Creating a Montessori Infant Home Environment FAQs

Infant sleeping on a floor bed with a wooden frame

My infant is 13 months old... I learned only recently about starting out on a mattress. I tried it for about 10 mins and put his crib back together because I wasn't quite sure how to train him to stay in his bed. I do love the concept of him waking up and being able to play with his toys, but now he can open doors too and I do get worried about him roaming about the house while we may still be awake. I've thought of putting a lock on the outside of the door but wasn't sure about it. I was wondering what your thoughts are...

The mattress on the floor only works if you have a baby gate in the doorway, and yes, I used a baby gate, too! In fact, we now use a pet gate (made of wood and plastic) that goes up in 5 seconds... we put it in the hallway so my son can go from his room to the bathroom but not the rest of the house (at bedtime).

My next step is setting up the environment and I just feel so lost: whenever I look at pictures of other people's setups I get so overwhelmed. Am I to have a little bookshelf for each area, sensorial, language, science, etc.? Am I supposed to have a play kitchen area for him? Can he just wash dishes in our skin? But then I remember he is only 13 months and won't be able to do those yet.

I feel like I am constantly buying "Montessori" toys and it seems he only sticks with those for about 5 mins max... however the other day I noticed him transferring these plastic locks from one container to another for about 20 minutes! So then I get a toy that encourages that and he doesn't show interest in it. I just feel like I'm throwing money all over the place without a plan. I was hoping you could direct me a bit here.

Shelving is not recommended at this age, they are too easily pulled down by your tot. What I did was put activities on the floor in each room, against the wall. When my son was past the early walking and the climbing stage, I was able to use small wicker shelves.

As for "sensorial, language, science" areas, you can begin doing this at ages two and three. For now, focus on infant tot activities, both Montessori and non-Montessori, as they are safer and (hopefully) more of an interest to your tot.

A play kitchen area is fine for a home environment, but you may want to wait until your child is two--that is, when your child will start to copy you and will start to "pretend play": just have a few items in the play kitchen area, made of wood and metal, and or real items from your own kitchen.

Washing dishes can also wait until age two or two-and-a-half, three at the latest.

Infant tot short attention span: This is typical for tots under the age of two. They flutter about the environment like hummingbirds! Your infant tot will not slow down until age two. Right now he is in a "large motor movement" stage of development--on the move all the time! This will continue until past age three, but it will slow down as your child begins language development, fine motor movement, social development, and so forth.

So then I get a toy that encourages that and he doesn't show interest in it.

That's why you want to rotate activities every week or every two weeks! That is what Montessori infant and toddler classrooms do, but not in Montessori preschool: you do not rotate activities for 3 to 6-year-olds...

He doesn't quite have the attention span to let me show him how to work things - he just grabs for it.

Again, very typical!

Truth be told, tots and toddlers do not like lessons! It is almost impossible to give a toddler a lesson! So you only want activities that you don't need to show your tot how to do, just let them explore the activities, even if only for five minutes at a time. And if an activity is too hard and frustrating, your tot will ignore it (and you can rotate it out).

...but he HATES getting his diaper changed - it is a constant battle.

Join the club! Very, very common! Try to do it standing up, no more changing tables and lying him down...when he's standing he can see what you are doing and that is how he will learn to do it himself: it would be like you reading him a book and not showing him the pictures, or giving him food but covering it up. But he doesn't know this! He just gets fussy!

I also get worried that I may don't have a set routine and veer from it out of a lack of habit.

Don't worry about routines, they don't matter to your child until age two-and-a-half, then your routine will be the single most important thing in the world (to your child).

For now, think of your day as a rhythm, a rhythm that changes day to day and month to month! At age 24 months you can start thinking about a daily routine...

Max is starting to show some interest in eating with a spoon - is there a "right" or "wrong" way when doing this - one thing I've been doing is using my spoon to put food on his spoon - right now he just fist grips it and usually puts it in upside down - I figure her will get it eventually.

Yes, allow him control of the spoon, even though he is not doing it with precision. If he does allow you to feed him, give him his own spoon at the same time so that you both have a spoon...

How many toys are too many?

Too many are how tired you get putting them all away several times a day! I found seven per room was plenty, and I rotated each week or so...And you want to have no more than or less per room so that when your son is 21 to 24 months old he can start putting them away (as a new skill that he'll want to repeat, not as a social courtesy or to be neat or clean).

When you say paper recycling - do you mean magazines? Or boxes? or just things like that in general?

Junk mail for tearing. And, yes, food boxes for stacking. I'd keep the magazines separate because they are more like books and to not let him tear those up...

I'm trying to potty train Max but I'm having a hard time figuring out his BM - I have tried tracking for the last couple of days but I always seem off - and/or he waits until I put his diaper on?? He is finally to the point he will stay on the potty as long as I have things for him to do - ie we have a special frog he can play with and I just put some textured items he likes to touch.

Usually, tots are not regular with BMs, because their "systems" are still developing, as well as their diet and even how much they eat. So don't expect regular BMs until age three and up. What you want is to send him in at the same times each day, so that when he does become "regular" including number one, he will already have a potty routine! (And that is half the battle). So let's say he was 18 months old and going to a Montessori infant toddler class, he would get sent to the bathroom when he first comes to school (8:30/9) and again in the late morning (before outside playtime); and again before and or after lunch. So you want to add when first waking from sleep, and before and after naps. And any preschool does a similar routine for children who are potty training...

I want to implement more music - ie once we get a routine established and have music time - maybe we just dance around to music or I introduce a musical instrument like bells he can play with?

Yes, at circle time or story time you can introduce an instrument, then play music so that he can use the instrument, as well as a simple dance step or animal movement: tots relate more to animals.

Check out my blog post "Montessori Walking on the Line" and think about using that program when he turns 2 1/2.

I got him a toy that he can drop wood chips into - but he will pull out the drawer first and then put the coins in - Should I correct this? Or should I just let him explore the toy on his own? 

Just let him explore--don't worry about accuracy until age 2 to 2 1/2 and as I've mentioned before, if an activity is a problem, rather than go head to head with your son, just take the activity out of the environment...

What is done during work time? Is that when lessons are given?

Yes, and it is when you can spend time playing/working with your child and or observing him. Or he is occupied with activities while you are working around the house...

Is circle time only for music?

No, circle time can also be storytime. Our circle time was music, and we had a separate time for stories (after lunch). We also had a separate time for Walking on the Line. But some schools do both music and storytime at circle time. In Montessori preschool, circle time also includes doing a daily calendar and the silence game--but that is for three years and older...

Maybe this would be his working time and I just need to plan on being completely involved rather than observing?

Yes, that would be his working time, however, you might want to limit your play/work time with him to either three activities or fifteen minutes, or he will become dependent on your all day as a play partner (this happens a lot to moms who feel that can't do anything at home away from their child when the child turns three!). And what you want is to promote independence early on. I did this with my son, limited my playtime with him to fifteen minutes or three activities (I still do it today and he's almost seven! And it is not an issue because he is so used to it).

Going outside and giving him some water to play with?

Yes! ~Lisa Nolan