I thought it might be nice to give a bit of a tour of our home and explain the many ways we've been able to incorporate Montessori principles within a tiny space. I had quite a hard time finding inspiration from real homes while I was pregnant and setting up our house, so hopefully this will add to what little resources are available online to inspire new (and seasoned) parents in better preparing their homes for little people.
Before beginning, I think it's worth mentioning that we have purchased very few things new. Most of the furniture and objects which you'll see here were bought second-hand and it really is possible to set all these things up on a limited budget. Of course, if you do want to spend a bit more money there are some wonderful online sources for Montessori furniture and materials which I'll mention as well.
This is our cosy little bedroom in our 2-brm flat. If we had a spare room (the other room is basically storage right now!) we probably would have made up a separate bedroom for Finlay, but since space is tight, it just made sense to have him sleep with us. This has worked out really well because as all mothers know, getting up in the middle of the night is exhausting and it's much easier if baby is right there. Also, for the first few weeks, Finlay actually slept with us in our bed. This is a big Montessori no-no (because the aim is to help babies sleep independently), but we all loved it, bonding was enhanced and I truly believe that this time in our bed helped build his sense of safety so that after three weeks he was happy to sleep in his own bed (and has done ever since, except our afternoon naps which we still often share together. Bliss!). When we did move him to his own bed, the ambience of the room remained the same and he seemed to sense that he was in a safe, familiar place.
Here's a better view of Fin's corner (he's just woken up from a nap!). Maria Montessori recommended letting the child sleep on a floor-bed so that when he or she is able to crawl they can get in and out of their bed independently. This might seem like a huge nightmare to many parents (there's a reason why cots have bars, right?!) and when Fin starts crawling I may indeed regret the whole thing, but I do love the fact that he will feel trusted to follow his natural sleep rhythms. If he wants to, he can get out and play with his toys on the shelf, then return to bed on his own when he's tired. We'll keep the door closed during nap times so he can't come out into the rest of the house and he knows it's quiet, resting time.
Ideally, the floor-bed would be single-sized futon to allow plenty of space for when the child starts rolling and crawling. It is recommended that the mattress be placed directly on the floor so it is easy to crawl out of, but since we are living in Auckland (famous for it's dampness and mildew issues) I wanted ours to have some sort of base lifting it a few centimeters off the floor. Also, I tried every configuration possible but simply could not fit a single-sized mattress in our room along with our queen bed, so we decided upon a cot-sized bed. I found a second-hand cot which could be transformed into a toddler bed by taking the sides off and adding a smaller bed-end. When Brent's parents were over visiting his dad cut off the legs for us and we were left with a perfect little floor-bed. Beautiful floor-bed frames can also be bought at Michael Olaf or the Lord Company. Unfortunately, I couldn't find a single manufacturer in Australia or NZ. (If you know of one, please do let me know!)
Another reason for the floor-bed is that it affords the child a much better view of the room than a cot would allow. I have already noticed the benefit of this - from very early on, Finlay would explore the room visually and you could almost see him creating his 'mind-map' of the room. Hopefully this will act as an incentive for him to develop his moving abilities so that he can finally get to the things he has been looking at for all this time. At the moment we have a folded-up yoga mat next to the bed just in case he rolls out (which he has, twice!) but we might need to get a nice thick rug for when he really gets moving.
“The environment must be rich in motives which lend interest to activity and invite the child to conduct his own experiences.” - Maria Montessori
This view is enhanced by the mirror attached to the wall by his bed. The mirror is one of the few things that we bought new, from Every Educaid. To be honest, the reflection isn't perfect, but I guess that's what to expect from a shatter-proof acrylic mirror. Finlay absolutely loves to look at himself in this mirror. He smiles and 'talks' to his reflection endlessly. It's pretty amazing to see him look at his mobile, then at it's reflection, and back again - you can almost see the cogs turning in his brain! The mirror helps encourage the child's development of movement. At nine weeks, I first noticed Fin watching his arm movements in the mirror:
Above the bed hangs a mobile. I have so much to say about the Montessori mobiles that I think I'll save that for a post all of it's own!
Next to his bed is a little frame (from an op-shop) with a beautiful print inside (cut from an old calendar). I had intended to rotate this with others I have in storage, but I love this one so much that I haven't changed it yet. Maria Montessori believed we should create an environment filled with beauty for the young child and that artwork should be hung at their level.
On the shelf (again, second-hand) we have placed a few little baskets with objects for Finlay to explore when he ventures out into the room. The idea here is that the physical space is as orderly as possible in order to help the child create an inner sense of order. When everything has a place, it is easy to restore order, resulting in independence and a sense of satisfaction in the child. We have a box full of objects in storage from which we can rotate onto the shelf when Finlay loses interest in these ones, re-introducing them later on for further exploration. A few books are placed on the next shelf (again, more are in storage waiting for rotation). To top it all off we have a beautiful maidenhair fern which reminds us of my mum (Oma) and a salt lamp which gives of a lovely glow for nighttime feeding.
We also have a change table tucked into the corner at the end of our bed. As soon as he is walking comfortably we'll aim to change him standing up and have his clothes available within his reach. I'll be sure to revisit this topic when the time comes.
On a side note, the painting of Buddha hanging above our bed has become an unexpected favorite of Finlay's. From his very first weeks, he would look for that painting and smile at Buddha like he was an old friend. When I think of Montessori's descriptions of the Absorbent Mind (the unique mind-state of the child which absorbs everything in his/her environment in the process of self-creation) I can't help but marvel at Fin's obsession with Buddha and celebrate the fact that he's imprinting such a beautiful, smiling face into his personality!
“The things he sees are not just remembered; they form a part of his soul.” - Maria Montessori
Well, I think I've rambled on enough for today so I'll have to break this up into bite-sized pieces. Don't want to overwhelm! I'm so grateful for the support I've received since starting this blog. I have so much more to write about and hope you'll all bear with me while I empty my brain out here :)
Ciao for now x