finnian's montessori room
April 20, 2009
His name is Finnian Patrick. He will be an Irish citizen just like his Daddy (who got his papers last week!) His Mama is a Montessori teacher and a maker-of-things. And this is his room. It is waiting patiently for his arrival.
Let the tour begin!
I kept several things in mind when creating Finn's space: I wanted it to be child-friendly and easily organized, I wanted it to be hand-made to the best of my time and abilities, and I wanted it to be high-quality yet very economical.
The first thing you might notice, on walking into the room, is the crib-sized floor bed. In the Montessori educational philosophy, the child sleeps on a mattress directly on the floor in a child-safe room so that once he can crawl, he is free to get up and explore the room. Finn will use this bed for naps (if he so desires), but will be co-sleeping with us in our bed during the night. Although I would have loved to have provided Finn with an organic mattress, we opted for a cheap mattress with an organic puddle pad and organic sheets. We figure he'll be spending most of his sleeping time in a sling or on our bed at first, anyway.
I made the quilt using the "Little Bits" pattern in Joelle Hoverson's Last-Minute Patchwork + Quilted Gifts. The mural is awesome. It's the woodland collection by Wee Gallery. I've long been a fan of their graphic images for infants - I believe I first came across their art cards in the Michael Olaf catalog several years back. I also have several sets of art cards for him which I will use in various capacities - as black and white mobiles, as cards set up on his movement mat for him to study, and as visual stimulation during car trips.
This little table and chair will be used once he's a little older. It's part of the "Care of Self" area - I will put a hairbrush and tissues on these two trays. He can see himself in the mirror and wipe his nose, etc. He can also use this table as a work table once he can walk and carry his "activities" over from the shelf to the table. The table itself is 15" high - we purchased a basic child's table for $25 from a local unfinished furniture shop, had them lop off the legs to the desired height, and stained it ourselves. The chair is the Michael Olaf Slatted Chair - ergonomically designed for the tiniest of sitters and light enough to be carried by the child. I found the recycled door frame mirror at Rowan's Room on Etsy.
Here's the Elimination Communication area. Now, neither EC nor Montessori require that you set up a special potty area for the baby. My bathroom does, however. It's so small that I can barely fit in between the sink and the shower at nine months pregnant, and it would be pretty uncomfortable to hold Finn over the toilet in such tight quarters. This was what I came up with instead. (We also have a potty bowl for use while nursing and during the nighttime.) Most likely, I'll hold him over this little potty until he's developmentally ready to sit up on it himself. We'll use the big-people's toilet, too - just not all the time in order to spare our backs.
Eventually, I'll put some t.p. and a toy or book on the little shelf for his reading enjoyment. :) (The owl and hedgehog are both from Wee Gallery).
(Please! Ignore the cat hair! The cats are so very grateful for all of the new cat nap surfaces that are popping up all over the place.)
I whipped up a little pee pad for the potty area. I used Therm-o-web iron-on vinyl to coat both sides of some Japanese fabric from my stash. The mat is easily finished with a store bought double-fold bias tape. It's sturdy, wipes clean, and doesn't shift on the wood floor.
We took the door off of the cedar-lined closet to create a special dressing nook for Finn. This won't be in use for a good while (until he can walk and expresses interest in dressing/undressing), but you can get a sense for how the space will eventually be used.
The galvanized steel tub is one of those staples that we brought back with us from Mexico, but I think that you can find a (much more expensive!) version at Montessori Services. The tub is for dirty clothes (and the cute "laundry day" print is from The Black Apple). The little stool, where he can sit down to dress/undress was a cheap find at the local unfinished furniture store. On the other side of the closet I will eventually install a suspension rod where I will hang two or three outfits a day from which he can choose. The rest of his clothing will be stored in plastic tubs according to size on the shelf above the cedar lining.
These little crate shelves that you see were a couple of bucks a piece at Michael's Crafts. The letters are from there, too - all were lovingly stained by the non-pregnant soon-to-be parent.
The softies currently on display are Mama-made using the hand-sewing patterns from Wee Wonderfuls. (I also plan on making him his very own wool kitty one of these days.)
...a black and white photo of my dad circa 1945.
Moving on to another corner you can see the 14" high "work" shelf, the nursing area, and the reading area. Notice that most everything is child-height, including the artwork on the walls, so that Finn can see and enjoy it. The room is designed to be aesthetically pleasing to a young child, not to an adult (although it's a soothing place to be no matter your height!)
The shelf is nothing but a cube shelf turned on its side (and found, once again, at the local unfinished furniture store). It's so inexpensive compared to the shelving offered in the Michael Olaf catalog, and I like that it helps keep activities organized by providing three distinct areas for trays/baskets.
Finn will have limited, developmentally appropriate toys and activities available for his use on this shelf. Any toys that are not in use will be stored in a closet in the hallway and rotated in and out to maintain his interest and to make putting away toys a much easier task.
I did decide to invest in a set of three Michael Olaf frames which have a space behind them for storing up to 10 illustrations/photos. The art on display will be rotated both according to Finn's interests and to pique his interest in other things. I have a collection of old calendars, National Geographic magazines, and other picture/illustration sets that I will use for this purpose. The set that you see here was a surprise find at Michael's Crafts - Martha Stewart's Animal Alphabet Cards. The little chipmunk is from Imagine Childhood.
The mama rocking chair we found in our attic - a discard from the landlord - who knew? I'm also very pleased with our lamb's fleece blanket, found here. I plan on using this a lot - as padding for my arms/rear while nursing and as a mobile movement mat so that Finn can hang out and play on the floor in other rooms, etc. I've heard such wonderful things about lambskins for babies, but I'm a vegetarian and I would feel sad whenever I saw that cute little lamby, so I opted for this animal-friendly, organic cotton-backed version instead. Plus, it's cheaper!
The burlap bags are from MayaMade (love them!) Right now they contain essential nursing supplies (flannel wipes, wash cloths, baby nail clippers, the little potty I mentioned before, etc. I'll also keep a stash of snacks and a glass for water for myself in there as well. I figure that, by keeping all of nursing essentials in these bags, I can easily move them from this location to my bedside, to the living room couch, the screened-in porch ... the list goes on. Portable, prepared nursing!
I found the adorable mini-rocker for $27 from Etsy shop RMD Creations. It's just perfect for a toddler. Once he's into books, I'll keep a limited, rotated selection for him on the bottom shelf. The books? Most of them are from my last trip to the local library - little black and white board books, some Eric Carle, and some more advanced reading if he's into listening to us read to him. The one essential? Favorite Poems Old and New.
Here's a look at the movement mat. The mirrors are thrifted and securely bolted to the wall. We ended up buying the Sultan Snarka thin mattress from Ikea on the recommendation of Janice, fellow Montessorian and owner of Etsy store Pink House Handworks, where you can get a wonderful set of Montessori infant toys, including some of the ones you see currently on Finn's work shelf.
So - the movement mat. For the first few months, this is where Finn will hang out for tummy time and the important work of strengthening his muscles in preparation for sitting and crawling. He will also hang out on his back and be given the opportunity to concentrate on different mobiles hung from above with a super-duper, nearly invisible acrylic mobile hanger that I found in the Michael Olaf catalog. I liked its unobstrusiveness so much that I ordered another so that we can hang a mobile above our bed, too.
I've mentioned before that Montessorians have a different view on mobiles than the typical nursery-decor designer. We like the idea of changing mobiles based on the developmental stages of babies - first hanging a variety of black and white, high contrast mobiles that are visual only (the one I have up now is the whale mobile from Michael Olaf, but I will be making several over the next few days and sharing that process with you). Then, once the baby can move the mobile with his feet, eventually realizing that he can grab onto the object, the mobiles will provide incentive for such grasping and various levels of grasping challenges. These "grasping" mobiles are hung from a hook in the ceiling and attached with a combination of fishing wire and elastic.
The movement mat is also good for rolling soft balls a short way to encourage scooting and crawling. You can also attach a bar along the wall at the baby's "pulling up" height so he can practice standing and cruising. We'll cross that bridge when we come to it.
Eventually, once Finn is walking, we'll take out the mirrors and movement mat and this wall will become the art area and will sport a nature table, a la Waldorf.
Now, here's a funny side note: this print by Belle and Boo is the first thing that I ever purchased on Etsy. I bought it for my future child's room, years back. This darling boy and his bird friend are actually the color/decor inspiration for the entire room. And I can't help but think that my little Finn will look an awful lot like him ...
Once again, just so you have all of the info in one place, I made the bird branch using an online tutorial. I talk about the Russian nesting dolls here, and in the corner you can see our collection of slings - eco-silk ring slings from Baby Pockets, a pouch from Gorgeous Baby, and a Moby wrap, which you can't see because it's already packed in the "bring to the birthing center bag"!
We're ready whenever you are, Finny!