The Prepared Environment: Child’s Room

At home the child’s room, out of all the rooms in the home, should be suited to their growing and developmental needs. This is where they wake-up in the morning, begin their routine, rest, and play. It should be engineered to fit them. The child’s room is the first place they can begin to assert their independence, because it is their own.

As a prepared environment it should follow that the child’s room gives them space to move, has order, is simple, and has toys and activities that meet the interests and skills of the child.

These things will vary as each child grows and depending on whether your children share a room (like mine) you may find yourself building an environment that suits varying needs and ages.

One thing I’d like to emphasize is that your child’s room doesn’t have to look like my child’s room. The prepared environment will differ based on each child, family, room layout, budget, and square footage.

Basics to keep in mind when designing any child’s room:

  • keep items that the child regularly uses at their level
  • furniture that the child can access (bed, dresser, chair, etc)
  • clothes and toys within reach
  • simple furnishings and art work

The picture above is my son’s room (it’s about 5 or 6 pictures “stitched” together to form a panorama). Their room is actually the biggest of our 2 bedrooms. We decided it was a better option for us to give them the “Master” since we knew when we moved in it was likely we’d be adding to our family and our children would share a room. The way our house is set-up their room flows into the dining and living area. I like that their room flows out into the most open area of our house. We chose not to put them in the 2nd, smaller bedroom, because it’s tucked in the back of the house, has a low window with a sill, and is right across from the only bathroom. We felt that in years to come that would be inviting trouble.

Room Tour

We have a mirror over a this little table as the dressing area. My goal has always been to have a hairbrush and tissues here as well, but I’ve yet to find a caddy that doesn’t overpower the table. Joey also keeps his pajamas on the shelf, so when he dresses in the morning or changes at night they’re always in the same place.

When Joey was younger, I had a smaller mirror here and would adjust its height as he grew. Now that there are two little boys, I got a bigger mirror that Otto will have to grow into a bit when he’s able to stand.

We keep pictures of the boys at eye-level and (try to) rotate them regularly. I like to choose pictures where they’re engaging in something they enjoy and family pictures.

In the dresser cabinet, we have socks, underwear, burp clothes, and diapers for both boys (Joey still wears one at night). Once Joey started walking he would get his own diapers and now he’s a big help and can get burp clothes and diapers when we need them for Otto.

Joey’s clothes are in the middle drawer. We only keep seasonal clothes out. Lately, he’s been choosing his own clothes and getting himself dressed (for the most part on his own).

His shoes are in the bottom drawer. Once Otto is older, his clothes will go in the bottom drawer and Joey’s shoes will have to find a new home.

Right now we have a shelf in the closet, but we’re planning on moving the shelf to another room and putting the dresser in the closet to give the boys more room. In place of the dresser, we have a small white shelf we used when Joey was little for work and other age-appropriate activities for Otto.

The three bottom shelves are for Joey (books, Melissa & Doug toys, and dress-up clothes).

The Reason Behind a Montessori Floor Bed:

Originally, Joey slept in a crib, but when we moved across the country and spent 2 months staying with my parents Joey slept on a mat on the floor. After we moved into this house we decided to put his mattress on the floor. It was something I had wanted to do, but forgot in the hustle and excitement of new mommyhood when we purchased furniture.

The reason behind having a floor bed is so that the child can see the whole room unhindered. Paula Polk Lillard goes more in-depth into this in her book Montessori from the Start. On the floor the child can see “the lay of the land,” so to speak, so that even before they are mobile they have a general orientation of the room and aren’t just seeing it from being held in the air. As they grow and become more mobile they can climb in and out of bed. The benefit of this is that when they are tired they can put themselves to bed! We choose a regular crib mattress on the floor and put a soft pallet beside it for when they’d roll off the bed.

Already Otto (almost 6 months) can get off his bed by himself. I’ve found him getting into the treasure basket, which sits next to the bed, as well as curled in positions half on/half off the bed getting comfortable—something he wouldn’t be able to do in a crib. There were numerous times I’d find Joey crying in his crib, because he had gotten his foot stuck between the slats. The Montessori floor bed gives the child a certain amount of autonomy.

“The first aim of the prepared environment is, as far as it is possible, to render the growing child independent of the adult.”

Maria Montessori, The Secret of Childhood

There are a lot of other Montessori children’s rooms displayed online. Here are a few I’ve come across:


3 comments… add one

  • Lana July 5, 2011, 8:09 pm

    I have always thought of my son as “maybe a little destructive”, but the more I look at some of these rooms, the more I can just see Jamie tearing things up – we had to put magnet latches on his dresser so that he wouldn’t continually open them and throw his clothes all over the room, and our bottom bookshelf is devoid of books because he would take them out and tear them up. This all makes me wonder if there is some approach to teaching him to leave these kinds of things alone that I haven’t taken in the last 2 years that I should have. Do you have any advice on how to transition to an environment similar to yours without opening the floodgates for disaster?

    • Jessica July 5, 2011, 8:40 pm

      Lana – We’ve been through those stages too! There was a time I desperately wanted to put child locks on the drawers, because Joey would take all the clothes out of every drawer at rest time. I didn’t because the way the drawer is I couldn’t fit a lock there. But he’s gone through the tearing books stage too. For awhile I only had board books in his room and he even began tearing those! We’re back to having books in the room.

      It’s been trial and error for us. Sometimes I’ve noticed that when he’s getting destructive there’s a parallel in a skill he’s learning/productive activity I could show him. Sometimes.

      As for transitioning, I’d say just little by little. Try something new and see how he does. It’s hard, because there are times when I think Joey’s ready to handle something and then it explodes back in my face. I’ve seen some rooms with art supplies, but I’m still too hesitate to let him have crayons in there!

  • Lana July 6, 2011, 9:44 am

    🙂 Thanks, Jessica! I am new to the concept of Montessori but I am trying to slowing integrate it into our house/routine/lives! Love your blog and excited to learn more!

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