We need to keep the Montessori principles in mind regarding Montessori floor beds or Montessori cribs (not sure if this exists, but more on that later). Montessori is far more than just an aesthetic. It is an educational philosphy aiming to support a child’s natural development. We can prepare a Montessori-inspired bedroom with a Montessori-style bed that offers freedom of movement. In this post, I will share what a Montessori floor bed is and if a Montessori crib exists. I’ll also share some benefits of a Montessori floor bed as they pertain to our experience using it.
What is a Montessori floor bed?
A Montessori floor bed is a mattress placed on the floor or placed on a minimalistic floor bed frame. The point of the frame is to keep the mattress up off of the floor as well as provide a better aesthetic in the environment. The Montessori method supports various needs of the child by offering freedom of movement. That same principle applies to the Montessori floor bed. It is possible to offer a bed on the floor and have it prepared safely for the young child. A floor bed is very different than a traditional crib. Many of us come from a mindset of having a place where we can put a child to contain them, like a crib. We may have a hard time adjusting to this new concept of allowing for freedom of movement throughout an entire room.
It is worth noting that sleep is a very personal experience. Each child is very different, the needs within the family are different and our capacity and ability to offer a truly authentic floor bed experience will be affected by many factors. There are many benefits of a floor bed. However, safety must be prioritized above offering freedom of movement to our young children. If you are adopting many other Montessori principles but not the floor bed I want to assure you that it is just fine! A floor bed is not for everyone!
Is there such a thing as a Montessori crib?
When you look up the definition of crib it is “a young child’s bed with barred or latticed sides.” A traditional crib would likely have a mattress up off of the floor and relatively high sides around all 4 sides of the crib. I have seen the term “Montessori crib” and it doesn’t quite seem to fit or make sense to me. This type of bed seems to adopt some of the Montessori principles but not all of them.
A Montessori crib is a mattress on the floor with low sides, but sides still raised above the mattress. They often have a small section that can be opened to allow freedom of movement. This may be a little doorway that can restrict that movement by closing that little gate. This may be a good transitional option if you aren’t sure if a Montessori floor bed is right for you and your child. However, I don’t think these styles of floor beds are in alignment with the Montessori way of sleep, at least not fully.
A Montessori nursery is (ideally) prepared with a floor bed that allows freedom of movement. This helps create a sense of autonomy for the child. Rather than the physical boundaries being the bars of a crib, the entire room becomes the sleep space. This allows for the child to work towards independent sleep, if that is a goal of yours, as well as be able to move about the room to access some toys or materials at the child’s level.
To wrap up the question about whether a Montessori crib exists, yes it does. There are products on the market being called a Montessori crib. If you are ready to jump into Montessori with both feet, a product like this may be unnecessary and not fully aligned with Montessori principles. However, if you have a child who has been in a traditional crib and you like the idea of a floor bed but you have safety concerns or just aren’t ready to transition fully then a Montessori crib may be a good option. If you have a toddler who can climb, they would likely be able to climb right out of this structure. I think even my 12-month-old twins would be able to climb up and out of a structure like this.
It is my personal opinion that a “Montessori crib” is not in line with the Montessori philosophy. It could be a step towards an authentic Montessori experience if you are in a period of transition.
Can you use a floor bed with a baby?
You can use a floor bed with a baby, even two if you would like. Find out more about floor beds with twins in this blog post. Everyone’s sleep journey is different, but sometime within the first year, you would likely transition to a floor bed. We did this very early on for daytime naps and around 4 months of age for nighttime sleep. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends having a baby sleep in the room with their parent(s) for the first six months of life. Make sure to follow all safe sleep guidelines.
We transitioned to the floor bed for nighttime sleep earlier because this is where they were familiar with sleeping and it started to seem confusing to have two different sleeping environments. By offering freedom of movement at an early age it can become a normal thing for your baby. They learn relatively quickly that their bed is for sleep. If they are not tired they are free to move around.
Young toddlers can also use a floor bed. You can make the transition to a floor bed whenever you are comfortable. Just expect a transition period as they explore their new freedom.
Converting a Crib to a Floor Bed
There is a blog post about converting a crib to a Montessori floor bed. Montessori cribs like this style in this blog post could be a good option if you are looking to try out a Montessori bed but already have a crib. Converting a crib into a floor bed would have one side of the mattress completely open to allow freedom of movement in and out of the bed.
Is a Floor Bed Safe?
Safety is always a concern when it comes to sleep, and it should be because it is so important. I think the Montessori floor bed is safe for a few reasons. One, it is just a few inches off of the ground so if your child comes off of their floor bed they don’t have a very far drop. Another reason why I believe that a floor bed is safe is because they won’t climb out of anything and fall. As long as the sleeping space is prepared carefully and intentionally then safety has never been a concern of mine. If you have hard floors in the bedroom and you are concerned about them hurting themselves on the firm ground or it being cold you can lay down an area rug, as long as it is done safely.
Here are a few other things we do to keep the environment safe while using a floor bed. There is a baby gate at the top of the stairs and their bedroom door is closed. All of the outlets are covered, cords are attached to the wall and the furniture is secure. Check out this blog post for how to babyproof a Montessori nursery.
A Few Honest Comments About Our Experience with the Floor Bed
I have found our floor bed experience with twins to be a great success. It has had its learning moments and challenges but overall I think they have had healthy sleep habits develop. We have developed a comfortable space for sleep and our twins enjoy their bedroom. They sleep together on a twin-size mattress. At 8 months we did some sleep training for the middle of the night. Around 4 months they were starting to put themselves to sleep on (or off) of their floor beds. For more details about our journey using a floor bed with twins check out this blog post.
When it comes to using a floor bed one thing we have had to navigate is sleep flexibility. Since our boys have the freedom to move about and fall asleep when they are ready it has made it challenging when we are traveling or out and about. Nap times become more challenging in those moments becuase of how much of a sleep routine they have at home that we can’t replicate elsewhere. Nap time anywhere but home or in the car can be a challenge because they are so used to having freedom of movement when it is time for sleep.
Where to Purchase a Floor Bed
Purchasing a floor bed frame isn’t entirely necessary. I’m sure at some point we will, but for now, a mattress on the floor has served us just fine. Sprout sells a very authentic Montessori floor bed. Check out this blog post for more floor bed purchasing options.