Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Montessori Floor Bed Update

The floor bed is one of the things about the Montessori approach to educating children that tends to shock people the most. "What? You don't have a crib? Your baby sleeps on a mattress on the floor?"

The idea is to set up the child's environment in a way that helps him/her develop movement. The more freedom children have to move, the more they move. The more they move, the more they strengthen their muscles and develop themselves.

Along these lines, we also try not to use common baby contraptions that limit movement, such as swings (since the movement is done onto the child) or infant seats (since the child's movement is restricted to a vertical plane rather than a vertical and a horizontal).

In a Montessori nursery, the entire room becomes the crib. The doorway gets closed off with a gate, and the child is free to move around their room as they please. The room is set up to be as safe as a crib would be.

Matt and I knew we would probably move before Henry started crawling, so we didn't child-proof the room from the beginning. Although our four month-old son isn't crawling, he is definitely moving! When we transitioned from co-sleeping to putting Henry in his own room at two months, we really started to notice Henry's ability to roll and move. Although he wasn't rolling during the day, at night, we would find him off his mattress and several feet away. Honestly, we wondered if perhaps our dog, Hoss, was dragging him off the mattress so he could take Henry's spot!

It turns out that all the work Henry does with movement all day long has really helped him develop his core strength. By three months, he was rolling from his stomach to his back and from his back to his stomach.

Henry's ability to move made us realize that his floor bed was not set up in the best position. The bookshelf posed a hazard. So now, each night before we put Henry to bed, we move his little mattress to the center of the room, so Henry has plenty of room for his double barrel rolls in the middle of the night. We position Henry's mattress right in the middle of a giant 4' x 6' rug. Honestly, we would much rather have Henry roll off his mattress onto a comfortable rug than roll into the wooden slats of a crib.

I do wish we had room for a larger mattress. Ideally, we would have gotten a full-size. A larger mattress would mean that Henry would be less likely to roll of his bed in the night, and it would also be more comfortable for me while breastfeeding in the middle of the night.

Also, we ended up combining his movement mat with his floor bed, because we have limited space. That's why there's a mirror and a mobile by his bed

The one thing we did get right was the thickness of the mattress. Initially, we had a 5-inch mattress but we exchanged it for this 3-inch mattress from IKEA. I could not imagine watching my son roll off of anything higher than 3-inches.

Overall, we're very happy that we opted for a Montessori floor bed instead of a crib.

Definitely let me know if you have any questions!

Also, if you're interested in talking more about how to implement Montessori in the home, consider joining our e-mail group!

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Lara said...

This actually does sound like a great idea. When I first heard about it, like you mentioned, I was shocked at the lack of crib. I'm just wondering though, if Henry or other babies move so much that they ultimately end up off their mattress, does sleeping on a rug rather than a fully cushioned mattress pose any health risks? Forgive me if I'm way off, but I just have this picture in my head of a baby sleeping on the floor all night and I know how bad that would be for an adult as far as back and neck support goes.

Mindy said...

I really like the floor bed and the idea of the room being as safe as a crib but the one thing that is stopping me from going that direction is that I have a cat who likes to cuddle and I don't want her to cuddle my baby (when he or she arrives in January) so that he or she can't breathe.
What has been your experience with Hoss? Did you have any fears of him doing something like that?

Sara E. Cotner said...

Hi, Lara! Henry is rolling off his mattress less and less these days. When I first told my Montessori teacher that Henry was rolling everywhere, she explained that he would soon learn where the boundaries of his bed are and would stop rolling off. Now, he mainly rolls off when we're trying to put him to sleep and he is over-tired so he's crying and rolling. In that case, when he rolls off, we just put him right back on.

When he was younger and rolling off a lot more, I was feeding him more in the night, or he would make a little noise, so I would go in and check on him. That meant he never spent a ton of time actually sleeping on the floor. When he's older and moving even more, my understanding is that he will often move himself back to his bed before falling asleep.

But then again, it's my understanding that firmer surfaces are better for the body, so maybe the floor wouldn't be so bad after all!

Hi, Mindy! Hoss is super-good around Henry (just like he is around the chickens). If we had a pet that might pose a safety issue while Henry was on his floor bed, we would just shut the door and use a monitor if we couldn't hear adequately.

But then again, can't cats climb in cribs, too?

diana said...

My parents' cats jump in the pack n play when we are visiting. We are always super careful about shutting the door and use a monitor.
My question about the floor bed is where Henry sleeps if you travel? We visit our families almost every weekend and the rooms are not baby proofed at all, and we don't cosleep at all either. Plus the beds at both of our parents' are too small for us to cosleep as my husband is 6'6" and 230lbs!

Sara E. Cotner said...

Hi, Diana! We're getting ready to go on a two-week vacation, and our plan is to bring along a small, thin foam pad for Henry to sleep on in our room. Since we'll all be in the same room, and I'm a pretty light sleeper, I won't be too concerned that the whole room isn't child-proofed. I'll just make sure the area immediately around him is safe (since he's not crawling yet), and I'm pretty sure I'll wake up when Henry does, so he won't be unsupervised.

PT Crusader said...

I highly respect your decision to use the mattress. But, I think it would still freak me out a little. I've been following you since planning our wedding and finding 2000 Budget and now love reading about how Henry is growning and all the interesting things you are doing as a parent. We are a year or so off from trying for pregnancy, but I am already exploring ideas. :-) Any good books or research that you would recommend that could help dispel some of my fears about a mattress and other practices?

Sara E. Cotner said...

Hi, PT Crusader! There's a list of recommended books about Montessori in the left-hand column of this blog. It's the last set of books. Hope that helps! By the way, I love your profile and your blog!

PT Crusader said...

I will look through those! Thank you for the compliment!

Kelly Love said...

Thanks for the update! I love reading everything I can about floor beds and people's actual, real experience with them.

Carolina said...

Hi! Thanks so much for posting about your experiences. I'm 5 months pregnant and planning with my husband to do as much Montessori as we can. We love the floor bed, and are trying to think of all the ways that we can make it as safe as possible. Our parents are pretty shocked at the idea, though! One of their concerns is that the baby will get up and find something on the floor and put it in his mouth and choke! I told them that of course we would always keep the area clean and free of small objects, and that the same thing could happen to any kid playing on any floor, but they insist that maybe someone's button will fall out and the baby will find it before we do and that the baby alone and unsupervised has more of a chance to do something like that. Any advice? Thanks again!

Sara E. Cotner said...

Hi, Carolina! I imagine it wouldn't be a problem if you just checked the room each night before you put your baby to bed. Since you close off the room (with a gate or a door), you just have to check the room. Couldn't a button also fall unnoticed into a crib?

Henry just turned five months and can now move himself across the floor very quickly. He's nearly crawling! I attribute his advanced movement to all of the Montessori influences in his life, including the floor bed.

This morning, I opened the door to check on him sleeping (he usually cries as soon as he's awake), but he was just exploring his room with a big smile on his face! He had crawled off his bed and was touching his wooden arch. It was so cool!

Carolina said...

Thanks, Sara! That´s exactly what i told them, haha. Glad to hear Henry is already exploring! Love your blog =)

Amy G said...

Hello! I just found your blog and have loved catching up on your Montessori posts! I have a 10.5 month old who I also raise with the Montessori method in mind (I blog about it here- www.asecurebase.blogspot.com). But, we did not use a floor bed (we got into Montessori a little late for this, I think...) We are looking to change her sleeping now as nothing has ever really worked- I'm currently leaning to just getting a floor bed and co-sleeping with her in her room. I was just wondering how this situation is working out for you now. Thanks! I look forward to continue reading!

Sara E. Cotner said...

Hi, Amy! Henry is 11.5 months now. The floor bed is still awesome. At 9:30am and 2:00pm I put him in his room for naps. Sometimes he plays by himself and then crawls over to his bed and falls asleep but mainly he falls right to sleep. At night, we put him on his bed at 7:30pm, turn out the light, and he falls right to sleep. He wakes up at 7 by crawling to the door and pulling up on it.

eva said...

just wanted to know where you got that framed artwork above his bed?
how did you manage to make him sleep through the night? any sleep training?

Sara E. Cotner said...

Hi, eva! It's cut out of a book of Charley Harper artwork. I'm about to write a post about sleep any day now. Stay tuned!

Rose said...

Hi Sara. Were there any phases where your son would fight sleeping on his bed? My son is 7 months old and when I put him down he just crawls immediately to the door and cries. I've even stayed there until he's asleep and he wakes up and is upset/to the door again. He used to be really easy to get down (wasn't quite so mobile then), and I'm trying to figure out if this will pass on its own or if there's something I can do to help. We only use the floor bed part time (mostly naps and beginning of the night), as we cosleep also. I'm not sure if that has something to do with it or not. He seems to be a little clingy lately also. Just trying to figure out what's up.

Samantha said...

Hi there! Just ran accross this post looking for floor bed info for a friend. My $0.02: My parents put my sister and I on floor beds as soon as we outgrew the basinette. We LOVED them. Loved them so much that we happily lived on the floor until our pre-teen years (at which point we got loft beds, which were oh so cool). No floor bed related injuries or close calls, if anyone's wondering. Montessori upbringing FTW!

PT Crusader said...

I have been following you for a long time and was very interested in creating a montessori room for our baby. But, we received a crib and seemed appropriate to use it. My now six month old mostly co-slept the first 3-4 months. She sleeps ok in her crib now, but moves around in her sleep and lately has been rolling into the sides. I don't want to do bumpers, so I suggested we get rid of the crib and make a floor bed. The other component is I just bought a new organic crib mattress, so iwould want to use that but it seems a little too thick. Do you think it's possible to use a crib mattress and transition to a floor bed? What suggestions do you have for protecting her if she rolls off? We have hardwood floors and I don't want her to bonk her head. Thank you for all the info you share!

Kanoelala Hook said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kanoelala Hook said...

Hi! Just found your post. Was wondering where you go the mirror from? Thanks!

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