The first time I heard about Montessori beds, I was surprised that parents actually let their babies and toddlers sleep on the floor. But once I learned the reasons behind them and how they are used by parents successfully around the world, I quickly came to see the benefits of a Montessori floor bed.
A Montessori bed is simply a bed or mattress on the floor. A floor bed is used because it allows the child independence and ownership over their environment. Parents typically transition their child to a floor bed between 5-10 months of age, although some begin as early as 2 months.
The idea of a baby or toddler sleeping on the floor might sound foreign, but it is an idea so simple and so rewarding that parents will notice a transformation in their child’s life almost instantly.
What is a Montessori Floor Bed?
A Montessori floor bed is just what its name implies: a bed on the floor! Whether it’s a fancy bed from IKEA or just a mattress on the floor, it is a bed that is within the child’s reach and at their level.
What is unique about a Montessori bed is not the bed itself, but the concept around it. Having a floor bed is about giving your child power and initiative, about trusting them to make decisions, and to grow from their own experiences.
Instead of being confined within a crib where their movement and vision are restricted, a Montessori bed allows the child to experience an inviting world full of wonders and adventures.
When it is time to sleep, the child is placed in their floor bed and invited to sleep, not forced to. The parent then leaves and the child gets to decide whether to move around for a little while or to fall asleep.
In the beginning, you might find your child sleeping on the carpet during one of their night expeditions, but that is all a part of their learning journey! The child, especially if not used to this kind of freedom, can naturally feel too excited about the prospect of exploring every corner of their little world.
Soon enough, however, they learn to identify the bed as their sleeping space and start to regulate their behavior around it, taking themselves to the bed whenever they feel the need to relax or sleep.
Why Use a Montessori Floor Bed?
A floor bed is an important step for bringing up your child the Montessori way. Maria Montessori advocated for the child’s environment to be fully prepared and furnished for their grand and important undertakings. The floor bed is an essential part of this kind of environment.
“What sort of environment must be prepared for the child so that it may be of assistance to him? There can be but one answer to this: the environment for the baby-child must be the world, the world that is around him, all of it!”–Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind (p.147)
Think of the world from the eyes of a child stuck in a crib. With their special minds, hungry for making connections, they see a world through bars, unable to experience it no matter how much they want to.
The child in a floor bed simply and naturally starts acting on their impulses and then learns from them. This gives them ownership over themselves as much as over their surroundings.
The bed becomes their ‘base’, and their room the wide, open wild. The world in their eyes becomes exciting, full of possibilities, and their role in it becomes bigger. They feel empowered and confident to act, and soon enough they get the courage to alter their environment however they want. This teaches them to notice their own sleep cues and boundaries as well as to develop self-control and decision-making.
Not only will a Montessori floor bed help the child learn to explore freely and fearlessly and to depend on themselves to make important decisions (to sleep or to play—and when?!), but also the child will grow up with the conviction that the world is a safe place to explore and make discoveries.
The child learns the attitudes and skills of the life-long learner early-on when they are deeply absorbed and never forgotten.
When to Start Using a Montessori Floor Bed?
There is no specific age for transitioning your child to a floor bed, but most Montessorians recommend doing so between 5 and 10 months of age, when they have started to sit up and move around on their own.
There are usually two ways of going about introducing your child to a floor bed. Some parents move their children from their bassinets or cradles to a floor bed right away, and some transition them from a crib to a floor bed between 1 and 3 years of age.
Starting early has its advantages, but it has its challenges as well.
The advantages of starting right away are that you never have to buy a crib and also the child gets to make use of their absorbent mind as early as possible. As soon as they have developed the ability to move around, they find a rich, inviting world waiting for them.
However, you will have to install a little rail around the floor bed or mattress until the child is capable of moving around on their own (around 6-8 months of age), so they can’t wriggle out of the bed when they are incapable of adjusting their position. If you decide to wait until the child is older than one-year-old, this is also okay, but you might want to do it gradually.
Some parents have found it better to start with naps on the floor bed first, then transition bit by bit into nighttime sleep.
If you wait until your child is older to transition to a floor bed, you might find them struggling a little bit to adjust for the first few days. However, very quickly you will find that they learn to establish and keep normal sleeping patterns.
Whenever you decide to transition your child to a floor bed, remember to incorporate the freedom of movement, the respect, and the sense of choice from the Montessori method to your child’s sleeping environment.
If they learn to regulate their body to sleep and play at this age, you will have done your child’s wonderful brain a great service they won’t ever forget.
How to Make a Montessori Bedroom
The world is a big, exciting place, and so should be your child’s little world. However, it is essential that you make sure this world is child-proof, that nothing can pose any kind of danger to your child in their environment.
One question you may be asking is “What happens if my child rolls out of bed?” Since floor beds are just a few inches above the ground, a fall should not hurt the child. However, it would be helpful if the room is carpeted, or if you could place an area rug, folded blanket, or even padded bumpers next to the mattress to add some cushion.
Another safety concern to address is the possibility of mildew or mold growing at the bottom of the mattress if it is placed directly on the floor. This is especially a concern in more humid climates. However, there are plenty of options that can help you elevate the mattress above the floor just a tiny bit to allow air to flow.
There are many places where you can buy a ready-made Montessori bed, or you can install some rails under the mattress. Another option would be to purchase a trundle bed frame to elevate the mattress slightly off the floor.
Lastly, many parents use a baby gate or some other child safety lock system at the child’s bedroom door to prevent the child from wandering freely around the rest of the house in the middle of the night.
Once the safety concerns in the child’s room are taken care of, then it’s important to decide how to set up the rest of their bedroom in the Montessori way. For your child to have the best kinds of experiences in their small, exciting world, it has to be prepared in a way that makes it worth exploring.
Whether through having toys, books, furnishings, or puzzles available in their room, there is no limit to how much you can make your child’s world stimulating and edifying.
We have more in depth information in our article on How to Create a Montessori Bedroom.