Updated: May 27, 2019
Creating a prepared environment at home is really easy and doesn't have to be a big expense. It's even much cheaper than building the conventional "nursery."
BUT... Before even planning for the things you need to set-up a Montessori Baby room, please remember the basic needs of a baby: the warmth and closeness of parents are, during the first few months, far more important than any material thing you could buy.
Based from what I've learned over the years, the Montessori parenting style and philosophy is all about following your child - learning has to be individualized and aligned to your child's current interests and abilities. They will be interested to learn if it's something interesting to them. It is also about respecting the child and not forcing them to do things for your convenience (for example - the CIO method which forces a child to sleep by letting him cry it out till he passes out) or because we want them to advance (such as rushing them to hit certain milestones... they will walk when they are ready, all they need is as space to move and to practice! No need for a walker).
CREATING A PREPARED ENVIRONMENT FOR THE BABY
1. Get a Floor Bed
This kind of bed allows the child to decide when to stand up after a nap, without the need to cry loudly in order to be withdrawn from the crib by an adult. A crawling baby can get in and out of his or her bed in an autonomous way. When children are older than 9-12 months, a low bed becomes almost a necessity, as many babies have been injured while jumping over the railing of a crib in their attempt to escape their "baby jail". Or, their fingers, toes or limbs get stuck between the slats. Ouch! Kids being kids - THEY NEED TO MOVE! That is how they learn! 😉
You don't need to get a trundle or a fancy bed, a simple mattress on the floor will do, as long as it is kept clean and you regularly vacuum under and around it. A thick rug or mat would help in case they roll off the bed (and end up on hard flooring).
In our case, we got the Caraz Foldable Playmat as we can fold it to convert it a floor bed or lay it out wide to serve as the movement area. We placed this beside our own bed because we live in a condo and it's quite helpful that we can fold it and easily carry the playmat to another location if needed.
The important part of course, is to ensure safety of the child. There shouldn't be any high furniture beside the floor bed that can topple over, and no sharp objects or corners. And, adult supervision is necessary especially during the earlier months.
2. Install a Safety Mirror (one that doesn't easily shatter)
This is one of the essentials in a Montessori bedroom especially for infants because it helps encourage movement and self-discovery. When Kara was an infant, she would laugh whenever she tried to stand or crawl because the baby in the mirror is doing the same thing (& later on she realized it was her). For our condo though, I didn't want a permanently installed one; instead had one made with removable "legs" (L shaped so it doesn't fall over) so we can easily move it from the bedroom to the common play area.
3. Add Minimal Decorations on the Wall
This can be pictures with pleasant scenes, at the child's eye level so they can look at them with ease (maximum of three frames would do; too many decorations are overwhelming and confusing). Since Andi is only 6 wee old, our decorations now are just Blak and White printouts.
Black and white images provide great visual contrast, which makes it easy for the baby to recognize the contours of the objects presented to him. We can show black and white these to babies as young as one or two months of age, as long as they are in a good mood.
Nowadays it’s possible to buy black and white books and flashcards with pictures for babies, but it’s really easy to make them at home almost for free with images we can find online, using items which are relevant to our particular circumstances, something they can RELATE TO (i.e. you can use a picture of a dog if you have one at home). You can place the printouts, at most - 12 inches away from the baby (like tape it to the wall), because if it's too far they won't see it clearly yet. You can also point to each and name it if you like, but as always, if the baby isn't interested, don't force it.
Click here to get the images I've curated - please comment "THANK YOU" in case you're downloading it. :)
4. Invest in Low Shelves (or Wooden Baskets!)
The point of having an open, low-level shelf is for the child to have access to his "learning materials" or toys and we have to make sure that whatever we place here is developmentally appropriate and based on the child's sensitive periods.
For Babies below 18 months old, a maximum of 6 activities on the shelf is more than enough (and for below 1 year old, just 1-2 activities will suffice per toy rotation).
Andi and Kara share a shelf in our common area (living room). What we have in Andi's movement area is a basket with his grasping toys (which I made).
As I've mentioned earlier, black and white objects are most suitable because they can easily be seen by babies. Then around, 2 or 3 months of age, they learn to rise on their elbows and arms. From this age on they enjoy studying their movements in front of a mirror and also discover that they can grasp. I made these grasping toys for our baby.
I am not crafty at all, but I love creating toys for Kara and Andi for a few reasons. For starters, it is a very budget-friendly way to give your little one something new to play with. I also love that it allows me to give them something perfectly suited for their current interests and abilities.
Just got organic wooden teether rings (which you can use for so many activities) then black and white yarns and ribbons. It took me 30 minutes to finish these.
5. Place a Wooden Play Gym
I haven't added this in Andi's movement area yet because the purpose of this is to stimulate the baby's senses and are designed to help the baby learn skills such as reaching and grasping as well as increase their muscle development, hand-eye coordination and gross motor skills. Andi is still very young and as a Montessori-Konmari advocate, we only place materials that are already going to be used. This is something we will add later (around 3rd or 4th month).
I will share a video or photo of Andi once he's using it :)
Thanks for reading!