If you are expecting your first child or perhaps updating your nursery, you may be looking for inspiration online. Kid’s bedroom décor and children’s bedroom layouts are hot topics, sometimes even an area of contention. There are parents and educators who believe a bedroom should be bright and busting with the latest technology and others who prefer neutrals, simplicity and products made from natural materials. Although it may be a better aesthetic for some, there are often greater philosophical and psychological considerations that go into kids' bedrooms.
One of the most infamous kid's bedroom styles is the Montessori bedroom. Before we dive into what this type of bedroom looks like, it is important to understand the philosophy behind it. Montessori is a child-centered pedagogy aimed at helping children reach their potential at their own pace. Dr. Maria Montessori developed it in the early 1900s and believe that independent learning and exploration are critical for development.
This pedagogy is not exclusively practiced in a classroom. It is a way of parenting and raising a child. Parents can use Montessori principles at home to create a stimulating environment for their child to develop. This is known as “the prepared environment.” In school, classrooms are arranged to allow for a choice of work and flow of movement and feature comfortable lighting, chairs, and sounds. A Montessori bedroom applies the same principles of a prepared environment to the room, which include the following:
- This includes freedom of choice, to move, to interact, or take time for themselves. Under the Montessori pedagogy, children are encouraged to make their own choices and seek out resources.
- Structure and Order. Structure is achieved differently by Montessori. It may not initially appear structured, but the practical layout helps children adapt to their environment and navigate it independently. This furthers their confidence and reasoning skills.
- Some people misunderstand Montessori, believing it is only about fitting a parent's personal aesthetic, but the neutral, understated beauty actually serves a purpose. Montessori strives for a calm, soothing environment that consists of natural lighting, materials and plants. Colors consist of pastels and muted tones, and the fabrics are soft and soothing.
- Nature and Reality. One of the goals of Montessori is to empower children to interact with the world around them – including areas outside their home and classroom. Natural materials are brought in, like sand, gravel, and corn. They may also use real food to prepare a snack, learning real-world uses for objects.
- Social Environment. In a classroom setting, the environment is considered a social space as much as a learning space. Students are given the opportunity to interact with others and play.
- Intellectual Environment. Creating a space where children feel free, calm, and curious will allow them to flourish intellectually. They develop greater coordination, concentration, and independence.
Maria Montessori wanted to create a space where everything was within reach for a child so they could be independent and curious. In a traditional bedroom for a baby or young child, they often need the assistance of a parent. A parent needs to put them in bed and take them out, and often their clothes and toys are out of reach on high shelves or in drawers. With the Montessori approach, these items (bed included) are at the child’s vantage point.
Furniture for a Montessori Bedroom
When it comes to Montessori, simple is best. You don’t need expensive, specially designed items or an interior designer to come in. Instead, just think of the Montessori philosophy and get down on your toddler’s level. Ask yourself - can they safely move around, interacting with all the items in their room?
This is what you want to achieve.
One of the most critical items for a Montessori bedroom is the Montessori bed. It is an integral piece and noticeably different from traditional children’s bedrooms. As mentioned, cribs make babies dependent on their caretakers. With a crib, the caretaker dictates when and where they sleep and play. This limits their mobility, movement, freedom, and independence. In a Montessori bedroom, a small mattress is placed on the floor or in a low-rise bed frame.
With a Montessori bed you must still consider safety, and therefore you need to be mindful of the baby's age and potential risks. For example, infants under the age of six months should not have pillows, blankets, or stuffed animals. Additionally, the mattress should not be placed right next to an air vent or radiator.
Floor beds can continue to be used as a child gets older as well, maintaining the same style but with a larger mattress. A floor bed encourages decision-making, conveys respect, and allows freedom of movement. Then, of course, when they are older, they can have blankets, stuffed animals, and a pillow made of natural materials like a millet pillow. You want to create a soft, cozy environment, so when your child is old enough to have sheets and blankets safely, you should consider a Tencel sheet set or quality cotton. A fluffy, textured area rug or carpeting, a pint-sized sofa chair, and area rugs are also great additions.
In a traditional nursery, a dresser with a change-table top is popular. In many ways, it is practical, saves space, and is easy for parents. The downside to this set-up is your little one may not be able to pick their clothes or assist in the process; however, you can still use it in a Montessori setting. If you opt for this, remember never to leave the baby unattended and keep items like ointments and powder out of reach.
You can also keep some clothes in the closet and dresser while also having a small mini wardrobe that your child can use to pick clothes from. A micro-sized version will teach them how to pick out clothes as well as how to hang clothes up and put them away. You can also install wall hooks at your child’s height for them to hang up items like sweaters and jackets.
A mirror is another great addition to a Montessori bedroom. Place a hairbrush in front so they can practice brushing their hair or other self-care practices like blowing their nose.
Play Areas for Greater Imagination
A Montessori bedroom won’t have an abundance of furniture but will have particular areas — for example, their sleeping area, dressing area, and play area. The play area should be a space with a soft rug, some pillows, and a low shelf for Montessori toys and books. Four to six age-appropriate items give them variety while still encouraging imagination. Montessori toys are made from natural materials like wood and are easy for them to hold. Rather than using loud sounds, flashing lights and technology to capture a child’s attention, it is something they can hold, manipulate and experiment with.
Experts suggest alternating toys every 7 to 14 days. Keep a spare bin out of sight and mix up the toys and location to continuously capture their imagination. If old enough, have paper and colored pencils to create artwork for the room. In the Montessori world, different places or activities are called “stations”. For example, a small basket with books and blanket could make up the “reading station,” and a table and chair with pencils and paper could be their “art station.”
You can also add Montessori-friendly artwork to their play area to further their imagination. Family photos or images with faces are appealing to babies, as well as animals and colorful shapes. Secure them to the wall at your child’s eye level and replace the art every few months.
As a baby, your child’s world consists of their bedroom. They often eat, sleep, play and dress here, but as they get older, their world expands to other rooms of the house, and their bedroom needs to change. When your child is older, their bedroom can become a place for quiet retreat, learning, reading, play, and exploration, and as a Montessori bedroom, it should be designed to meet these needs.
Creating a Soothing Atmosphere
A Montessori bedroom should be soothing. This is why neutral colors, white, or muted natural colors are used. These colors provide a sense of calm and will allow toys in primary colors or their artwork to stand out.
The use of lamps and warm, soft lighting will help create a soothing atmosphere, and adding window sheers and blackout shades will help with sleeping and naps. Lastly, spritzing the room with lavender room spray will freshen up the room and provide a deep sense of relaxation.
Setting up a Montessori bedroom is easy. First, ask yourself, “is everything in reach?” and then ask, “is it safe?” – if you can answer yes to both those questions, you are in an excellent position to empower your little one to take responsibility and exercise their independence. This is your child’s space; you are simply aiding in their set-up. Observe your child and allow them to rearrange how they like to really make it their own.