The Montessori Approach to Better Sleep

The Montessori Approach to Better Sleep

Sleep is a universal human need for healthy development and wellbeing yet it is deeply divisive when discussing children.  As parents you must decide what is safe and best for your child and family. This will vary amongst children, ages and stages of development, by the season, changes in the environment and routines or illness.

Follow our tips to support your child and family in developing good sleep habits.

Infants

An infant’s sleeping area should be calm, safe for exploration and non-distracting.  Mobiles, mirrors or play stimulation items should be avoided. This area can remain principally the same as an infant grows since a consistent sleeping space can establish better sleep.

A regular rhythm with a loose schedule will gradually support an infant in anticipating what is happening next. Keep it simple with patterns of interaction and play, feeds and sleep with gradual extended times as an infant grows. Observe your child and begin to learn their cues on tiredness. Aim to lay an infant to rest when sleepy but not yet asleep so they begin to fall asleep on their own.

A Montessori topponcino is a wonderful addition for an infant in facilitating sleep. It is a soft and cushioned mattress that provides a smooth transition for an infant from the womb into the world.  A mother sleeps with the topponcino before a child’s arrival so that it smells like her and provides security and comfort. It can be used when holding, rocking, transporting an infant between persons and laying to sleep to provide a consistent point of reference.

As an infant develops one of the most quintessential parts of Montessori at home is the floor bed. Maria Montessori explained that small children should be on a low small bed to support their freedom of movement, choice and independence.  There are options to have a floor bed also on a frame with raised with legs as the child grows. It ultimately allows a child to decide when to get up or go to sleep.


For some parents this can be a significant change and it must feel right for your family.  Ensure safety at all times and consider a slow transition when using a floor bed.  Begin with afternoon naps and observe your child’s readiness such as if an adult’s sleep patterns are disturbing your child’s.

Toddlers

Typically as infants grow into toddlers they settle into a rhythm with sleep.  Bedtime becomes more of a habit and rituals can help everyone recognise that the day is drawing to a close.  This includes bathing, stories and a nighttime feed or drink and then bed.  These are all great signals for your child’s body to prepare for sleep.  A specific song, soft toy, bedtime lamp or you staying close by in the room may support your child in falling asleep.

Challenges with Sleep 

Every child at some point will have challenges with sleeping.  As parent this can be difficult as sleep deprivation and exhaustion are truly difficult.  Try not to insert your will over your child but support and trust that you will find a method to suit you all.  Observe your child to see if there are any causal factors or trends causing sleep disruption.

  • Rule out any medical concerns with your Pediatrician.  This will help ease you mind and make sleep times calmer.
  • Speak positively about sleep e.g. “We get to have a sleep now.  You can choose your pyjamas.”
  • Following periods of sickness, developmental changes such as teething, a house move or travel there are often sleepless nights and irregular sleep times during the day.  Offer as much comfort and support as needed by your child.  Know that stability will resume often within a few days or a week or so.
  • Siblings sharing a room brings its own benefits and challenges.  You will need clear decisions on quiet times and lights off but in the mornings they can get up and play.

Explore the range of options and be prepared for some to fail as you navigate the best approach to sleep for your child and family.