Prepared Environment is a crucial part of the Montessori philosophy and setting up your newborn’s nursery room is exciting yet can be confusing. Today research has proven what Montessori said over 100 years ago that the first three years are the most crucial in a child’s brain and personality development and so their prepared environment plays a crucial role in their growth through information received in the early years.
“Babies absorb everything that surrounds them in their environment. They are acutely aware of colors, patterns, sounds, textures and aromas.” – How to Raise an Amazing child the Montessori Way by Tim Seldin.
As I spent time planning and setting up my soon to arrive babies Montessori nursery and playroom, I have tried to inculcate features of Montessori classroom such as, child-size furnishings, use of natural material, tranquillity, non-clutter, filled with natural light, plants and art. Montessori designed a bedroom for the young child that has four specific well-defined areas for setting up a new-borns room:
Area for rest Montessori perspective– Montessori recommends to use a “floor bed” from birth. Compared to a crib; the floor bed provides freedom to observe the surroundings for newborn, freedom of movement, serves as long-term sleeping area and hence no transition required from crib to bed, long-term investment, safer option as children climb over the sides of crib resulting in accidents and gives freedom for crawlers to independently crawl in and out of bed and hence promoting independence. Many parents question that newborns are likely to fall from the bed, but as Dr.Montanaro confirms “He will never reach the edge of the bed with his whole body because as soon as he finds that small part of his body is not being supported, he retreats to the center of the bed.” In first few months, one could add cushions/ bolsters on the open side of the bed for added safety. How we did it– We got a double size mattress in the corner of the room and covered it with a fitted sheet (no flat sheet). We placed a nest (could also use a moses basket) where baby will spend her first few weeks. It is best to use mattresses with natural material, such as futon or latex. The mattress could easily be placed on the floor, we choose a very low slat bed base so it’s regularly aired. Please note, a single size mattress could also be used but I plan to co-sleep hence the double size.
Area for feeding Montessori perspective- A specific area for feeding gives the child the sense of order and the mother a sense of comfort in the first few months. Some Montessori recommends for feeding are- breastmilk as it’s the most optimum and complete food for an infant, presence and eye contact with baby while feeding for a sense of emotional fulfillment and bonding, giving the freedom to the child to latch and detach by themselves and observations to understand the cues/cries for when they are hungry compared to uncomfortable, sleeping or gassy. How we did it- We got a comfortable rocking chair for nursing, which has been conveniently placed between the bed and the changing table. The walls of the room are bare except for a black and white picture which the newborn can see while she is being patted and burped after feeding. There is a small wooden table placed across, which has water carafe/jug, lamp and room thermometer. We also placed a small bookshelf from IKEA with some Montessori baby books for some reading time before sleep.
Area for activity Montessori perspective-A mirror is a common feature of a Montessori activity area, as it helps babies to see how they move and also gives them an overall view of their surroundings. Plexiglas/ acrylic mirror bolted to the wall low enough so that the baby can see themselves is recommended. A ceiling hook can be placed above so that mobiles can be hung and changed as per their interest. A sturdy low-shelf is recommended to hold their toys, which change as baby grows. Some examples of Montessori infant material are-rattles, cloth ball, black and white flash cards and Skwish toy.
If there is limited space available in the room, the mirror could be placed on the wall next to baby’s bed and the ceiling hook over the bed for the mobiles. Once the environment for activity is provided, it is essential that an infant is not disturbed/ interrupted for periods while “concentrating”. This concentration is a crucial building block for future self-formation.
How we did it– We got a free standing mirror from Grocare/LSG. I personally preferred this as it can be moved to various room (if needed) and also this particular one could be placed vertical once baby grows up to toddler years and further. But a 3 mm acrylic mirror cut to the approximate size of 69*127 cms with its edges sanded and attached to the wall with heavy-duty command velcro would work equally well. There is a ceiling hook on the roof next to the mirror for the mobiles and an infant wooden shelf for displaying toys/ activities.
Area for getting changed Montessori perspective- Infant nappy change area can be set up either on the floor or on set of drawers/ change table. The change area is free of distractions, mobiles and pictures and is considered a time for one on one interaction and involvement with the child. Change area on a table is better when primary caregiver has back/ knee issues. How we did it- We kept a changing mat on the floor along with a basket for laundry and another basket for all the changing needs, like nappies, cloth wipes, bowl for water, balm, elimination communication potty and a round container with thermometer, hairbrush, nail clippers etc. We have placed a simple plastic basket with a lid just outside her room for her dirty nappies. Changing table on floor means no need to buy a specific table for changing/ set of drawers and most importantly it protects baby from falling off once she can wriggle around. Few months down the line, a crawling baby can independently crawl to the change table when it’s time.
Other features of Montessori infant room are:
- Everything in child’s room is low to the ground.
- Each item will adjust to her changing needs as she grows.
- The wooden shelf is sturdy enough so she can pull herself up while learning to walk.
- The safety aspect of the room will continuously evolve as she becomes more mobile, e.g.- taping the electric wire to the wall, cushions around the bed, moving the change table to the bathroom and changing supplies to a locked bathroom drawer in few months, edges of table covered with tape etc.
- ‘Freedom of movement’ is considered crucial for children’s development and this is done by making the layout as spacious as possible. Montessori recommends not using any containers (such as walkers, bouncers, swings), no pacifiers, no swaddles, appropriate clothing (light, comfortable, warm and natural fibres) and leaving them on the ground for as long as possible.
Montessori room for baby looks plain and simple, especially when compared to the brightly coloured and decorated nurseries we normally see. But this plainer nursery has an atmosphere of calm and order that is soothing to the child.