My Family’s Experience with a Montessori Floor Bed I How to Decide if it’s Right for You I Baby Floor Bed Pros, Cons & Things to Consider
I first came across the concept of Montessori floor beds on Pinterest or Instagram, which I’m assuming is pretty common.
I’m talking about those little natural wood house-frame beds, where the mattress sits on or very close to the floor and the bed is framed by a simple wood structure to create “walls” and a “roof.”
They’re adorable, and they seem like they’re made for the social media era!
In addition to being cute, however, I think they’ve also done a lot to popularize the idea of a floor bed, which doesn’t need anything fancy like those cute house frames.
They certainly helped me learn about the concept…and led to me trying one with my own daughter when life threw us a curve ball.
My Montessori Floor Bed Experience
When Covid struck North America in March 2020, my husband and I were living abroad. When things started to look bad and Canada started to go into lock downs, we decided to go home and wait it out, assuming it would be a couple of months wait, max.
Within 48 hours of making the decision, we were on a plane with our 1.5 year old, on our way into a mandatory 14-day quarantine for people retuning from abroad.
Because we figured the pandemic would only last a few months, we moved in with my mom for the spring (which stretched into summer).
But because my mom wasn’t expecting an 18-month-old to come live with her, she didn’t have a crib.
Our daughter slept in our travel crib for a month or so, but after a few weeks we realized she needed a bit more space.
Thankfully, my mom did have a twin mattress, so we plopped it in the middle of my daughter’s make-shift room, and voila – our experience with floor beds began!
I wish I could say this decision came out of careful research into the pros and cons and benefits of a baby floor bed, but in reality it came out of necessity.
While we didn’t have an adorable house frame, it’s been a great experience for us.
Since moving out of my mom’s house and getting our own place, we’ve put our daughter in a “normal” toddler bed. However, she still sleeps in the floor bed at my mom’s house, which is often. She goes there during the work day, instead of daycare, so all her daytime naps and the occasional sleep over still happen in a floor bed.
Since we’ve had such a great experience with the whole concept, I figured I’d write out my thoughts, as well as what I see as the pros and cons, in case you’re thinking about taking the floor bed route for your own little ones.
The Montessori Method
Simply put, a Montessori floor bed itself is not a ‘thing,’ but part of Montessori philosophy.
Maria Montessori, of the eponymous Montessori method, encouraged having a child’s bed on the floor.
That makes sense when you consider one of the main principle behind Montessori style parenting and child development: namely, independence for children.
Montessori parenting and education believes children thrive most when they’re able to explore and learn independently.
When you apply this Montessori way of thinking to your baby’s bed, you can see how having a crib could be seen as inhibiting your little one’s freedom of movement and ability to explore.
What Is A Montessori Floor Bed?
At its simplest, it’s simply a mattress that’s been placed directly on the floor for your child to sleep on. It’s low enough for your child to climb onto and off of, whenever they choose to do so themselves.
Even from a young age, children are developing their motor skills. Giving them freedom of movement lets them develop this independently, whenever they want.
It also gives them some control over their own day and schedule. When they can get on and off a mattress on the floor, their day doesn’t begin or end with a parent taking them out of their crib or putting them in, which lets them assert a bit more independence over their life.
How to Use a Montessori Floor Bed
Many families I’ve come across that use this bed style started using this approach as part of transitioning baby from bassinet.
Lots of families that opt for a Montessori floor bed do so around that 6 month mark, transitioning the baby out of a bassinet in the parents’ room, and onto their new Montessori style bed in their own room.
That said, some families do use one from birth (this feels early to me, and I wouldn’t have personally felt comfortable putting an infant on this style of bed right after birth).
Other families transition from a crib to a floor bed a bit later, around the 10 to 12 month mark.
We did so even later, around 18 months.
To each their own regarding timing, but I do recommend you chat with your baby’s paediatrician to make sure you’ve thought through all the safety and developmental considerations specific to your family. And, of course, have this conversation before sending your tiny human off to sleep on their new bed for the first time!
Setting Up a Montessori Floor Bed
When setting it up, you simply need a firm crib mattress with a tightly-fitting fitted sheet to cover it. You may also want a waterproof sheet layer under the sheet if your baby is peeing through their diaper at night.
You can set it up in your baby’s own room, or in your room.
However, you need to set it up away from any walls. If a mattress set up against the wall shifts slightly away from the wall, it creates a dangerous gap that your baby could fall into or get stuck in. Now that our daughter is 3, her floor bed is against the wall, but this style of set up isn’t suitable for younger kids.
For those under 2 years old, use a firm crib mattress rather than a twin or full size mattress or mini crib mattress. These mattresses are made to be particularly firm, which has been shown to reduce the risk of SIDs in young children. Twin, full size and larger mattresses generally aren’t nearly as firm as those designed specifically for babies.
Importantly, don’t use pillows or blankets with the mattress until your kiddo is over 12 months old. Preferably, wait until they’re well over 12 months of age. Since my daughter was used to sleeping without a comfort object and toddler pillow for the first 18 to 20 months or so of life, I find she still falls asleep without using stuffies, etc. They get used to it!
What Are the Benefits of a Floor Bed?
Freedom of Movement
The main reason to use a mattress on the floor instead of a crib is that it encourages your little one to celebrate their independence, and put it to use!
If they awaken early from a nap, they can get out of bed and play quietly in their bedroom until you come check on them.
If they’re not yet ready for bedtime, they can choose a quiet activity to wind down until they are ready.
Giving your child this level of safe, controlled freedom from a young age helps them see the world as a place where they’re capable and encouraged to explore and make discoveries.
If you want to build your child’s nursery around their needs and capabilities, having a bed on the floor gives them a room that is totally on their level.
Children that sleep this way learn they have agency over their routine and schedule, and are trusted and capable of making decisions. They don’t need their day to start when parents or caregivers comes to wake them, and instead are empowered to choose how and when to wake and rest.
Proponents of this method argue experiencing mutual respect and independence from family early in life translates into more confidence later on.
Letting children know they’re trusted to sleep when they feel tired and ready also helps reduce bedtime battles, especially during sleep regressions!
Every morning when your baby wakes, instead of crying out for you to come get them, they can decide how to start their day.
Do they snooze more, do they play with a toy, or do they look at a book?
The freedom this style of bed offers means it’s their choice. Over time, this process develops their decision making skills and and supports their understanding of how choices work.
Even with the controlled freedom of getting in and out of bed on their own, it may surprise you how often children actually put themselves to bed and sleep when they’re feeling tired.
This helps them recognize when their body needs a rest, a skill that will continue to serve them well into adulthood.
This style bed is also great when nursing, especially for middle of the night feeds. You can simply lie with them on their bed, and don’t have to then move them to another sleeping space if they fall asleep.
Safer for Climbers
With a crib, some gymnasts always find a way to climb over the rails and make an escape. This is dangerous, due to the long drop from the side.
It’s also possible they can get their limbs caught between the rails of a crib, especially when standing in the crib or trying to climb the sides.
With this approach, there is no such risk.
Many kids transition from bassinet to crib to toddler bed to big kid bed over the first five years.
By sticking with this Montessori approach through toddlerhood, you skip over a few transitions, offering more consistency in the early years.
And The Negatives?
Cold and Drafts
Some parents worry sleeping low to the ground on a Montessori floor bed will be too cold for their little. Having a bed directly on a wooden floor, for example, or being exposed to drafts.
To combat this, you can lie down on the bed yourself to test it out, and place it on a carpeted surface or rug.
You can also ensure your kiddo is warm enough by dressing them appropriately for sleep.
Falling Out of Bed
Some parents also worry their kid is more likely to fall out of a floor bed than one with a frame.
Simply said, this probably will happen. However, falling off a floor mattress is less dangerous than falling from a regular toddler bed, due to the height difference.
If you’re really concerned (and for those over 12 months only), fit a pool noodle under the fitted sheet to create a safety ‘bumper’ along the edges.
Placing a mattress directly on the floor does impact airflow, and may encourage moisture to settle within the mattress.
You can prevent this by placing the mattress on wooden slats to raise it up an inch or so. This will allow airflow around the entire thing.
Alternatively, remember to air and flip it regularly when your child isn’t using it to sleep.
Finally, use common sense in relation to the climate you live in!
Will My Child Actually Fall Asleep?
This was our biggest concern before we tried a floor bed. We’d had a few bed time battles, and were worried our daughter would spend the hours meant for resting, playing.
As it turns out, she was great! Having a good bedtime routine helps with this. But ss a parent, you have to be ready to give them the independence this setup allows.
Montessori methods encourage independence with boundaries. We told our daughter she could sleep. But if she wasn’t ready she could play quietly, as long as she did so within the room.
If you’re worried about this, keep the room as calming as possible. Leave only a few quiet toys and books. And keep anything loud and battery operated out!
If your kiddo is not ready to sleep, they can get in some quiet playtime to help them unwind.
Are Montessori Floor Beds Right for All Children?
This style of bed has worked for us, but they’re not for everyone. You also need to adapt for your child’s needs.
If your child is a fussy sleeper who struggles to self-soothe, a floor bed is not a good option. It requires self regulation on the child’s part to listen to their body and know when it’s time for sleep.
You also have to consider your own tolerance and flexibility and your schedule. If your kiddo wakes up in the middle of the night to practice their yoga moves, will you be sanguine about it? What if it interferes with their daycare or preschool schedule.
Ultimately, you need to consider what’s right for your family. Consider your home, schedule, and your own flexibility as a parent.
Safety First: Floor Bed Child-Proofing Tips
Door / Child Gate
Keep the door to their bedroom closed while they sleep. This helps your baby know they have free reign over their room, not the entire house.
If having the door closed seems a too isolating, you can remove the door and replace with a safety gate. That way, you can poke your head in to check on them. You’ll also know you’re not going to “squish” a child who may sleeping or playing behind the door.
While a gate works, a door is safest. Doors also serve as a fire barrier between the rest of the house and their space, just in case.
Sockets and Electrical Cables
Electrical sockets are always a danger. Use covers to stop tiny fingers from poking, or sticking something into them.
Ensure electrical cables, such as those that connect your baby’s video monitor, are tucked away. Make sure they can’t be pulled or tugged on.
Blinds and Curtains
Ensure cords used to adjust blinds are kept well out of reach. Use hooks to keep the cords up high, or choose cordless blinds, which are safer.
Make sure curtains aren’t too long, and are out of reach of your little one. If they pull on them, they come crashing down.
To a curious toddler, a bookcase can seem like a fun ladder, which presents a massive tipping and falling danger.
All furniture in the room must be attached to the walls.
These days, most pieces come with wall mounting kits. Use them to affix each piece, and then test them out to ensure they can’t tip over.
Crawl to Check
Get down on your hands and knees in their nursery, and crawl around to look for dangers. Do this before letting your little try out their floor bed for the first time!
Of note, sockets, wires, cords, doorstops, etc, should be dealt with and made safe.
By getting down on their level, you can scope out what they’ll see. Baby-proof before it becomes an issue!
While less of an issue for a newborn or non-crawler, it’s still worth putting your safety hat on early!
Top Picks for Montessori Floor Beds
You don’t need anything special for this approach. But if you’d like to zhuzh it up a bit, there are lots of great floor beds available.
The Sprout Kids frame encases the mattress with one high side and one low side.
Your child can still climb in and out of on their own, easily. But it looks more like a “real” bed.
When your child is ready, the entire frame flips over to create a toddler bed.
It comes in crib size and also full/twin size mattress dimensions.
This BusyWood floor bed frame is in the shape of a house. Nursery space can look quite bare without a crib, and only a floor bed. This frame adds height and visual interest.
It comes in high-quality natural Alder wood and is finished with eco-friendly, water-based paints, and varnishes.
If you’re using a twin-size mattress, this trundle bed frame base is a cheap and simple option. It raises the mattress from the ground to keep moisture and bugs at bay. However, your child can still climb in and out from all sides.
Final Thoughts on If a Montessori Floor Bed is Right for Your Child
If you’ve made it this far, I hope this post has been helpful. Hopefully, you now have a better idea whether a Montessori floor bed is right for your infant and your family.
Based on my own experience, I highly recommend a floor bed.
As I noted above, our daughter sleeps on a mattress on the floor at my mom’s house. We lived there for 6 months when Covid struck. And our daughter still goes there during the day, so she uses it as her napping bed.
It’s been a very positive experience, and has helped our daughter learn to listen to her body when it’s tired. At our house, she sleeps on a low-to-the-ground toddler bed frame.
If you do choose to give it a go, remember to be consistent with your bedtime routine. This helps build healthy sleep habits along with independence.
Also note you need to be prepared for some significant investigating. Keep the room clean, tidy, and free of dangers to avoid accidents.
If you know other parents considering a floor bed, feel free to share this post with them.