There is no shortage of information about the furniture you will need when bringing home a new baby —cribs, bassinets, changing tables, the list is endless! But as that baby grows into a toddler, they also outgrow the baby gear, and next thing you know you have a walking, talking member of your household who wants to climb every chair, see on top of every counter, and do it all with an independent flair! As a parent, this stage can feel frustrating and scary, but taking a Montessori approach to outfitting your home can help.
What is Montessori Furniture?
The Montessori approach believes that by thoughtfully preparing your home, you can provide your curious little one with independence and self-motivation. This is where child-sized, well-crafted (and visually pleasing!) furniture comes into play. A few key pieces can support you to help your toddler help themselves, and may even take a few chores off your never ending list!
Read on to discover some of the key pieces of Montessori furniture for toddlers below!
A learning tower , or kitchen helper, is becoming a common sight in households with young independent toddlers. It is not a small purchase, but one that you will find countless uses for throughout your day. The Montessori approach believes children learn best through real-life experiences, and what is a better way to provide this than allowing children to safely and comfortably get right up to the action? Having a safe platform at counter height allows for help with cooking and baking, independent hand-washing, and an opportunity to observe other members of the household. With close supervision many children can begin using a learning tower at 18 months, and may continue to use it through early elementary school years.
This is such a quintessential Montessori-at-home item that you will often find it marketed under 'Montessori Floor Bed'. Maria Montessori did not believe that children (yes, even young infants) should be sleeping in cribs, but instead should be placed on a small mattress on the floor. This allows the child independence and freedom of movement from a young age, two important Montessori principles. To get the benefits of a floor bed, it does not have to be used in place of a crib; it can also be a great option when transitioning out of a crib and into a toddler bed. Like any space where your child will be left unsupervised, it is important to ensure their sleep environment is safe for some middle-of-the night or early-morning exploring.
Editor's note: As a reminder, the AAP recommends that all babies sleep "on a firm sleep surface (eg, mattress in a safety-approved crib)" so be sure to talk to your pediatrician about the right sleeping situation for your child.
The price point for this table and chair set is so good, you may want to pick up two. This easy-to-clean and versatile unit is great for an independent eating space, an arts and crafts table, book nook, or puzzle building surface. The height is just right for toddlers, and the lightweight material allows children to maneuver the pieces how they see fit. When you're in a Montessori classroom you will find that the furniture can be arranged to meet the needs of the group that particular day, and often can be moved by the children themselves. Allowing children autonomy in how their furniture fits in their space can lead to longer and more meaningful independent play.
The Nugget is too new to the market to be known as a Montessori staple in classrooms and homes just yet, but the design and function of the Nugget makes it a welcome addition to both environments. This simple design of four foam pieces—base, cushion and two triangle pillows—can be configured in dozens of ways for indoor imaginative play, and doubles as additional child-sized seating. Currently Nuggets are on a multiple month backorder despite significantly upping their production abilities; the best place to find information on getting a Nugget is through their Instagram account (@nuggetcomfort).
A cube chair, sometimes called a weaning table or Montessori chair, can be used once your baby can sit up comfortably and adjusts to safely use through toddlerhood. Many Montessori households will have a cube chair as well as a traditional highchair. While the highchair allows your child to participate in family meals, the cube chair allows for the development of independence and self-confidence. Your child can climb in and out of the chair on their own, they can help set their place, and clean up after themselves. The cube chair is also great in play areas, providing a surface at an appropriate height to work with materials.
This simple and clean design from IKEA is a perfect bookshelf to add to your toddler's play area or bedroom. The size of the shelf limits the amount of books that can be displayed at a time, which will help your toddler to pick out a book on their own—it can be overwhelming at this age if there are too many options. Having the cover of the book showing, versus the spine, also makes this a more inviting activity for your child. Just like the toys and game throughout the house, rotating the books displayed on the bookshelf regularly will keep your child interested and attracted to this space.
Allowing your toddler to pick out their own clothes for the day and dress themselves provides an opportunity to take care of their own needs, practice coordination and use concentration. Although it may take longer and may not be possible every single day, providing them this opportunity is invaluable for their development and sense of self worth. Having a wardrobe that has an open-look and is child-sized allows the adult to preselect three to four seasonally appropriate outfits that the toddler then selects from.
Although a sensory table is not something most would consider an essential piece of furniture, or even one that you'd expect to see in many homes, it has been said that the FLISAT table from IKEA is one of the best purchases you can make for a busy toddler. The internet is full of sensory bin ideas that can be used indoors and out, and the FLISAT provides a compact, child-sized space to explore materials. You will need to purchase the bins separately from IKEA (they are from the TROFAST collection).