5.22.2012

Why we chose a montessori bedroom for our daughter

I know what you're thinking.

Gosh, won't these people just let their poor child live a normal life already?

First they don't let her eat any meat or dairy, now she has to have some weird kind of bedroom?

It probably doesn't shock any of you that when it comes to our daughter's bedroom, environment and future education, we've got big ideas and different plans for her than most.

Last month our darling little girl kicked her hardest habit yet - she quit the pacifier's - cold turkey. This month, she's tackled a whole new feat - she graduated from her crib, to a big girl bed. And we're not talking any big girl bed here, we're talking no sides, no rails, twin mattress big girl bed. The best part about it? Not only is it a floor bed, it is a built-from-scratch by Chubby Vegan Dad and our vegan best friend, Kevin, framed, floor bed.

And let me tell you, it's adorable as hell.

I wish I could take the claim for this darling bed, but unfortunately, all I contributed was the crazy cute polka dot fabric and the batting underneath it to help pad everything.

It may not seem like much to you, but this was one very big task we were over-the-top excited to complete. Interested in building your own? We used this DIY site for guidelines, more because the finished product was exactly what we were looking for.

Unfortunately the instructions are a bit vague, but ultimately, we measured our twin mattress, got the wood to create the sides (allowing about an extra inch of length and an extra two inches in width to allot for the batting, fabric and bedding) and a few more pieces for the "headboard" part. Chubby Vegan Dad and Kevin opted to put the core of the bed together using hinges on the inside corners (in the event we ever needed to move the bed) then good ole-fashioned female bolts and screws to attach the headboard. Then we stapled layer upon layer of batting along the wood, covered that with fabric and added a few more staples.

It sounds kind of complicated, but looks fairly easy, but believe me when I say this, easy or not, it took a LONG time. Be forewarned, not only will this project possibly take all night, but once you're finished you'll want to sleep in the bed because it's just that damn cute!

You might be asking why on Earth we'd want our child to have such access to every part of her room in the middle of the night. Why we'd put her on the floor level and how the heck we get her to bed at night now. (Or better yet, does she even take naps anymore).

The concept behind the montessori-style bedroom has basically branched from Maria Montessori's educational strategies. Montessoris are alternative schools which embrace a child's independence and curiosity when it comes to learning. Instead of strict, rigorous lesson plans, the children come to understand lessons through their own exploration, also gaining insight from other children.

Don't be fooled, however, it might sound all hugs and kisses and hippie on the outside, but the curriculum itself is just as demanding. It's basically about achieving the same education (perhaps with more focus on independence) through a different, more kid-friendly approach.

I was the product of a montessori-meets-public-school classroom. Two grades were combined and we spent most days learning our lessons through different stations which harnessed the many different learning types, from visual and auditory to sensory and literary. All and all, I absolutely adored the educational experience I had. I'm not sure it's a style for every one, but I think there are children who can really blossom in this environment.

Back to the montessori bedroom. The concept of creating a montessori bedroom (or home if you dare to go that far), is to allow your child to gain independence and confidence by enabling and encouraging them to do things on their own. This ranges from making their beds, hanging up their jackets, putting away their clothes, picking out books for night time reading and selecting their outfits for the day. In order to allow your children the freedom to complete these tasks, you have to tailor the bedroom to the child instead of the adult.

What does this mean exactly?

“We must give the child an environment that he can utilize by himself: a little washstand of his own, a bureau with drawers he can open, objects of common use that he can operate, a small bed in which he can sleep at night under an attractive blanket he can fold and spread by himself. We must give him an environment in which he can live and play; then we will see him work all day with his hands and wait impatiently to undress himself and lay himself down on his own bed.”
- Maria Montessori

It means planning your kid's bedroom with them in mind instead of you. Rather than hanging up all those pretty, colorful drawings at your eye level, place them lower on the walls so your child will be able to appreciate them (albeit, keep in mind that if little hands can get a hold of it, they will, so be careful in regards to sharp, glass and heavy items). It means sticking that five-foot tall dresser in the garage and getting them some drawers they can actually open and access themselves. And much to many parents' dismay, it means letting go of the crib and letting your child have the freedom to put themselves to bed and wake themselves up. 

Don't misunderstand me here, I'm not saying to let your kid run around and be a terror until midnight. What I'm saying is to allow your child to figure out it's their bedtime. We lay Pearyn down any time between 9-10 p.m. depending on when she took her nap in the day, and while I'd love to tell you her eyes shut and she's snoozing as soon as her head hits the pillow, I'd be lying. It takes our little girl about 20-30 minutes to fall into a deep slumber, which I'm proud to report is actually 30 minutes shorter than when we had her sleeping in her crib. She also cries A LOT less now that she has her big girl bed. I was afraid she'd be getting in and out of it constantly, but to my surprise, she usually says in it from the time we lay her down until about an hour after she's woken up in the morning. I think it's a comforting thing for her now, to realize if she wants or needs to get up in the middle of the night for anything, she can now. Imagine how terrible it would be to have someone not only tell you when you're going to bed, but to throw you into a little bed that has bars and no hope of getting out until they decide it's time. 

We've made the full, montessori transition to Pear's bedroom. We've got clear drawers that are labeled with words and pictures of what article of clothing belongs in them (to help her when we give her clothes to put away), not to mention a big, shelf that holds several colorful bins we keep her toys and books in. The key to a montessori bedroom is to foster creativity, but to make sure the child realizes and accepts the responsibility that everything has a place. Pear might have creative freedom in her room and wardrobe now, but she also has to put her toys and clothes away in their appropriate bins. 

We got creative when it came to a too-tall bookshelf we had in Pearyn's room. Instead of throwing it in the garage with all the other too-big stuff, we turned it on it's side and pulled one of the shelves out. We stuck sticky 3-M type hooks in it and made it out to be a coat, jacket, hat and scarf closet. We even put a big, wicker basket in the bottom to hold all of Pear's shoes. Pearyn absolutely adores running and putting away her shoes when we get home from running an errand. 

It's the little things that matter folks. 

The important thing about the montessori-bedroom is to make sure it's 100 percent kid-proofed. You're giving your precious bundle of joy access to anything and everything in that room, so make sure to plug up outlets, put up the breakables and only leave the things kid appropriate out for them to see and utilize. 

We have yet to implement the montessori way of thinking into every room of our home, but if her bedroom is any indication of it's success, we might well be on our way. 

3 comments:

  1. I love this concept, and think you did a great job with the bed. The polka dot fabric is super cute.

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  2. How old was she when you did all this?

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  3. Right when she turned two. She went from crib straight to big girl bed! I will admit, however, we didn't have to baby proof a crazy amount with her because she was pretty good about staying away from stuff she shouldn't, so this was a pretty easy transition for her. But I know of some people that do it way earlier, like baby stage still. With Brae I would do it earlier, maybe at a year to 18 months, depending on how he is.

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