Many of the same ideas used in the older child’s environment also apply when furnishing a Montessori infant/toddler environment. For instance, walls should be a light, neutral color and furnishings should be of natural materials and light colors, too. However, due to the size and developmental age of these young children, there are special considerations to keep in mind.
A Guide to Infants/Toddlers Montessori Classroom Furniture
Infant shelves are very low, maybe only 16 inches (about 40 cm) tall, and they only have a top and bottom shelf. As well, there should be some sort of slight lip on the edge of the shelf so children can grab hold of the shelf. The lip also keeps toys from sliding off. Some infant shelves offer carpeting on the top, providing an extra sensory experience as babies hold and touch the shelf. The backs of infant shelving units may be mirrored, which creates a center of focus for babies who are not yet mobile, or translucent, which allows both teacher and infant to see through the shelves while maintaining a safe barrier.
Toddler shelves are 24 inches (about 60 cm) in height and have a center shelf for additional storage. The shelves usually have a back on them to keep materials from falling behind the unit, which can be solid or translucent.
Infants should be able to independently climb into and out of their own chairs. For this reason, Montessori advocates using tiny chairs with short legs and wide bases to keep the chairs from tipping over. Community Playthings offers these little chairs, which they call their “Me-Do-It” chairs, in 5 inch and 6.5 inch (about 13 and 17 cm) heights. Similarly, toddler chairs range from 8–12 inches (about 20–30 cm) in height.
One of the key concepts in the Montessori infant/toddler environment is learning to be independent. Rather than use traditional high chairs, which rely on adult intervention, Montessori caregivers may use small sturdy individual weaning tables and infant chairs for infants as young as 6 months. This way, the child can sit at his table when he is hungry without having to rely on the help of an adult. Although eating is often a social activity, young infants need focused, undivided attention from a caregiver as they explore the delightful multi-sensory experience of eating independently for the first time. Toddlers, who are more skilled at eating, can join others at low tables and chairs.
Due to local childcare regulations, the use of a weaning table may not be feasible in a Montessori infant environment. If that is the case, you could use small mealtime chairs that are 8–10 inches (about 20–25 cm) in height with seatbelts, seat inserts, and trays.
[e.g., Mealtime Chairs]
As in the early childhood and elementary classrooms, photographs and artwork should be hung at the child’s eye level in the infant/toddler environment. In the infant area, this might mean that the bottom of the picture frame is only about 4 inches (about 10 cm) from the floor. While it may look strange to adults, it is important to remember that the artwork is displayed for the children to enjoy. Anything above their eye level will not be seen.
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Tuesday, August 13, 2013.