I’ve had the Montessori baby room tour linked in the sidebar of the blog for…forever. But we haven’t even been living in that house for the last year and a half! And lots of things have changed with Anneliese’s room. Plus, she’s a toddler now, not a tiny baby.
This weekend, my husband and his dad are building Anneliese a “big girl bed” so we can change her room up a little bit, and add a little mattress for Joey for when he starts taking more regular naps, or possibly for starting the night with his sister before “first wake-up" (later, not now). So the room is about to change again, and I figured now would be a good time (my last chance!) to do a tour of the room as it has been for a long while.
Montessori philosophy is based on “following the child” which means allowing them to make decisions and choose direction, and facilitating independence by carefully designing the environment.
*Photos in this post were taken with my iPhone. Wide-angle photos were with the help of my OlloClip iPhone lens. I LOVE it.
Part of this is the “floor bed” idea. Instead of a crib, Anneliese always had a floor bed. (She co-slept with us in the first months, but would often nap in her room, and start the night in her room. She has been sleeping in her room “full time” for at least a year now I guess.) A crib restricts the child to a very small area to explore, and also distorts her view of the room she’s in (bars blocking her view, or mesh if it’s a playpen type).
Lots of people will say that’s the point of a crib! And I can certainly see the necessity for them if you have a small apartment or similar, and can’t “baby proof” an entire room. But if you have a whole room for your baby or toddler anyway, you might consider viewing the room as just a giant crib. Make sure the whole room is safe, and then allow the child to explore as she desires. We have all of the outlets covered, and you can see that her video monitor camera is mounted on the wall with the cord secured and the outlet covered too, so that is safe. It’s not the prettiest, but painting it the same color as the wall helped to camouflage it a bit.
The large pictures (vintage prints of paintings of experimental aircraft) are secured to the wall with screws instead of just being hung on a nail or picture-hanging hook. Wouldn’t it be sad for her to sit up in bed, bump her head on one, and have it come crashing down on her? These are the types of things you have to think about when the whole room is fair game for your toddler.
The bottom left drawer of Anneliese’s dresser now houses her pajamas, so at night she can choose which ones she wants to wear. She also helps me put them away after I do laundry. A low shelf with a few toys and a basket of books gives her options of things to play with without being overwhelming (most of the toys and books we have are stored in a closet, and we rotate out a few at a time for her to explore. This keeps the toys interesting for her, and keeps mess to a minimum. Even if she were to take out all of her toys and books at once, it would take less than 5 minutes to clean everything up).
A basket keeps stuffed animals contained when they’re not being played with. Some animals are also rotated seasonally. For example, she has a sock monkey in orange and black, which comes out to play for the month of October. Then we wave bye-bye to it and put it back in the October basket (I’ll write more on rotation later).
The blanket with the heart-flowers on her bed was mine when I was a little girl. My mother made it. I remember lying in bed, tracing the hearts with my finger. I’m glad Anneliese loves it too. She chooses a heart to lay her head on when I put her down for her naps and for bedtime.
A sweet friend of mine brought back this string of birds for Anneliese from her trip to India, and they are hanging above the glider. Anneliese likes to look up at them while we rock. She points to them and says, “Birds. Twee-tweet!”
I carefully chose each knob for her dresser, each one different (but within the aqua/white color scheme) because I thought it would be a lovely thing for her to notice as she got older. When she started pulling herself up to standing, she would stand next to her dresser and just stare at the different knobs and feel them. Now that she is talking, she likes describing them to me. “Frog! Flower. Circle. Blue.” I love that she notices them. It’s just another small place I could infuse beauty into her environment.
You really need to know your child and design around their personality too. Anneliese has never been much of a climber, so I don’t worry about her yanking down the curtains or trying to get to the high (display-only) wall shelves. If she were more of a daredevil, I would probably have a valance instead of long curtains, and make sure the furniture were spaced so that leaping from one thing to another flying-squirrel-style would be impossible.
This is the only analog clock in the house. How crazy is that? Anneliese obviously can’t tell time yet, but eventually… and for now she loves to look at the numbers and tell me that the clock is a circle.
For the toy rotation in her room, I never put “new” toys, or things she is just now being introduced to. I put new toys in the living room first, so that she can play with them with me or her dad, or with supervision, and learn how to use them. Then when they’re in her room to play with on her own, she knows exactly what to do. I also try to not put toys with a billion pieces in there, so she can put them away more easily when she finishes playing with them.
I usually have one construction-type toy (the basket on the left has bristle blocks in it). Then I add a few sort of “contained” toys that can be played with different ways — right now, the abacus, the pound-a-peg, and the ring stacker which is in the leftmost cubby (mine are from Ikea). And add some “imagination toys.” Right now I have a basket of vehicles (really cute wooden ones from the dollar section in Target near Christmastime). The wooden horse is something my oldest sister’s friend made for me when I was little, and I love seeing Anneliese play with it too.
A basket of books is always on the shelf too, and she chooses from these for her bedtime stories.
An inexpensive full-length mirror is above her shelf too. She likes to make faces at herself in the mirror now, or look at herself after I brush her hair in the morning. When she was smaller, she could pull up on the shelf and see herself in the mirror as a sort of self-peek-a-boo game. She loved it! (Yes, she’s checking out her chest for some reason in this picture.)
There are some framed pictures — one of my husband and me when I was pregnant with her, her first ultrasound picture, and one of our dog Zora. Putting art or photographs at the child’s eye-level is a thoughtful thing to do, so they can enjoy it. It’s hard for a 2-3 foot-tall person to enjoy art hung at 5 feet off the ground. Since this is her room and her environment, it’s decorated for her, not for her 5’6” and 6’ tall parents.
The shelf has some of my childhood toys. Some horses and a music box, and my tiny Peter Rabbit set (the tiny size was the original desire of Beatrix Potter, so tiny children’s hands could hold them more easily) which I’ll bring down for her soon, since she is so gentle with books. Above the shelf is a cross-stitched sampler with her name and birth “statistics,” which my grandmother made for her.
The duck in the embroidery hoop was painted for me by my mother when I was little, and I remember it hanging in my room.
This pillow was my husband’s when he was little. I love that it has eyelet lace around it just like my blanket does, so it brings them together. Sweet happy sunshine pillow!
This type of room really gives my toddler a lot of independence. Even if I didn’t feel like I wanted the video monitor for sleep-related issues, I love having it so I can see what she does and what choices she makes when she’s truly on her own. I put her down for a nap about an hour ago, but she got out of bed to read one of her baby dolls some stories. I could hear her saying, “Quack quack!” while looking at the pictures. Now she is rocking in her glider with her baby. Here’s a screenshot from my iPhone monitor.
Sometimes she plays for a long time before deciding to settle down and take a nap. Other times, she naps right away, but looks at books for a while when she wakes up.
If the idea of your child having this much freedom makes you unable to breathe, maybe a Montessori toddler room / floor bed arrangement isn’t for you. But if you would enjoy constructing an environment where your child is safe and free to explore, a Montessori room is extremely rewarding — and fun — for parents and children.
*Photos in this post were taken with my iPhone. Wide-angle photos were with the help of my OlloClip iPhone lens.
Edited to add:
I forgot to mention her light switch extender. I got this for her so that she could turn her light on and off on her own, so that she can play NOT in the dark when she wants to… but it hasn’t worked out that way yet. She’s still learning to use it, and while she’s very good at turning the light off, she hasn’t figured out how to push it upward in order to turn the light ON yet. So sometimes I’ll put her in her room for a nap, but if she isn’t super-tired/cranky, I’ll leave the light on and tell her to turn it off when she gets sleepy and wants to go to bed. That works fine. Eventually, when she figures out the pushing up thing, she will be able to turn her light back on once she wakes up.
This is how we attached the bigger picture frames to the wall… One corner brace on each side, and one on the bottom. Though you could definitely do 2 on each side. (And we painted them beforehand so they’d look nice.)
And how we attached the mirror with screw-in mirror clips.