4 Ways to Baby-proof and Create Yes Spaces in Your Montessori Home
September is Baby Safety Month.
Keeping your child safe is your top responsibility as a parent. And as a Montessori parent, striking that balance between safety and independence can seem tricky.
You want to encourage your child’s natural need for exploration while also making sure they won’t be hurt in the process.
So how do you keep your child safe and promote independence?
Here are 4 ways to baby-proof and create yes spaces in your Montessori home.
1. Think freedom within limits.
One of the most important concepts in Montessori is freedom within limits. As Ashley Yeh says in The Montessori Home, this means “providing age-appropriate choices and opportunities for independence, while maintaining clear expectations and setting limits whenever necessary.”
Listen. It can be very tempting as a parent to baby-proof everything. Because let’s be real… it would be much easier to lock every cabinet, cover every door handle, and do whatever else needs to be done so we can just kick back.
But doing that takes away teachable moments that allow kiddos to learn respect for boundaries, and it doesn’t create the long-term independence we want in our children.
So when freedom within limits is your goal, think baby-friendly, not baby-proof.
But how exactly do you do that?
2. Create yes spaces.
Yes spaces are designated and enclosed areas where infants and young children can explore without limits. They can be an entire room in your house or just a portion of a room. Creating a yes space is simple once you know how:
- Place hazardous or adult-only items in higher cabinets and shelves out of your kiddo’s reach. Use lower cabinets and shelves for exploration. Add any child-sized furniture you want, like a floor bed if your yes space is your child’s bedroom. Consider a child-sized table and chairs and a care-of-self station if your child is a toddler.
- Keep in mind some traditional baby-proofing is still necessary. For infants and young toddlers, outlet covers are still a good idea. As your child gets older, replace outlet covers with visual “eyes only” reminders.
- Make sure to secure any tall furniture to the wall to prevent it from tipping over and remove any electrical cords. If your yes space is a whole room, using a baby gate to enclose the space is fine.
- Now for the fun part. Fill your child’s Montessori yes space with things that entice their sense of exploration - a wooden puzzle, some soft toys, a basket of things you found on your walk.
Remember even with the most thoughtfully-designed yes space, you still need to keep your eyes on your kiddo. While the Montessori methods teach children to understand and recognize their limits, young children and infants need constant and active supervision.
3. Get on their level.
Woohoo! You’ve done the work and set up your yes space.
But before you let your kiddo roam free, there’s something else you need to do.
And it might seem obvious and even silly, but the best way to make sure your space is truly ready for safe exploration is by getting on their level.
When you’re talking to your kiddo, you lower yourself so you can be eye-to-eye. Use the same idea when planning a child-friendly place for your little one. Get down on your hands and knees and check out the view from your child’s perspective.
From up high, things might seem safer than they actually are. Once you’re looking from your child’s point of view, however, you might notice some things you initially overlooked.
Maybe you thought the hardwood floors were fine, but that’s because you were standing. Now that you’re on your knees, you might decide a non-slip rug is in order.
Try pulling up on that low shelf. It seemed okay when you were pushing down on it from above, but when you practice pulling up on the edge like your kiddo will, it falls forward a little.
Taking a peek at your home from your child’s perspective is a simple but essential step to take when creating a Montessori space that promotes independence while ensuring your child’s safety.
4. Boost that self-esteem.
It doesn’t matter how old a child is. They always want to be seen as older. Baby-proofing everything in your house sends the message that your kiddo isn’t capable of making a decision.
The Montessori method is all about choice. Allowing your child the freedom to do things adults normally do - washing dishes, folding laundry, drinking from a glass - boosts their self-esteem and teaches them they’re capable of doing grown-up things.
Having children learn their limits in a safe space is critical. Because when they go out into the world, they’re able to draw from their experiences at home to explore and make decisions authentically and independently.
Baby-proofing everything in your home can create a false sense of reality regarding the real world - it can make children believe the world will tell them what is, and is not, safe. If a space is completely locked up, it teaches a child to only avoid locked up areas. It removes the opportunity for your child to make their own decisions when they’re outside of your home.
Making yes spaces and using Montessori methods in your home takes time upfront, but the long-term payoff is huge. You’ll end up with kiddos that take on responsibilities capably and confidently.
And in the end, isn’t that what we all want as parents?
Love this content and want to learn more about making your home a Montessori home? Click here to check out Ashley Yeh’s book, The Montessori Home.