The Prepared Environment For Newborn
Updated: Sep 26, 2020
Once I knew my husband and I were expecting our first, I was so excited about planning to raise the baby the Montessori way. One thing I realized from the Montessori course was that Montessori is more than just the educational style; it is a way of life. One of the key principles of Montessori philosophy is the prepared environment. After being in a safe environment for nine months where the baby’s nutritional and developmental needs are met, it is important to prepare the baby’s second environment for a smooth transition into the world. This blog post outlines how we designed and created spaces in the home for four areas of necessity for the baby – area for sleeping, changing, nursing and activity.
To make the baby feel safe in the new environment, my husband and I decided to have the baby sleep with us. Each family has their own sleep preferences and there is no right or wrong approach here. We have set up a bassinet between us in the master bedroom and will eventually make the transition to the floor bed in her nursery once she’s ready.
The diaper station is also located in our master bedroom for easier access and convenience, especially in the middle of the night. The changing table from IKEA stores all the essentials for diapering and feeding needs. The table has a changing pad on the top, along with surface disinfectant wipes, Vaseline and baby wipes. I’ve stuck printouts of high contrast patterns on the wall to aid baby’s vision and cognitive development. The little one loves to stare at these pictures as we change her diapers or clothes. The first shelf underneath has the most frequently accessed items such as diapers, burp cloths, personal care basket and container with feeding bottles, pacifiers and milk storage bags. The second shelf serves as a storage for extra wipes, feeding and pumping accessories and a diaper bag which is always ready to grab and go when heading out for appointments. A laundry basket and a diaper pail are available on either side of the changing table for quick disposal of soiled clothes or diapers.
The nursing area is in master bedroom’s den where we’ve set up a recliner and foot stool to provide a relaxed environment for baby and me. The space has minimal items – nursing pillow, water and some energy bites for mommy and some burp cloths for the baby. The nursing area is intentionally designed without much distraction in order to provide a quiet space for both mom and baby.
The activity space or the movement area has been set up in the baby’s nursery where there’s more natural light coming in. This space provides the freedom of movement as babies begin to explore the environment around them through their senses. Here are some of the elements in the movement area:
The sheepskin rug provides a cushy area for the little one to lie down on her back to focus on the hanging objects.
A low mirror is placed against the wall so that the little one can see herself and her movements. It also facilitates her to control her movements as she develops her motor skills. We’ve used an acrylic mirror for safety reasons. Even though the activity space is baby-friendly, we never leave the baby unsupervised.
The wall near the baby’s activity area is decorated with pictures at her eye level to expose her to art early on. These pictures are changed based on her visual development cues. For instance, the pictures are black and white for the first few weeks, followed by bright colored images and pastel shades.
The shelf near the baby’s activity area has toys appropriate for her age and interest. Initially it has a variety of rattles and soft-textured objects. Each compartment has no more than one toy. The number of toys is kept minimal for less clutter, while adding an aesthetic touch. Check out what’s on our shelf at month 1 here.
The reading nook has a reading pillow and a book display unit. At a given time, we have 3 to 4 books on the shelf and they are rotated based on the season / specific theme / once the little one shows signs of declining interest in the current books. We also sing children’s songs and play games like peekaboo in this corner. Check out our favorite activities to do in month 1 here.
“To assist a child, we must provide him with an environment which will enable him to develop freely.” ~Maria Montessori
All the spaces are created in such a way to keep it minimal and beautiful, clean and organized, bright and calm. Of course, these spaces will evolve over time as the baby’s needs grow. There will also be more spaces set up around the home to foster independence to perform various activities by the little one. It is not essential to have a large and dedicated space for the baby or spend big to create the prepared environment. The key to preparing the environment is to look at the spaces from baby’s perspective and they are sure to leave lasting impressions for the baby.