Nourishing Hearts and MindsParenting

Montessori at Home: Transitioning to a Toddler Bed

With a new baby on the way, Josh and I have been busy plotting our “two kids, one tiny apartment” game plan. Paisley and Baby Rystedt V2 will be sharing a bedroom, the backseat of our CR-V, and pretty much everything else (sorry, kids).

Currently Paisley has our large second bedroom to herself and doesn’t do much in there besides sleep and get her diaper changed. This makes setup for two beds fairly simple, especially for two tiny people sharing the space (though don’t ask me the logistics behind organizing what will soon be two full sets of children’s clothing in all sizes).

In addition to where we wanted to setup the beds, we had to decide whatPaisley would sleep in when the new baby comes and takes over the crib. Or, because she will be 19-20 months old when he arrives, whether we needed a second crib for one of them. (Guys, this whole two under two thing is AWESOME. Do it!)

Because we’re geeks and like to do things like read about parenting and educational styles for the pure fun of it, we’ve become acquainted with the Montessori method, which honestly makes a lot of sense for small space minimalists who want to capitalize on everything sensory as a learning experience (read: things we already have on hand and don’t have to go out and buy).

​Hey, that sounds like us! Without getting into too much detail, Montessori method generally involves equipping children – even babies and toddlers – to explore their world and gain independence on their own terms. And because there are so many learning opportunities that happen outside of a traditional school hour or classroom setting, it’s helpful to have a home setup that fosters the independence that our children need and crave.

Enter: the Montessori bed.

Paisley models her big girl Montessori bed

Mommy likes the Montessori bed for many, many reasons. I would not be lying to tell you that the first reason that I like it is because of its cheapness. (What? No. I mean, I love it for the obvious advantages it provides to my child’s physical and cognitive development…)

Seriously though, the Montessori bed is a beautifully simple way to transition a toddler from the crib to a bed of their own, because it’s literally just a mattress on the floor of a baby-proofed room. It’s safe from fall risk. It promotes easy access to bed or the rest of the room, which provides children with the opportunity to choose when they want to wake and sleep, and I’m told makes the transition to potty training a little simpler – though we’re not there yet. And it honestly makes my life so much easier.

Paisley’s bed is a twin mattress with a fitted sheet on top. She’s not big on blankets and pillows so we have a bamboo blanket and stuffed animals within her reach, though she doesn’t always use them. We began Paisley’s transition one weekend with the schedule relatively clear, in case there were night traumas and difficulty with the transition (read: in case Mommy and Daddy emerged as sleep-deprived zombies).

Night #1: Tucked in and ready to go!

Other than the fact that Josh and I spent half of the first transition night running into Paisley’s room to check that she was indeed sleeping (she was) and not in need of our assistance (she wasn’t), we didn’t lose any particular sleep that weekend. In fact, during her first solo big girl bed sleep sesh, Paisley slept for FOURTEEN straight hours. Normally, she’s a great sleeper, but anything over twelve hours is a pretty big accomplishment for her.

The next morning: Paisley’s smile is the result of a great night’s sleep!

I didn’t think that the transition would truly be that easy and each night for about a week, I’d perform multiple mid-night checks to see where Paisley was sleeping, whether she was comfortable, etc. But she really got the hang of her new bed without any drama.

Obviously the Montessori bed brings its own set of challenges, the primary one being that it’s not a crib so a supposed-to-be-sleeping toddler has free roam of house, or at least the room that they’re in. We’re door closers, so Paisley is not unfamiliar with the concept of being in a dark room by herself – in fact, she likes it. So with her room baby-proofed, Josh and I have peace of mind that even if she doesn’t sleep when we put her to bed, she’s not going to be getting herself into any serious trouble.

After a week of letting Paisley adjust to the idea of freedom in choosing when to sleep and not sleep, we reintroduced to her bedroom some favorite toys and books. Starting out, we kept her room as distraction-free as possible, but after the week of easing in, we didn’t want to deprive her of quiet activity options if she preferred to play, rather than sleep. Because we all know you can’t MAKE someone sleep. She will sleep when she is ready to, whether it’s snugly in her bed or crashed somewhere on the floor amidst a pile of toys. Whether it’s at 6:30 when we put her down or sometime hours later.

(I get a lot of strange looks and incredulous comments when I share those ideas.)

We’ve now had Paisley in the Montessori bed for over a month and we are incredibly pleased with the results. We have a bedtime ritual and set bedtime each night for Paisley. The door is closed and she stays in her room until morning. Some nights, we hear her playing or singing to herself for close to an hour before her room goes quiet. Some mornings, we hear her wake up at 5:30 and play quietly until we come to get her. There have been nights where we go in for our pre-bed check (what parent doesn’t have those?!) and she’s surrounded by a small mountain of toys and learning flash cards. But most nights she’s cuddled squarely in her bed with her blankey, snoozing away.

Paisley has learned that her bed is her spot for sleeping, and we’ve never found her asleep on the floor, though that’s apparently a common occurrence for children learning to put themselves to sleep. She’s also gained a sense of ownership over her room, particularly her sleeping area, which is nice because she used to play only in the living room or kitchen and never in her bedroom. Now during the day she can come and go as she pleases so it’s not uncommon for us to find her chilling out alone in her room reading a book while we work on a chore or two.

Naps are still a little more challenging than bedtime and we’re pretty much down to one nap a day, which does tend to happen at this age, so I’m not willing to blame it wholly on the bed transition. Some afternoons, I’ll know that Paisley needs a nap but once she goes to her room, she’ll want to play and talk instead of sleep however, this too is part of the learning process and we both have to re-evaluate our expectations regarding this time of day. Today, for the first time ever, I said “Paisley, it’s time to take a nap” and she perked up, ran off to her bedroom, and put herself into bed. This is definite progress and I hope we keep it up.

Anywho, this is our Montessori bed update. I’m happy that we’ve got Paisley transitioned to her big girl bed a few months before her little brother arrives and that she’s carving out her own little space in our home. Our little girl is certainly growing up!

Some mornings Paisley will actually sleep in – something that never happened in her crib

 

Some nights she falls asleep with her flash cards scattered about

 

Paisley loves her big girl Montessori bed!
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Gabrielle Rystedt
Gabrielle Rystedt
Gabrielle Rystedt is a writer by day and a writer by night (because writers never sleep), who spends time balancing client orders, a couple of books and her blog at Raising Rystedts. She’s a business school grad who’s dabbled in management, both at the project and company level. She loves coffee and crafting, and enjoys settling down with a good book. Though as mom to three kiddos in three years, she realistically spends most of her time reheating her coffee and typing away like a crazy person on a laptop keyboard while surrounded by (clean) cloth diapers and cheddar bunnies.

What are your thoughts?