A quick scroll through Etsy or Pinterest for nursery inspiration is likely to bring up images of cute Scandi house bed frames and whimsical teepee floor beds.
These designs often go by the name Montessori bed — so what the heck is this?
A Montessori floor bed consists of a mattress and bed frame at floor level without restrictive railings. This bed style is designed to encourage greater independence and freedom of movement in young children as, unlike a crib, they can leave their bed and explore their surroundings.
If the idea of your child wandering in the night has you a little freaked, don’t panic.
The Montessori method of sleeping may not be for everyone, but when used correctly and safely, it can provide amazing benefits for you and your child.
We’ve answered the most common questions about Montessori floor beds below.
What’s the Point of a Montessori Floor Bed?
The idea behind a Montessori floor bed is that your little one sleeps low to the ground, thus preventing the risk of falls, bumps, or injuries that may be caused by restrictive crib railings.
Montessori beds were designed with the intention that young children have a safer and more independent sleeping space, allowing them to roam safely at night as the floor-level design encourages them to get in and out of their bed independently.
Why Does Montessori Not Use Cribs?
The inventor of the Montessori method, physician and educator Dr. Maria Montessori, believed that children thrived when given the freedom to learn and move independently.
When confined to a crib or playpen, young children rely on an adult to decide when they get in and out, preventing them from exploring and developing their cognitive skills.
Pros and Cons of Montessori Floor Bed
Montessori floor beds can encourage independent movement and learning, but being close to the ground may expose your child to drafts and mold.
Let’s take a look at the good and bad points of a Montessori bed for your child.
- Greater freedom of movement and autonomy: A floor bed empowers your little one to choose when and how to start their day. If they awaken early, for example, they can leave their bed and engage in play and exploration, giving them greater agency.
- Instills a great learning experience: Your little one may roll off their floor bed a couple of times (with a very low chance of injury), but in doing so, they’ll realize what happens when they get too close to the edge, teaching them not to do it again.
- Convenient for nursing, diaper changes, and snuggles!: With crib rails out of the way, a floor bed can make middle-of-the-night diaper changes and feeds a heck of a lot easier, not to mention the open-plan mattress gives Mom and Dad space to cuddle right before bed or during the day.
- Provides an unobstructed view: Without crib bars and railings blocking their view, children can take in everything in their bedroom/nursery, sparking their curiosity and observation skills.
- Fewer bed transitions: Throughout a child’s early life, they typically make the move from bassinet to crib before graduating to toddler bed, followed by their “big kid” bed. A Montessori bed can skip over a few of these transitions, offering your child more consistency.
- Safe for climbers: If you’re raising a mini Houdini who might’ve preferred to scale down the rails of his crib, a floor bed removes this temptation!
- Cold and drafts: Placing a bed low to the ground can make things quite drafty, especially when placed on a wooden floor. A carpeted room or rug beneath the bed may need to be considered.
- Potential mold: A mattress placed directly on the floor can impact airflow, risking moisture getting into the material, which will soon encourage mold growth. Flipping the mattress regularly can help with this.
- Falling out of bed: Falling out of their bed is understandably a concern of many parents, though this is much less likely to result in an injury than a crib fall. Founder of parenting blog Green Active Family Katie Matthews suggests placing a pool noodle under the fitted sheet for a makeshift safety bumper (for children over 12 months only).
What Age Is Appropriate for Montessori Bed?
Owner of Time4Sleep, sleep specialist Jonathan Warren notes that this a personal decision for every family.
For some, the recommended age for floor beds can be as early as 5-10 months once children can sit up independently and support their bodies.
Others are more comfortable waiting until their child is at least between 1-3 years old.
Pediatrician and parenting author Dr. Whitney Casares suggests that the age children are usually ready to transition out of a crib (around 2 years) is a good guideline for starting to use a Montessori-style bed, particularly if you’re concerned about injuries from rolling.
Can a Baby Sleep in a Montessori Bed?
When used correctly and ensuring all baby-proofing measures have been implemented for the floor bed and the room itself, a baby can sleep safely in a Montessori-style floor bed.
As babies are at greater risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) before the age of 12 months, a safe floor bed setup for a baby can be a mattress that is placed in the middle of the floor.
Be sure to prevent possible entrapment or wedging next to a wall, furniture, soft materials, plastic sheeting, or anything else that could entrap a baby’s face should their head hang off the edge of the floor bed during sleep.
Are Montessori Beds Safe?
When set up correctly, Montessori beds can be safe.
Always use a firm crib mattress or a mini crib mattress as opposed to a twin or full-size mattress (crib mattresses are designed specially to reduce the risk of SIDS), and place an appropriate crib mattress fitted sheet over it.
If using a bed frame (not a mattress-only Montessori setup), make sure the mattress fits snugly in the frame with no gaps, and ensure that the frame itself is low enough to the ground that the baby cannot roll into the space or become trapped.
To make a Montessori bed a safe place to sleep, your child’s surroundings must be safe also (it’s no good preventing falls if a floor-level bed leaves them vulnerable to trip hazards or other dangers).
The childcare directory Paper Pinecone advises taking a tour of your child’s room/nursery on your hands and knees so you’re at eye level with potential hazards you might have missed.
Be wary of things like:
- Sockets and electric cables, cords, and wires.
- Blinds and drapes (are they long enough to be within reach of your little one? Are the cords within reach?).
- Is furniture properly fixed/mounted to the walls?
- Will you have a door or child-safety gate to the bedroom?
Do You Enforce Bedtime With a Montessori Floor Bed?
It’s helpful to have a bedtime routine just as you would with any bed setup, but the upside to the Montessori method is that, even if your child wakes in the night and feels restless, she may safely explore (with the aid of a night light) to feel sleepy again.
Parents Ashley and Kevin from Montessori Method detail their bedtime routine with their baby daughter here.
How Do You Transition From a Crib to a Floor Bed?
A good way to practice the switch from crib to floor bed is to allow your child to take a few supervised naps on the floor bed to help the progression feel more natural.
You should also keep bedtime rituals the same (same feeding times, same night light setting, etc.).
If your child is reluctant to move to a floor bed, try sticking with a crib for a period while trying out floor bed naps.
Difference Between Montessori Floor Bed and Toddler Bed
Standard toddler beds are typically not suitable until children are 2 years old as they are made with a low frame and are designed somewhere between a crib and a big kid bed, often with railings or bumpers.
Montessori floor beds, meanwhile, typically feature wooden frames that are very low to the ground with minimal space underneath for a child to roll under.
How To Make a Montessori Floor Bed
It’s relatively easy and affordable to set up a Montessori floor bed for your child.
The founder of Oh Happy Play Noelle Bryant recommends using a trundle bed and removing the wheels.
You can then use an appropriately firm twin mattress, trundle mattress, or custom crib mattress if the trundle is larger/smaller than standard size.
Mom Ashleigh Lauren also shares her tutorial for constructing a cute house bed here!
Types of Floor Beds for Babies & Toddlers
Montessori floor beds come in many styles, allowing you to be creative with your kid’s nursery layout and décor. There are different options to suit different budgets too.
Mattress on Floor
This minimal option is simply a twin or double mattress and fitted sheet placed on the floor (with optional loveys, comfort items, and blankets introduced at the appropriate age).
Crib-Sized Floor Bed
Akin to a mini Montessori bed, this is a small crib-sized bed frame and mattress low to the ground, similar to the dimensions of a baby’s crib.
Montessori Floor Bed With Rails
This is a floor bed with high wooden crib-like rails to prevent falling in the night and a door for independent exploration.
Versatile designs like this AOCOROE model come in a twin, full, and queen size frame to accommodate all ages and nursery plans.
Montessori Floor Bed Frame
This can be a twin, double, or larger mattress encased in a wooden bed frame close to the ground.
Depending on the size, this may be suited to toddlers wishing to skip the toddler bed transition and go straight to a big-kid bed.
Montessori House Bed
A very cute and popular style of Montessori bed, these are designed with a wooden Wendy-house style frame to add a little magic to your kid’s sleeping space.
We love this pine wood one with surrounding guard rails and an opening to climb in and out!
How Long Can Kids Use a Montessori Floor Bed?
Montessori floor beds can be suitable for children up to the age of 12, though Montessori beds are thought to be most popular with kids up to 6 years old.
It’s important to decide how practical this style of bed will be for your child based on their growth and preference.
A ground-level bed may no longer feel comfortable to get in and out if, for example, your 10-year-old has experienced a recent growth spurt.
Wrapping It Up
Montessori floor beds may be unconventional, but they can offer various benefits to your child in terms of freedom to engage with and explore their surroundings in a way they can’t when confined to a crib.
If you opt for the Montessori method, it’s essential to child-proof their sleeping space beforehand and ease the transition by observing daytime naps on the floor bed.
Rebecca is a seasoned copywriter and researcher with over a decade of experience, specializing in parenting topics. With a passion for all aspects of raising children, from breastfeeding to potty training.