It’s a likely scenario, and pretty stressful for some parents — your baby, who sleeps perfectly through the night finally, figures out suddenly that they really aren’t in jail. In fact, they can climb out whenever they want, including at 2 a.m. much to your horror, when you hear a “thud” when it doesn’t go quite as planned. At that point, parents have a few choices — do nothing, and keep placing their child back in the crib, buy them a bigger kid toddler bed or low full size bed, or a third option. Montessori beds are, in their simplest form, mattresses on the floor, and in their most complex form elaborate works of art complete with gates and other innovations.
“I am a huge fan of Montessori beds because they provide a solution for families who want to transition their child out of a crib, but are worried about their child being at an elevated height then falling,” says Dr. Whitney Casares, pediatrician and CEO/founder of Modern Mommy Doc, who recently wrote Doing It All: Stop Over-Functioning, and Become the Mom and Person You’re Meant to Be, releasing in January (1). “One thing that is a huge benefit is that the height is in line with the floor, so you don’t have to worry about the child falling out, injuring themselves, hitting their head, breaking their arm… but one downside is that if they are so close to the floor, they might climb out and exit the bed and be in the room at large.”
What Is a Montessori Bed?
“A bed on the floor” isn’t really that catchy, nor does it carry an intentional history and meaning like “Montessori bed,” which is a part of a set of beliefs called “Montessori at home.” It refers to the concept, as an extension of Montessori teaching concepts founded by Maria Montessori in the early 1900s, that kids learn best and thrive when they are offered the chance to be independent and exploratory.
A Montessori bed is a part of a bedroom strategy, according to the American Montessori Society, involving:
- The floor bed so kids can get in and out independently
- A closet with low-hanging clothes and limited choices so they can put away their own clothes tidily
- A clutter-free environment that the child wants to keep clean and organized, where they have items and colors they enjoy
When Do Kids Try Montessori Beds?
Typically, when a child is climbing out of their crib, families consider whether a Montessori bed is right for that particular child. “Based off their personality and their ability physically” Casares says families should make their own decisions by family, at the time that’s right for them. For some families, they try the beds as early as 2 months old, though traditional best sleep recommendations call for a crib that is firm and flat through the first year (2). Others start in the 5-10 month range, and some don’t start until a baby is climbing out of a crib, or beyond.
“It’s important to also note that a Montessori bed is not a safe sleep surface for newborns and babies under 12 months of age. While some may say that a baby can safely sleep in a Montessori-style bed once they are able to sit up and independently hold up their own bodies, there is still a risk for positional asphyxiation until they are older,” says Siobhan Alvarez, a certified postpartum doula (3). “Until a baby hits 12 months, the safest place to sleep is in a bassinet or crib with a firm mattress.”
A Serious Test of Your Child-proofing Abilities
There’s baby-proofing and then there’s baby-proofing for a bedroom where the kid can theoretically access anything at any hour of the night. From sockets to windows, climbable furniture to cords, there’s a lot to do if you go this route. Don’t rely on the fact that they stayed in their bed the first few nights to be assured they will continue to do so, necessarily.
“Safety is a big piece to take into account with a Montessori-style bed. Your child has the freedom to get in and out of bed as they choose, so make sure that every piece of furniture is securely bolted to the wall and drawers are securely latched, electrical cords and outlets are covered, as well as remove or move anything that can easily be pulled down, including items hung on the wall, curtains, etc.,” Alvarez says. You can also make sure you have a monitor that allows you to watch, hear, and talk to your child to remind them to head back to bed, if they get a little too exploratory.
Advice From a Real Mom Who Tried It…
Sami Krasny, a mom of two kids, ages 6 and 3 in Vermont, shares about her Montessori-inspired homeschool lifestyle on Instagram frequently (4). Her first child headed to a Montessori bed at 16 months. “It was super convenient because we didn’t have to worry about him falling out of bed and he could easily come get me if he needed support at night. We used a full size mattress so that we could still bed share if necessary and that was a great fit for us.”
Ever seen a parent try to lay in a crib to soothe their child to sleep? Not easily, an issue that Krasny says isn’t an issue at all with this type of bed. For that reason, they chose a full bed on the floor. “My younger son transitioned around the same age and we had a really easy time with these transitions because my kids both still felt that they could easily come and get help at night if necessary. They were never trapped in a crib or in a bed that could have been dangerous to climb out of in the dark.”
She can vouch for the sense of independence her kids developed thanks to this style of bed. “They are totally capable of getting in and out, making their own beds, and choosing to rest when they feel tired during the day. Giving them this kind of sleep set up is just one of the ways I show my kids that they’re valued and respected as whole people whose needs are different from that of an adult.” She says that while some parents worry if they’ll stay in the bed and sleep, she never has really encountered this problem. She says to start young so they are used to that sleep environment. “It was normal to them from a very young age.”
1. Casares, Dr. Whitney. Author interview. October 2024.
2. Center for Disease Control (CDC), “Helping Babies Sleep Safely,” https://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/features/baby-safe-sleep/index.html. September 29, 2024.
3. Alvarez, Siobhan. Author interview. October 2024.
4. Krasny, Sami. Author interview. October 2024.