The Montessori method is gaining popularity throughout the world, not only for formal child education but as a way to provide childcare outside the classroom. With a focus on independence, freedom, and respect for the child’s choices and pacing, the Montessori method can be used almost from birth, including creating a Montessori-style nursery.
A Montessori nursery focuses on simplicity, versatility, natural elements (such as wood and fabrics), muted colors, and the child’s continual absorbance of knowledge and experiences. All decoration, shelving, and learning materials should be within reach of the child to allow full independence.
So, is a Montessori nursery right for you, your household, and your baby?
What Is a Montessori Style Nursery?
In the early 20th century, Dr. Maria Montessori developed the Montessori Method. This method is a child-centered approach to education and childcare, stressing independence, freedom (within safe limits) for the child, and respect for the child’s development.
The Montessori Method believes there’s no such thing as “too soon” when it comes to a child’s education. Parents don’t have to wait for preschool to begin for their child’s education to begin! A great deal of child’s education can take place in their early months, as they begin important development almost from birth.
By using the Montessori method, you can turn your child’s nursery into their very first classroom. A Montessori-style nursery is set up to best suit the baby’s developmental needs; the nursery is a place to learn, explore, and work on necessary skills.
Montessori nurseries are set up with the baby’s developmental needs in mind. The Montessori education method views the nursery as a vital environment that can shape a baby’s first experiences in the world. According to the Montessori method, the mind begins to absorb information starting at conception to age 6. Because of this, Montessori education begins between ages 2 and 3; but setting up and using a Montessori nursery can give your child a head-start in their early education.
What Should Be in a Montessori Nursery?
When choosing what toys and materials to place in your child’s nursery, keep this in mind: each item should be focused on one task. For example, a favorite Montessori nursery item, a Montessori mobile. Each mobile is designed to strengthen a baby’s eye function and development.
Also, Montessori nurseries focus on incorporating natural elements, such as wood or natural fibers. These materials serve a double purpose: the materials are more durable than plastic or synthetic materials and are more appealing for the baby’s sensory perspective.
How to Create a Montessori Nursery
Montessori-style nurseries all have a few things in common, including a focus on simplicity, natural elements, and encouraging independent exploration. With these themes in mind, there is still plenty of room for you to personalize your baby’s nursery according to your personal tastes and budget. Your biggest consideration should be what kind of environment will aid in your child’s learning and development—create an environment where they will flourish.
Make use of visual simplicity. Many traditional children’s spaces are known for bright colors, decorations, and clutter of lots of toys and supplies. Montessori nurseries are calm, peaceful environments, using a neutral color palette, natural light when possible, and mainly natural materials (such as wood and fabric) when possible.
Even in a small nursery, the Montessori method uses requires plenty of empty space and minimal clutter. This is both to allow your baby room to move and explore and to minimize visual distraction when your baby is learning concentration.
When thinking about the theme and aesthetic of your baby’s room, you may find it helpful to lay on the floor. This way, you’ll see the room from your baby’s perspective and can structure the room based on their needs. While you may be able to create a beautiful room at an adult’s level, it’s all useless if your baby can’t see the same.
When considering decorations, the Montessori method recommends placing carefully selected pictures low on the wall, where the baby can see them. For newborns, the images may be in black and white. Later on, you can switch out the pictures for ones of nature or pictures of family members.
Many Montessori nurseries also include live plants or animals, such as a small fish tank, to add visual interest for the baby.
Most nurseries have a play area for the child to utilize as they grow, but a Montessori play area is set up a little differently. For one thing, Montessori play areas use child-sized furniture and a very low shelf for toy storage, so a mobile child could easily pick out and put away their toys.
Montessori nurseries also have very few toys compared to others. For a very young baby, the storage shelf might have only four or five toys on it, each with a designated spot on the shelf. This allows the baby to see their options and learn to focus their attention on one item at a time. Keeping each toy in a designated space supports your child’s sense of order. If you think your baby is bored of the toys or is ready for a greater challenge, you can replace the toys with new ones.
Traditional nurseries may give the child dolls or stuffed animals to play with to emphasize imaginary play, but Montessori emphasizes using toys that are academic in nature, such as alphabet and number blocks.
Above all, a Montessori nursery focuses on accessibility for the child. The Montessori method encourages a child’s independence—to make this independence possible, the nursery space needs to be accessible for them. Even something as small as a light switch extender or a lower railing in the closet can affect your child’s independence.
Your nursery may also include a mirror hung horizontally and low on the wall. This will allow your baby to see themselves and the room around them, helping them to develop a sense of self and spatial awareness. In fact, a child’s reflection is often one of the very first things a child will concentrate on. If you’re worried about safety, you can use a shatter-proof acrylic mirror.
Montessori also uses a very specific method of mobile progression, designed to appeal to a child’s interests and abilities as they grow. This process begins with a very simple black and white mobile for your newborn. Then, as your child develops, the black-and-white is replaced for one with different shades of the same color. Then, as your child learns to reach out and interact with items, you can give them a tactile mobile, with bells and rings for your baby to grasp and play with. For more information, check out our full article on Montessori mobiles.
The Montessori method utilizes a sleeping area that is different from a standard nursery. This is because Montessori nurseries use a floor bed instead of a crib. A floor bed allows babies to visually explore their room without crib bars blocking their view. As your child develops and becomes more mobile, a floor bed allows them the choice of getting into and out of bed on their own.
A floor bed can be as simple as a low mattress placed on the floor: although, if you have the budget, you can purchase a floor bed. If a floor bed isn’t something you’re comfortable trying, that’s okay. You can easily incorporate Montessori into the rest of the nursery and use a traditional crib or cradle.
The Montessori method is more about focusing on your child than it is about the structure of the room itself. The nursery should be customized to meet your family’s and your baby’s needs—thus, it won’t look like anyone else’s Montessori nursery.
If you’re completely sure about using a Montessori nursery, you can start with one part of the Montessori method’s environment and experiment to see if it works for you. A Montessori nursery doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Again, whatever works best for you, your household, and your baby.
What are the Benefits of a Montessori Nursery?
The Montessori method of child-raising and education, including a Montessori-style nursery, fosters independence and encourages your child to learn at their individual pace. By creating a space where they can learn and develop safely and at their own pace, your child learns independence and responsibility at an early age.
Continuing past the nursery, a Montessori environment and education has many benefits. With individually paced learning and an emphasis on independence, the Montessori method encourages empathy and joy in lifelong learning. When given the freedom and support to question, experiment, and play, Montessori children become confident, enthusiastic, and self-directed, able to think critically, collaborate with others, and act boldly. Because they have been allowed independence early in life, children raised using the Montessori method are generally more confident and more willing to interact with the world as they grow and continue to learn.
The Montessori method focuses on key developmental stages, such as learning to roll over, walk, or even something as simple as reaching out and interacting with a mobile or their own reflection in a mirror. Toys in the nursery should encourage children to work on honing muscle and language skills, as well as fine motor skills and everyday tasks.
Because of this focus on developmental stages, learning is child-centered. This way, children learn at their own pace, enjoying play and tasks designed around their needs and abilities. The nursery allows them to explore and learn at their own place and on their own terms. Most of the nursery facilitates hands-on learning, which is best suited for young minds. Incorporating learning with action is shown to help young children learn concepts easier and faster.
Because children are allowed to choose their activities and be independent in their space, they become more creative. Children will enjoy the “work” in their play, instead of looking for the end result. This kind of educational, individualized learning and playtime can actually help your child develop and become more efficient in math and reading skills, in the long run.
Montessori’s primary philosophy centers around the idea that a child’s play is how they learn about the world around them. Even in the nursery, each activity they chose to participate in uses that experience to teach concepts and ideas. Almost every element of the nursery—such as how toys are arranged on a shelf—is designed for learning purposes.
Are Montessori Nurseries Safe?
Although the idea of a Montessori nursery can be frightening, the nursery is actually very safe. Montessori nurseries are baby-proofed from the very start. If you’re using a floor bed, this is especially important.
Shelving should be within reach of your child, which means it needs to be anchored into the wall so it cannot tip over.
Safety is a vital part of the Montessori nursery because it gives your child a space to explore without constantly being told off. A safe nursery gives you and your baby the freedom and confidence to play independently.
Montessori and Your Child’s Needs
Whether or not you decide to use a Montessori nursery and the Montessori method of childcare, it all boils down to your child’s needs.
Every child has different gifts and challenges; because of this, different styles of learning may not appeal, or have any effect on your child. Most formal education is one-size-fits-all, but this is not always effective on students. Children learn differently and at different rates. Some children learn visually, while others require a more hands-on approach. Some children learn quickly, while others need a slower, more in-depth learning process. An education system that stimulates and works well for one child may bore or confuse another.
Every method of child-raising has its pros and cons, and it’s up to you to decide what’s best for your child. Where will your child thrive? What will best benefit them and their learning style? Once you answer this question, you’ll be able to decide what method your child needs.