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What is a Montessori Nursery?

Updated: Aug 23, 2021

Creating your baby's first bedroom can be as overwhelming as it is exciting. From gear and furniture to a theme (or not), this is one area where you can direct all of the nervous energy that comes with being pregnant into something tangible.

The Montessori approach views the baby's first room as not only a fun space to personalize, but also an important environment that can help shape your baby's first experiences in the world.

Babies take in and absorb everything around them, so it naturally follows that the space where they spend the most time will influence how they see the world. Montessori-style nurseries all have certain things in common. They focus on simplicity, natural elements and encouraging independent exploration. Still there is room for so much creativity and you can definitely tailor your Montessori baby space to fit your home and budget.

Here are some elements that are usually included in a Montessori baby space to get you started:

1. Use visual simplicity

Montessori baby spaces are calming, peaceful environments. They often have a fairly neutral color palette, emphasize natural light when possible, and use natural materials, such as wood and fabric, whenever possible.

You will usually find a few carefully selected pictures hung low on the walls where the baby will be able to see them. These might be black and white images for newborns. Later the images are often from nature or pictures of people.

Even small Montessori baby spaces have plenty of empty space, free of clutter. This is both so the baby has room to move around and explore, and to minimize visual distraction when a baby is first experiencing focused concentration.

Montessori baby spaces often include live plants or animals, such as a small fish tank, as well.

When thinking of the aesthetic of the room, it is helpful to lay on the floor and consider how things will look from the baby's perspective.

You can have the most beautiful picture hung, but if it's way up high at adult level, your baby may never notice it.

2. Add a movement + play area

Most nurseries have a play area for the baby, but a Montessori play space looks a little bit different. Montessori rooms always use child-sized furniture. A baby's room would have a very low shelf so that a mobile baby could choose, and put away, his own toys. Montessori nurseries also have far fewer toys than other baby environments. For a very young baby, there might be a shelf with four or five different items on it, each with a designated spot on the shelf. This allows the baby to really see their options and choose one thing on which to focus his attention. It also supports babies' growing sense of order as they learn that they can always find a favorite toy in its designated spot. You can rotate the toys as you notice your baby getting tired of something or if you think they are ready for a greater challenge.

Other common elements in a Montessori baby play space are a mirror and mobiles. A mirror is often hung horizontally, low on the wall of a baby's room. This allows baby to see themselves, and the room, as they lie next to it. If you have safety concerns, you can use a shatter-proof acrylic mirror. Their own reflection is often one of the very first things a baby will concentrate on independently.

There is also a specific progression of Montessori mobiles designed to appeal to an infant's growing interest and abilities. It starts with a very simple black and white mobile, and progresses to one that beautifully displays different shades of the same color. Tactile mobiles, where the baby can reach for and grasp a bell or ring secured to a piece of elastic, come next.

Each element of the baby's play area is designed to promote a relaxed state of concentration where the baby can independently explore his environment.

3. Create a comfortable sleeping area

The Montessori sleeping area is perhaps the most different from a standard modern nursery. Many Montessori families use a floor bed instead of a crib. This can be as simple as a low mattress on the floor, although you can also purchase a floor bed.

The floor bed allows newborns to visually explore their room without crib bars in the way. It allows older, mobile babies the choice of getting into and out of bed on their own. Independence is a huge part of Montessori, and this includes sleep.

Sleep is such a personal topic and different things work for different families. A floor bed may be something you're comfortable trying, but if it doesn't work for you, that's okay, too—you can still incorporate Montessori into other elements of your child's environment.

4. Consider safety for exploration

Montessori baby spaces are completely baby proofed from the start. This is especially important if you are using a floor bed, but even if you're not, it's great to have a space where your baby can play and explore without constantly being told "no."

Having a completely baby proofed nursery also gives you the freedom and confidence to encourage your baby to play independently sometimes, even if you need to leave the room. Because of their simplicity, baby proofing Montessori nurseries is usually fairly simple. It may help to hang a high shelf on the wall for any adult items you need in the room.

Montessori is much more about an approach to children than it is about any one material. No two Montessori nurseries will look alike, as they should be customized to meet both your family's and your baby's needs.You can start with one aspect of a Montessori environment and experiment to see if it works for your family. It doesn't have to be all or nothing. Using these Montessori principles as a starting point for designing your baby's room can help you create a space that is not only beautiful, but will encourage independence and confidence in your baby from the start.

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