally. With my son attending a Montessori pre-school, I have experienced first-hand the benefits of the Montessori methodology. He’s more independent, confident, and more motivated. This has led me to the idea of setting up my own Montessori space at home. As there is not much information online in regards to how to set up a Montessori-inspired home, I hope my experience and research would help those of you who would like to go down the same route.
When people hear the word Montessori, the first impression is always expensive toys and complicated set-up. However, designing the perfect Montessori home for your growing child that promotes development and independence can be simple and cheap. Many Montessori parents actually DIY a lot of the activities.
In general, to design the perfect Montessori Home, simply follow three main Montessori principles:
- Respect all babies as individual human beings,
- Allow them as much freedom of movement and choice in their activities as possible,
- And help them to become independent by creating a safe, child-friendly environment that makes it easier for them to explore
M aking Your Montessori Home Adaptive to Your Growing Baby’s Development
Your child grows up fast. It only takes a year for him/her to grow from a relatively immobile newborn to a crawling and walking toddler. When designing your Montessori home environment, it is therefore important to keep things flexible and adaptable to your growing child so you are not constantly re-renovating your home.
Also, remember that young minds absorb all impressions like sponges, especially during the period before language develops. When designing your Montessori-inspired home, pay special attention to sensory experiences.
C hild-Friendly Montessori Home Design
So what is considered as a child-friendly Montessori home?
- Organize your home to help your child become more independent and self-confident while keeping health and safety in mind.
- Design a home that conveys a sense of beauty, order, and calm throughout.
Take a look at the size of things in your home. Did you notice that the furniture we use and the way our homes are arranged are designed for adults? For example, sink and toilets, tables, chairs, sofas, and beds are all at a height intended for adults. But babies and young children are very small. Without costly renovations, think of ways to modify the rooms where your family gathers to accommodate the needs of your youngest child. Some ideas include:
- Provide step-stool for your child to reach objects that are placed above his/her reachable level
- Purchase high-quality child-size furniture like toddler/floor bed, child-sized work-table & chairs, etc. to encourage independence and movement
- Utilize low, child-height bookshelf and toy shelves that openly displaying the work materials instead of in big bins or out of reach
- Provide child-size tools such as small pitchers, bowls, scoops, small measuring spoons, small tongs for your child to practice practical life skills
M ontessori Home Safety
Safety is always a primary concern for any type of home design, but Montessori believes that children also need to be given the freedom to move around and explore.
When we were designing our Montessori home environment, we made sure our home is safe enough for our son to roam and explore under adult supervision, but without us having to worry every minute that something terrible is about to happen.
Many parents are overly concerned about safety. Some parents even confine their young children in restrictive infant and toddler devices, such as cribs, playpens, infant seats, highchairs, swings, strollers, etc for hours. We need to understand that every hour spent confined in an infant carrier is an opportunity lost. Given more freedom, babies could have been developing muscular coordination and strength, along with the sensory stimulation of hands-on learning.
By paying attention to making your home child-safe, you can create an environment in which your child is free to move about and explore without you having to worry.
Montessori Home Safety Tips
Babies need to move around and explore in order to learn. You are giving your baby freedom to do so when you create a child-safe environment at home. There are many different products on the market that help to make your home safer. Here are just a few things to remember:
- Block all electrical outlets within reach of your growing child.
- Always unplug and store electric appliances that aren’t used (i.e. iron, curling iron, etc.)
- Install safety gates and window guards. Secure your child’s bedroom, stairways, and any other rooms that you do not want her to enter (or leave).
- Secure or remove any wires that run across the floor or anywhere else where your growing child might reach them.
- Check the house and yard for poisonous plants and move them out of baby’s reach
- Remove or lock cabinets or closets where you store chemicals, tools, forks and knives, and any other potentially dangerous items.
- Install stove knob covers and keep saucepan handles to the back of the stove when cooking.
- Bathrooms can be dangerous (especially toilets, hairdryers, razors, and the like). Secure your bathroom from unsupervised exploration.
- Keep cabinets containing medicines locked at all times.
D esigning the First Montessori Nursery
Infants absorb everything that surrounds them in their environment: colors, patterns, sounds, textures, and aromas. When planning your baby’s Montessori nursery you will want to provide an environment that is filled with beauty and sensory stimulation. To boost your infant’s brain development, the room should be bright and colorful, clean and orderly.
Here are 6 important areas to pay attention to when designing the first Montessori bedroom for your baby.
1. Visual Stimulation for Babies
Although newborn babies’ eyes tend to focus on objects that are fairly close, they can also see and are stimulated by something that is farther away, especially if it moves. One suggestion to visually stimulate your baby is to hang a mobile over your baby’s bed and his diaper-changing area so he has something to observe.
You don’t need fancy expensive mobiles, homemade mobiles with objects that can be changed give your baby fresh things to look at from time to time actually work way better.
2. Quality Baby-Friendly Artwork
During the early years of acute sensitivity, it is important to expose your child to good art and beautiful objects so he can learn to appreciate beautiful things in life. Decorate the walls of your child’s room with pictures hung very low on the wall (equivalent to eye-level when he is old enough to toddler). Try to avoid the typical cartoons and commercial images from TV and movies. Instead, choose framed art prints or posters that show lovely scenes with children and animals.
3. Introduce Music
Music should be an important part of every child’s life, and there is real value in exposing young children to a wide variety of music. Set some space for a sound system to play music for your baby to listen to. Select music that has simple melodies and clearly defined instrumentation when possible, such as classical music, nursery rhymes, lullabies etc. Play music at a moderate volume so your baby is not being bombarded with loud music.
4. Offer Quality Montessori-Inspired Toys
Infants do not need many toys in the early months, other than a few rattles and a soft toy or two. But as the months pass by, you will probably find your child begins to accumulate more. Here are some tips when buying toys for your young baby:
- Look for toys that are well-constructed, attractive, and which your child can stack, assemble, or interact with in one way or the other rather than passive battery-operated toys
- Avoid any toy that simply does something while your child watches. You want to encourage your child to be actively engaged, not a passive observer waiting to be entertained.
- Choose well-made wooden toys over the plastic variety found in every modern toy store. At this young age, your baby is forming strong sensory impressions. Plastic toys are more or less unbreakable and are relatively inexpensive, but they do not appeal to children in the way that beautifully made wooden ones can, and they tend to be treated carelessly.
One of our goals in our children is to instill a sense of appreciation for beautiful things from the earliest years, while at the same time cultivating a sense of order. So instead of using a toy box, keep toys neatly on low, open-concept display shelves. If a toy consists of lots of small parts, you can organize and keep them together in a basket. This way, your baby has easy access to all the toys and can freely pick and choose which one interests him.
5. Montessori Floor Bed
Many parents go straight to shopping for cribs when they find out they are having a baby. However, many find out fairly quickly after birth the fact that most babies do not like to be confined in their crib.
For your baby’s first bed, consider placing a small futon or mattress on the floor. A low bed of this sort will be just the right height for your child to crawl out of and back into when she is old enough to move around. Assuming you have baby-proof your house, the ability to freely explore her bedroom is much more interesting than being confined to a crib.
In fact, your child’s entire bedroom can become a safe play area – all you need is a stair-gate across the doorway, safety covers for your electrical outlets, and some careful thought about what you bring into the bedroom while your child is young.
6. Montessori Wall Mirror
Infants and kids love seeing themselves in the mirror, and it is an essential item from a Montessori sense. By having a low lying, full-length mirror in their play area, you are:
- Promoting visual tracking.
- Promoting concentration – along with the mobiles you can see long periods of concentration in a very young child.
- Bringing joy – often when you see a mirror in a store or even in the bathroom this will please the young infant, they may smile or may even laugh. Babies often love to look at faces, including their own.
- Promoting independent play – the child is not reliant on an adult to entertain them.
- Promoting free movement – encourages parents to spend more time with the child in the movement area, gives the child more time to move and get to know their body. Can also encourage the child during tummy time.
- Promoting coordinated movement – Babies observes themselves in the mirror and then reacts, they may at this age not know it is themselves in the mirror but they are beginning to make connections.
- Allowing the child to view the rest of their/the room and over time allows them to visually map the room, this is especially beneficial for infants that are not able to move or crawl.
A dpating Your Montessori Home to a Growing Child
As your child becomes more independent and busy, she would want to start exploring outside of her nursery. That’s why when we were designing our Montessori home environment, we try to accommodate our son’s activities whenever and wherever the family gathers by incorporating Montessori designs and principals in areas outside of his bedroom.
This could be challenging if you have a big home with multiple activity areas. To minimize the amount of work needed, try to arrange the rooms where your child spends most of her time. This makes it easy for him to maintain a neat, well-organized atmosphere and less tidying up for parents too! For us, it was the living room and the kitchen.
It is surprising what an impact this can have on your child’s developing personality when your home is Montessori friendly.
The Montessori playroom basically refers to where families tend to congregate in the house, it could be your family room, living room, or even your library. When planning your Montessori playroom, keep the following in mind:
- Include accessible shelves where your growing child can keep her books and toys neatly and attractively organized.
- Avoid putting out too many toys and books at one time. Instead, divide toys into three or more sets. Favorite toys are kept out on the shelves continually, and two or more sets that are rotated in and out of the closet every month or so to change things up and keep your child interested.
- Furniture should be at the right height to support good posture while your child reads, writes, and works. So provide a child-sized work table and light-weight chairs where your child can work on projects.
- Include a basket holding some small rugs that can be spread out to define your child’s work areas when she chooses to play with her toys on the floor. These rugs are called working mats or work rugs, which helps your child to work within a defined area (so toys are not everywhere) and shows that we’re careful not to step on our lovely things. Trust me, this is super important if you don’t want blocks and lego everywhere.
Why have a toy kitchen when you can play with the real thing? Once your child reaches about two years of age, make room in your kitchen for a child-sized work table for young cooks. This allows your child to work and play alongside you. Many parents are scared to have kids playing in the kitchen, but from my experience as well as many other Montessori parents’ experience, as long as all safety measures are in place, involving your child during meal prep time actually decrease chaos and tantrums. Your child will feel more engaged and involved with the food preparation process, develop better practical skills, and enjoy food more – making meal time much easier. In fact, a child who is 2 years old is capable of opening the refrigerator and taking out her own prepared snack or cold drink stored in a cup. A slightly older child can pour her own juice from a pitcher and make her own snack. Prepared snacks, such as yogurt and cheese, can be bought in small individual services and stored on this shelf
Again, our kitchen design is intended for adult use. To make it easy for your little cook, you can do the following:
- Reserve a bottom drawer to store forks, knives, spoons, and kid-sized cooking utensils so your child can access the tools easily
- Have a low shelf to hold your child-sized plates, bowls, glasses, and napkins
- Set aside the bottom shelf in your refrigerator for your child. Here you can store small drink pitchers, pieces of fruit, and the ingredients she might need for making snacks. To prevent unwanted accidents, make sure you use non-breakable plastic containers to hold peanut butter, jellies, lunch meats, and spreads.
Look around your bathroom to see how you can make it easier for your child to use what she needs to. She should be able to reach the sink, turn on the water, and reach her toothbrush and toothpaste without help. There should be a special place where her towel and washcloth are kept so she can reach them. Most parents provide bathroom stools, but a small, wobbly stool does not provide enough secure, comfortable space for bathroom tasks. If possible, build or buy a sturdy platform 6-8in (15-20cm) high that fits around the toilet and sink.
Make your hall child-friendly by providing a low bench where your child can keep her shoes. You can also position coat hooks at a level that she can reach by herself. Easy-to-reach coat hooks and easy access to shoes help your child to get ready by herself.
Montessori Bedroom Design for Toddlers
As your child grows, she will demonstrate individualism and personality. Every child is different, so only plan your child’s bedroom up to a point, and let it reflect her personality and current interests. Here are some Montessori-inspired ways to design your toddler’s bedroom:
- As your child reaches age two, you could either continue to have her sleep on a floor bed or buy a bed for her that is low to the floor. This makes it easy and safe for your child to get into and out of bed on her own and helps to give her a sense of independence.
- As your child enters toddler-hood, you may choose to allow her to use a duvet or sleeping bag on her bed instead of sheets and blankets. This makes it much easier for her to straighten and tidy her own bed in the morning.
- Utilize the open concept, low shelving to store toys and books so your toddler can pick and choose what she wants to work on. Set up a rotation system so that not all her toys are available for playing with at the same time.
- Provide an art table for non-messy artwork, such as drawing or paper-and-paste projects. Keep colored pencils sharpened and stored in a box that is easy for your child to get to and carry around.
- In addition to providing child-sized furniture, make sure your child can reach doorknobs and light switches without help. Light switches can be modified with extenders to allow your child to turn lights on and off independently, these are sold in most hardware stores. If you don’t want to do this, provide a sturdy step stool for your child to reach the light switch.
- Hang a bulletin board low on the wall so your child can pin up her best pieces of artwork. Small shelves and tables also make good display areas.
- Music should be an important part of every child’s life. Provide a collection of favorite music and songs on a player in the bedroom and give your child a step-by-step demonstration on how to use it carefully and sensibly.
- Nature is an important Montessori concept. Provide space for a small nature museum where your child can collect natural objects she finds.
- Instead of a chest of drawers that are more intended for adults, install a low shelf unit on which you can place small baskets for socks and underwear.
- Mount a coat rack low on one wall so your child can hang up her coat, hat, and robe, and get them down easily by herself.
No matter what you do, the main Montessori principle to keep in mind is to avoid clutter. When everything has its set place your child can easily maintain order in her room. As kids are generally messy and hate “tidy up”, you can help your child maintain tidiness by:
- Placing toys with many pieces in appropriate containers, such as plastic boxes with lids or small baskets. This would enable your child to tidy up herself.
- Utilizing working mats or work rugs so your child only plays within a defined area
- Displaying toys neatly on open-concept shelves. Use trays when necessary to keep different sets of toy separate from each other.
Montessori-Inspired Arts and Crafts Area
Most of us want to encourage our children’s creativity. Every home with young children benefits from some sort of arts and crafts area. This might be in a corner of the kitchen, your child’s bedroom, or a hallway – really it can be any place where you are comfortable allowing your child to work with art materials, such as painting and pastels, which obviously can spill and stain. Of course, you will probably want to choose an area with a tile floor so that spills can be easily clean up, or you can lay down a large plastic drop cloth.
For our arts and craft area, here’s what we did:
- Set up an easel for painting and an art table for drawing and crafting (covered with a washable tablecloth)
- A small shelf where my son can easily access his art supplies like brushes, paper, etc.
- A clothes-drying rack for my son to hang up his finished painting
- Provide him with the high-quality art materials – paints, brushes, drawing pencils, markers, crayons, etc. Each having its own container/box so he knows how to take care of them and store them properly when not being used.
Encourage your child to display his finished work for the rest of the family to see. While the refrigerator is always a great art gallery, you can give special prominence to his favorite paintings. Buy some easy mats and frames, and help your child to mat and hang his artwork in other places around your home. Properly matted and framed, a child’s art takes on an entirely different appearance an invites respect. Be prepared to replace them regularly with his new work.
Once you have your Montessori Home set up, you are all ready to incorporate age-appropriate Montessori tools activities at home.
The five key areas of learning in the Montessori environment include; Practical Life, Sensorial, Language, Mathematics, and Culture.
1. Practical life includes life skills to help develop independence, coordination, concentration, self-control, self-awareness, confidence and include:
- Care of Self (food preparation, dressing, washing),
- Care of Environment (cleaning, gardening, care of pets, environmentalism),
- Grace and Courtesy (greetings, manners, social interactions),
- Control of Movement (refining movements, walking the line, moving quietly).
2. Sensorial activities allows the child to refine each of their senses:
- Sight (visual),
- Touch (tactile),
- Smell (olfactory),
- Taste (gustatory)
- Sound (auditory)
- Stereognostic (kinaesthetic).
For those of you who are interested, here are favorite articles on sensory activities you can easily do at home:
- Sensory Activities for Children Brain Development
- The Ultimate Sensory Activity for Babies – Basket of Treasures
- Sensory Activities for Toddlers and Preschoolers
3. Language is based on phonetic awareness. Children work through specific hands-on and tactile language materials such as the sandpaper letters to the movable alphabet. Language is not an isolated topic but runs through the curriculum. The spoken language is the foundation for writing and then reading.
4. Mathematics is developed with the use of concrete learning materials. The sensorial area is the preparation for mathematics. Hands-on materials are used such as number rods, sandpaper numbers, number boards, spindle box, number tiles, beads, and games. Each exercise builds upon another and the child gradually moves to from concrete to abstract areas such as place value, addition, subtraction, multiplication, and fractions.
5. Culture allows the child to explore the natural world around them and includes:
- Geography (continents, landforms, earth layers, solar system),
- Zoology (classification, physiology of animals),
- Botany (ecology, classification, physiology of plants),
- History (time lines, using a calendar),
As a young and busy family, we really find spending a little bit of time and effort to make our home into a Montessori Home worthwhile. Our son is way more cooperative when it comes to play time and tidy up time. He’s more independent and engaged. And most importantly, he is learning and growing in a free and orderly environment.
I hope you find this article on how to set up a Montessori Home useful. Share in the comments if you have any tips for setting up a Montessori-inspired home.
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