Maria Montessori was an educational pioneer who worked with young children to encourage creativity and independence. According to Montessori:
We must give the child an environment that he can utilize by himself: a little washstand of his own, a bureau with drawers he can open, objects of common use that he can operate, a small bed in which he can sleep at night under an attractive blanket he can fold and spread by himself. We must give him an environment in which he can live and play; then we will see him work all day with his hands and wait impatiently to undress himself and lay himself down on his own bed.
If you're considering the Montessori approach for your child, you don’t have to wait for preschool to begin encouraging your little one to think and act independently. Turn your toddler’s space into a safe and independent learning environment with these tips for creating a fun and educational Montessori bedroom.
Keep Decor Simple
If your goal is to promote independence, it's important to keep things simple and easy to manage. Your baby’s bedroom should be a relaxing place where your child can feel at home and in control. Think neutrals and soft, soothing shades like aqua or green, and be careful when introducing patterned elements. Keep clutter to a minimum, and choose accessories that double as toys, such as a beautiful, wooden abacus or a set of hand-carved stacking rings.
Ditch the Crib
Cribs restrict movement and leave toddlers dependent on their parents for access to their own bed. Parents must decide when their child should sleep and when they should wake up—a decision that, according to Montessori principles, should ultimately be left to the child. Although SIDS-safe sleeping practices are a must during baby’s first year, an easy-to-access floor bed is a safe and easy way to give your toddler autonomy over the basic bodily instinct to sleep. Simply place your child’s mattress on the floor, and install a baby gate at the door to restrict access to the bedroom.
Adjust the Scale
The world can be a pretty intimidating place when you’re only 2 feet tall. Scaling things down a bit not only reduces anxiety but also gives your little one the ability to explore and interact with their environment, learning as they go. Freedom of movement and accessibility are basic to the Montessori philosophy.
When decorating your baby’s space, opt for kid-sized furniture whenever possible. A tiny table and miniature chairs make for an excellent workstation, and a cozy, pint-sized rocker or beanbag chair is the perfect place to curl up with a treasured picture book. If you plan on hanging artwork, hang it at your toddler’s eye level, where he or she can appreciate it. (To prevent accidents, screw frames, and other decorative items directly to the wall instead of hanging them.)
Encourage Free Play
According to Montessori, toddlers should have free access to interesting and educational playthings. Be careful, however, not to overwhelm your little one. Too many toys can be over-stimulating, and a child who is unsure of what to play with often ends up playing with nothing at all.
Instead of filling shelves and baskets with toys and books, try organizing a handful of your child’s favorite playthings into several themed stations. Invest in low, sturdy shelves that double as play surfaces, and use book rails to display books where your toddler can see them. Avoid screen-based toys in the bedroom; while they can be educational and interactive, it's best to use them with your child so you can limit screentime and enhance learning.
Be sure to rotate your selection of toys and books on a regular basis, so that there is always something new and exciting to capture your baby’s imagination. Mirrors, mobiles and other such sensory experiences are also a great way to keep your child entertained.
Make Things Accessible
If you want your little one to learn to function independently in his or her own space, you need to make that space accessible for them. Consider replacing big, heavy drawers with small, kid-friendly cubbies, and install a lower rail in the closet, so your child can help pick out their own clothes. Easily accessible wall hooks are also a great choice. Even something as simple as a light switch extender can make a big difference to your toddler’s level of independence.