There’s no shortage of theories out there about how to best raise a child. In fact, there are over 60,000 book titles in Amazon’s ‘Parenting’ category! But while many of those titles (and their authors) will be forgotten over time, a few may stand the test of time. Here’s one such time-tested theory: the Montessori Method. Read on to learn about this and all about Montessori floor beds and sleep!
What Is The Montessori Method?
Developed in the early 20th century by Dr. Maria Montessori, an Italian physician and educator, the Montessori Method is a child-centered way of thinking about education and childcare. The Montessori Method stresses independence, freedom for the child (within limits), and respect for the child’s development.
Applying the Montessori Method At Home – The Montessori Nursery
The Montessori Method focuses largely on education. However, many Montessori principles can be applied to childcare in general, and to any setting in which a child spends time — including home. For example, the Montessori Method urges teachers and caregivers to encourage independence by putting everything that a child needs at the child’s level. Children should be able to get to their clothes, their toys, their snacks, etc. without help from an adult.
This principle applies to a child’s own bedroom as well. Since it’s their room, everything should be within the child’s reach, and on the child’s level. This includes all furniture, clothing, books, toys, and artwork.
Wondering what a Montessori-style nursery looks like? Here’s a picture of blogger Meg McElwee’s son’s room, to help you visualize…
Photo Credit: sewliberated.typepad.com
The Montessori Floor Bed
The biggest difference between a traditional nursery and a Montessori nursery is the fact that a Montessori nursery does not contain a crib. In a Montessori-style nursery, the child sleeps on a floor bed. You can find a variety of (often expensive) floor bed frames. But, you can also do a cheap, D-I-Y version by simply laying a mattress directly on the floor. Both work!
The idea behind a Montessori floor bed is in line with the general principles of the Montessori Method. A child should have freedom of movement, and should be able to move independently around his (carefully childproofed!) room. For this reason, a floor bed is preferable to a crib, since a crib restricts movement and limits independence. Montessori parents typically keep their babies in a bassinet or Moses basket during the newborn stage. Starting as early as 2 months or so, they transition baby to a floor bed.
Do Montessori Floor Beds Really Work?
If you aren’t familiar with the Montessori Method, the idea of a floor bed might seem surprising. Most of us who live in the West have been conditioned to understand that babies need to sleep in cribs. Many of us believe that they are not ready for a bed until they are toddlers. So the notion of putting a baby on a mattress on the floor may be hard to understand at first.
It may also raise questions, like “Is a floor bed safe?” “Do babies and toddlers actually stay in bed, or do they constantly get up?”
We should point out here that, if you use a floor bed, it’s critical that you carefully childproof your baby or toddler’s room first. This means getting down on your child’s level (ie: hands and knees) and carefully checking for any hazards that may harm your child. Only when you’ve childproofed can you put your child in his or her floor bed.
As for whether or not floor beds are conducive to sleep…that’s a different question altogether.
Montessori Floor Beds Work Well For Some Children…
As with so many other things, the question of whether or not a floor bed will work for your child depends on…your child. 🙂 Some parents have huge success with using a Montessori-style floor bed; their children stay in bed without issue. But other parents find that their babies and toddlers end up playing jack-in-the-box all night long and during naps, popping up out of bed every few minutes.
Specifically, whether or not a floor bed will work for your child has a lot to do with your baby or toddler’s unique sleep history (does your child still wake frequently at night or struggle with naps?) as well as her unique temperament (is your child perceptive? Highly persistent? Very, very energetic?)
A child who is naturally a “good” sleeper, who settles into a nice sleep and feeding schedule fairly quickly, and who is relaxed and cooperative by nature may do quite well with a floor bed, from a very early age. Children like this will probably be less affected by the fact that there are no physical boundaries keeping them in bed (the way there are with a crib). These children may be more willing to get in bed (and stay in bed) when they feel sleepy.
…But Not For Others
However, a child who struggles with nighttime waking and poor naps, who is intense and persistent and easily distracted and full of energy, may not do as well with a floor bed. Remember, babies and young toddlers are concrete thinkers. They do not understand abstract concepts yet. So the abstract boundaries of the floor bed are tough to understand, unlike the physical boundaries of the crib. Again, some children are able to understand and obey the ‘stay in bed concept’ very early, but others are not. Much of this is based on temperament and development.
Here’s the advice we give to our clients who use Montessori floor beds: if the floor bed is working well for everyone in your home, great! No need to make changes. But if the floor bed is not working (i.e. if the baby or toddler is out of bed constantly, and is not sleeping), then consider these two options:
- Switch to a crib for awhile. We usually recommend transitioning to a bed somewhere between 2 and 3 years, so if your child is younger than 2, and if the floor bed is simply not working, consider moving to a crib.
- Stick with the floor bed, and be patient. Some families are committed to a Montessori-style nursery, and just don’t want to use a crib — and we understand that! Parenting philosophies are deeply personal and unique, and at The Baby Sleep Site®, we make a practice of respecting every family’s unique approach. In these cases, we advise parents to be patient. Sleep coaching may be tougher (and probably take longer) since the child can get in and out of bed. Sleep can improve; it may just take a longer to get there.
“Creativity can take you far with a ‘non-traditional’ (so far) concept. If you are open-minded, you may find a different solution that is ‘fine for now.’ Perhaps it means your baby starts in her room and then you co-sleep the rest of the night after you go to bed. Or, perhaps you set up the Montessori bed in your room, so you are each in your own sleep spaces but in the same room. Once sleep has improved, you can try moving the bed to your child’s room. There are a number of different arrangements when you don’t have a rigid picture about what ‘success’ looks like.”
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