Thursday, March 8, 2012

Montessori Bedroom for a One Year-Old

I've been meaning to share pictures of Henry's new Montessori bedroom. It's a lot different than his Montessori nursery in Houston.

In our 1930s bungalow in Houston, we only had two bedrooms, so Henry's nursery also functioned as our office, guest bedroom, and craft room. We designed it with all those functions in mind. It was also my favorite room in the house, so when Henry and I were home together, we hung out in there like a living room (which is why we put his movement mat, mirror, and mobiles there instead of in the living room).

Now that we live in a ranch-style home with three bedrooms in Austin, Henry has his own room, and we have a separate room devoted to the office, crafts, and guests. Henry primarily uses his bedroom for sleeping and a little playing. We tried to make the environment simple, natural, calming, beautiful, and orderly.

Henry has an IKEA shelf that holds some toys, including bell and ball cylinders, a xylophone, a box/ball toy that helps with object permanence (I removed the rubber pieces and the hammer, so it more closely resembles an authentic Montessori toy), a discovery basket, a Skwish toy, another ball toy, some hand grasping toys from Etsy, and a basket of books. I also made him a set of rattling jars with pistachios, quinoa or couscous, black-eyed peas, and popcorn (I used little jam jars from restaurants). Everything has a place, so it's easy to restore the environment after Henry has been playing in there. If we had more toys, we would rotate them out every couple weeks. But honestly, we have toys in the bedroom, three different places in the living room, and in the car, which means we don't have any extra in storage.

We hung three pieces of art on the wall, at a height that was low enough for Henry to have a good view of them but high enough to keep them out of his little reaching hands.

His floor bed is against the wall, with a handmade decorative pillow and a quilt for added warmth. The Montessori floor bed is still working out really well for our family. At nap time, I put Henry on his bed (he sleeps on his stomach) with a pacifier, leave the room, and close the door behind me. If he's tired, he falls asleep right away. If not, he plays by himself in his room. It's designed to be as safe as a crib would be. When he is tired, he crawls back over to his bed and falls asleep. Sometimes, he'll play up to 45 minutes by himself before deciding he's tired.

I like to look at the room from Henry's perspective and make adjustments as necessary. I love the view out his window!

On the window sill (which is safely out of reach), we keep plants and other natural objects.

We still need to modify the room a little to facilitate independent dressing. We need to get his closet set up properly so he can pick his clothes each day, and we need to hang his mirror on the wall and add a stool and laundry basket. We will also add little rugs to the rug basket, when he starts pulling activities off his shelf and siting down to work on them.

I feel so thankful to have found the Montessori philosophy. It resonates so deeply with Matt and me, and its principles align with what feels right to our family. Although it's not a valid science experiment because the sample size is so small (one!) and there's no control and I'm not a scientist (and the list of other reasons goes on and on), I feel like we see some of the expected outcomes. Henry is very comfortable in new environments, and he enjoys exploring independently. We just found out that he got accepted to an authentic Montessori school in Austin (just up the road!), which he will start in the fall when he's 18 months. When I observed the youngest children's community, I honestly had tears in my eyes because it was so beautiful. If you are at all interested in Montessori, I highly recommend that you schedule a tour. It's a truly inspiring thing to watch.

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Kylie D'Alton said...

Adorable, I love his room. Congrats at being accepted into the school, I can't wait to hear more about it. I also hear you on the clothes front.

L said...

I love how his room is simple, natural and comfortable. After learning about Maria Montessori in grad school, it just made sense for early childhood learning! I am excited to keep a Montessori home when we do (eventually) expand our family. Henry is a lucky kid!

Mari said...

My husband and I are expecting our first child in August. While I've known of Montessori for a while, your post today makes me stop and think about how this might be beneficial for us (I am especially enamored by the fact that he will play alone if desired, then crawl back to bed for sleeping when ready). Thanks for posting it!

Carrie said...

Thanks for sharing your last few posts! Awesome ideas to fuel yourself. You articulated so much of what I feel is good for me but hadn't put it into words/goals. Love the post about choosing clothing - both your choice at the store and his choice on a daily basis. And I love this post about his growing room! Henry is so blessed to have you as his Mom! Your play options for him are so perfectly chosen and in such a beautiful, thoughtful environment. I love to see that sweet little face of his too! Thanks for sharing through your blog!

Sara E. Cotner said...

Thanks, All! I really appreciate your words of encouragement.

Anonymous said...

You inspire me. I'm always getting something out of your posts. Thank you!

Chloe said...

I am so glad I found your blog so that I've been able to start learning about the Montessori method! I am still a couple of years away from having kids but seeing how you are raising Henry really resonates with me and my fiancé and it's inspiring to see! Thanks for sharing!

Sara E. Cotner said...

@ Anonymous: What sweet words! Thank you for fueling my motivation to blog...

Hi, Chloe! I just went to a Montessori parent education class yesterday, and absolutely everything resonated with me, except for one comment the presenter made about not engaging in a power struggle over teeth brushing (for me, it's a non-negotiable like riding in a carseat). I read lots of different parenting things and pick and choose what aligns with my intuition, but it's been awesome to find an entire philosophy that makes sense to me.

For those of you who don't connect with Montessori, you might want to look into Waldorf. It's another comprehensive educational philosophy that you could implement at home and then find in a local school.

Mari said...

I thought of a couple questions -- so how do you know that he entertains himself (which I love!)? Do you use a baby monitor to keep tabs on the whole room?

And out of curiosity (forgive me if you've covered this in a post I missed), did you end up trying Elimination Communication with gusto? I'm unsure about how I feel about the tactic, so I'd love to know if you had experience with it.

Thank you!!

Sara E. Cotner said...

Hi, Mari! In his last bedroom (in Houston) we had a video baby monitor. The cameras (there were two!) would sit up on the couch where he couldn't reach (though he always tried--watching his little face get bigger and bigger as he got closer and closer to the camera was hilarious). When he was awake and we didn't need them, we would simply slip them behind the couch on the window sill (we were decluttering our home every day in an attempt to sell it). In his new room, there's not a safe place for monitors, so we just haven't used them. I can, however, get down and look under the door when I want to check on him. Also, I can hear him playing with his toys (for example, the ball in the box makes a very distinctive noise). Finally, when he wakes up from his nap, his room is trashed and I know he had a really good time before falling asleep!

I'm going to write a post about EC next week. Thanks for asking!

Mari said...

Hi Sara,
Thanks so much for this information! I love the visual of him trying to get the camera! So cute! And thanks again for all your Montessori descriptions. I'm very inspired by it. I'm not quite sure if we'll go the Montessori route, as it's so different from the conventional method of crib/rocking chair/nursery/etc (and well, change is hard, ya know?), but it's so tempting. Thankfully, we've got a few months before any decisions need to be made, so I've taken out some books from the library, and it's time to do some hard thinking and imaging!

Thanks very much!

The Legers said...

Congratulations on getting him into a toddler community! That is such a relief, I am sure.

Sara E. Cotner said...

Yes, it was a HUGE relief when we got the acceptance letter in the mail. We basically moved to this side of town to be near his school (we had to sign the lease before we found out whether he was accepted).

Sara E. Cotner said...

Mari, have you seen the documentary Edison's Day? It's one of the reasons I'm so passionate about Montessori for infants (Edison is 20 months-old, but you can imagine that all of the smaller things--floor bed, no bouncy seats, etc--add up to a very independent, competent, content toddler. If you e-mail me I can let you borrow my copy.

Mari said...

Hi Sara! No, I hadn't heard about this. I'll email you. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Hi Sara!
I love the simplicity of Henry's room. I'm pregnant with my first and have already gotten a million suggestions about toys/vibrating bouncy chairs/baby swings. To me it all looks like over-stimulation for a little one, and my partner and I are committed to keeping our one bedroom apartment as decluttered and un-plasticky as possible. But I was wondering what your thoughts, and the montessori method's teachings, are on a baby's need for constant motion and stimulation? Did you ever wish you had a baby swing or bouncy chair?

Sara E. Cotner said...

Hi, Anonymous! In the Montessori tradition, young infants spend a lot of time laying on mats next to a mirror with a mobile above them. It's the right amount of stimulation, but it's definitely not "constant motion." They nurture their independence and muscle development by spending time in this manner every day.

I found that Henry wanted the motion to go to sleep. He would only fall asleep in a baby carrier while walking (until we introduced the pacifier, then he only needed the carrier). We did wear him for every nap for the first three months of his life. When he was ready for it, we transitioned him out of the carrier for naps.

There was a week in there when I was about to lose my mind and I borrowed a swing from a friend. Henry just did okay with it. I decided we didn't really need it. I tried to remember that the really hard parts would pass soon.

As for the bouncy seat, I never needed that. When I showered, I would simply put Henry on a towel underneath a wooden arch with a hanging toy or black and white images. Then he started rolling. Finally, he started crawling and I switched to taking a shower while he was napping. When he was in the living room with us, we just put him on a blanket on the floor.

When he first started to eat food (four months), we held him on our laps. Then we moved him to his weaning table when he could sit up.

I hope that makes sense!

Autumn Witt Boyd said...

I would love to see an update on how Henry's room has (or has not!) changed as he's gotten a little older. Thanks!

anne said...

Very late to this party, but I am just now planning a room for my daughter. I see Henry supporting himself on the bookshelf. Did you have any concerns about it toppling over on him? Is it pretty sturdy on its side, or did you end up bolting it to the wall?

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