Inside: Montessori-style parenting is a great way to instill early independence in your child. Read below to find tips on how to create the ultimate Montessori nursery!
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Do the neutral hues and natural textures inspire you to create a Montessori nursery?
Honestly, I never paid it much attention — having not grown up in an environment that encouraged this style of parenting, it seemed like something either hippies or “well-off” people did with their children.
However, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
What is Montessori-style parenting?
Montessori-style parenting is a form of parenting that puts the child’s desire for independence as the focal point in their development. It’s part of the Montessori Method, a theory developed by Italian physician and educator, Maria Montessori.
The key principles are independence, recognizing the individual needs and characteristics of each age, and building a favorable environment that responds to these needs.
What age can you start Montessori?
Montessori-style parenting can start as soon as your child is born.
According to traditional Montessori theory, from birth to 6-years-old, children pass through three significant sensitive periods: order, movement and language.
During this time, children experience a period of intense mental activity that allows them to absorb learning from his or her environment without conscious effort.
What is a Montessori nursery?
A Montessori nursery is arranged to promote independence, order, coordination, and concentration, as well as support social, emotional, physical, and cognitive development.
It’s a holistic approach that aims to develop the whole child.
Don’t forget to check out my roundup of The Best Advice for New Parents: From 39 Moms with Disability and Chronic Illness.
These principles include:
- Self-care: washing, dressing, toileting, and eating, according to each child’s individual capacity
- Care of the environment: cleaning, food preparation and food service; plant care and animal care
- Large-motor activities (indoors and out): walking, climbing, running, jumping, balancing, climbing steps, and more
- Fine-motor skills: reaching, grasping, picking up objects, transferring objects, using tools and utensils, doing art work
- Language: naming objects, describing actions and intentions, discussing pictures, conversation, music, and singing
- Social skills: developing manners through interactions with peers, teachers, and adult-led small group games
So, how exactly do you set up a Montessori nursery? Let’s take a look…
7 Tips to Help Create the Montessori Nursery of Your Dreams
1. Visual Simplicity
First, forget about the Elsa’s, Elmo’s and Eeyore’s – the ultimate visual goal in a Montessori nursery is simplicity.
This means soft colors like pastels instead of primaries, and a focus on “less is more.”
To promote your baby’s concentration, focus on creating a calming environment. You want a peaceful place that your baby feels comfortable in.
Some simple ways to create a peaceful Montessori nursery are:
- Emphasize natural light
- Use plants
- Turn on peaceful music like sounds of nature
2. Promote Reading
According to Reading Rockets, “Reading books aloud to children stimulates their imagination and expands their understanding of the world. It helps them develop language and listening skills and prepares them to understand the written word.”
We read to Asher constantly. He’s still at the age where he’ll only listen for a minute before ripping the book out of your hands. However, you can often find him reading a book by himself that he grabbed off his shelf.
3. Use Natural Textiles
Using nature as a source of inspiration, Montessori uses objects made of wood, glass, and natural fibers designed to support children’s learning of sensorial concepts. Using natural materials helps connect your child with the Earth and promotes creativity.
Some ways to incorporate natural materials into your Montessori nursery are:
- Felt mobile (Also, see my guide here for Montessori mobile suggestions!)
- Wooden Baby Gym
- Teething Wood
- Wooden Rattles
Furthermore, traditional Montessori nurseries will steer clear of plastic. There are environmental factors and BPA concerns, but most importantly, natural materials teach consequences.
For instance, dropping a plastic cup isn’t the same as dropping a glass cup. A plastic cup will bounce off the floor unharmed, while the glass will shatter.
Watching a glass break teaches a child that it’s fragile, so they have to be more careful. It also teaches children to respect their environment. They begin to take ownership over their materials and inherently learn how to care for the objects around them.
4. Avoid Clutter
The goal of a Montessori nursery is to reduce clutter and protect your child’s sense of order. You don’t want to bombard your child’s senses with stimuli. On the contrary, materials should be stored in a logical position – where it makes sense.
Items should be returned to where they’re stored so they can be found again or used by someone else. In addition, toys should be rotated in and out to help reduce the number of objects in the room at one time.
For instance, we only put a few toys on Asher’s shelf at one time. The rest are either stored on the top shelf in his closet or behind this bookshelf. This helps him concentrate on one toy at a time and increases his attention span. It also helps to cycle the toys in and out, so that he doesn’t get tired of all of his toys at one time.
We swap out his toys every month to two months.
5. Make it Accessible
Because I’m disabled, it’s SO IMPORTANT for Asher to gain as much independence as possible without relying on me for tasks he can do on his own. My arms are paralyzed which means that I need everything low-to-the-ground so I don’t have to lift my arms as much. This helps me intuitively know what Asher needs because the same things that work for me will work for him.
Some ways that we incorporated Montessori practices early on were:
- At about 4-months-old, we started letting him hold his own bottles and feeding himself.
- Around 4-months-old, he started eating at his own table.
- We got him a floor bed after about one year. This means that whenever he doesn’t want to nap, he can quietly play with his toys until we’re ready to get him. I trust that he will sleep for the amount of time that his body needs it and don’t mind if he chooses to play.
Obviously, the number of things that your child will be able to do increases with age. In the beginning, there won’t be that many things; Rather, it’s important to lay out the foundation for future Independence. This means trusting your child’s intuition and following their developmental speed without interference.
6. Consider Safety
Safety is arguably the most important component of a Montessori nursery. Essentially, you won’t feel comfortable letting your child play alone until you can trust that they won’t get hurt. This means making sure everything, including the whole house, has been child-proofed.
Once your child outgrows the phase of putting everything in their mouth, you’ll probably begin to feel more comfortable letting them spread their wings a bit more – of course, this will coincide with them wanting to climb everything, which will be another safety hazard.
Some of the ways we childproofed the house were:
- Putting cabinet locks on all of the kitchen cabinets, except for the Tupperware drawer.
- Using child-proof furniture straps to secure bookcases and shelves to walls.
- We limit the amount of clutter in our house as much as possible, ie. there are no small trinkets or heavy objects that Asher can get to.
- Hiding our liquor cart in a closet.
- Closing all of the doors in our house if he only has access to his Nursery, the living room and the kitchen.
- Putting a baby gate at the bottom of our staircase and on the front porch.
- Sometimes, we put the kitchen trash can in the laundry room, because he’ll get into it.
7. Use Engaging Toys
A lot of Montessori toys are built for everyday practical learning. They involve things like pouring different materials, using utensils, cleaning and polishing, preparing snacks, washing dishes, arranging flowers, gardening, practicing clothes fastenings, etc.
The toys aim to develop the child’s skills for independent living and build their gross motor control and eye-hand coordination. They also offer open-ended play to help strengthen your child’s creativity.
The biggest difference you’ll probably notice is that Montessori toys aren’t made out of plastic, nor do they have bright colors or make sounds. The toys aren’t meant to distract your child but to create an engaging experience.
Some Montessori toys that you could use early on are:
Final Thoughts on 7 Tips to Help Create the Montessori Nursery of Your Dreams
Once you learn the basics of Montessori-style parenting, creating a Montessori Nursery isn’t that hard. The most important part is really just following your child’s lead.
In the beginning, it’s mostly about providing a safe and nurturing environment. Focus on creating a calming place, and you’ll do great!
What tips would you get for creating a Montessori Nursery? Tell me in the comments below!
Allie Schmidt is a rare disease advocate and disabled mom living with motor neuron disease. She founded Disability Dame in 2020 to provide tips to other moms living with disabilities and chronic illnesses.
In her spare time, you can find her traveling with her husband (she's been to 38 states and 16 countries!), watching reruns of Survivor, or tending to her near-constant sunburn from spending too much time outside. You can follow her adventures here.