When I started to make my house ready for Montessori, I realized that childproofing a Montessori home can be slightly different, and the conventional childproofing methods may not always be compatible with everything Montessori requires.
So how to childproof your house for Montessori? Montessori teaches freedom within limits, so make your house safe for your child to explore independently, using as few barriers as possible. For example, instead of installing locks on cabinets, move dangerous objects to places inaccessible to your child.
In this article, I will elaborate on what was said above, and show you how I childproof my house for my son to practice safe Montessori at home, and you can copy or make references to your home.
Before you read on, this is the second part of a series. I suggest that you first read the previous article about how to start Montessori at home, and then come back to this post after that as I will be using the places we build from that article.
Childproofing the house lets your toddler understand Montessori limits more clearly
Montessori teaches freedom within limits, which means they are permitted to explore and do their thing as long as it is within the limits that we set. As you childproof your house, this limit can become a lot clearer for your toddler. Let me give you an example.
You won’t allow your toddler to climb the stairs by himself without supervision, so you let him know that climbing the stairs is off-limits. When you catch him using the stairs himself, you correct and remind him of the limits.
But when you’re around and need to bring him up or down, you allow him to use the stairs because you’re accompanying him. While this may make sense to you, it makes it difficult to understand where the boundary lies for him. Why is it that sometimes he can use the stairs, and other times he cannot?
By gating the stairs, and only opening it when you or he needs to use it, makes the limit very clear. Gate is only open when mom or dad is around, and I can use the stairs. When the gate is closed, and mom or dad is not around, the stairs are off-limits.
After months of practicing this, my son won’t use the stairs even if the gate is open, he knows that either one of his parents needs to be around before he can use it. The limits are clearly conveyed to him.
Now that you know the other benefit of childproofing the house, let’s begin with some general childproofing methods. This is applicable whether or not you practice Montessori at home.
1. How to deal with sharp edges
When your child runs around the house, and as you allow him to explore freely and independently, he will bump his head into something a couple of times, and knocking on these sharp edges can be dangerous.
Get some corner guards and stick them onto sharp edges. You can buy them anywhere, and they are cheap. Try to get those that are not solid hard, so it’s not so painful when they run into it.
Do note that installing these corner guards goes against Montessori’s teachings. If he doesn’t learn that bumping his head into an object is going to hurt, he won’t learn and will not avoid it the next time. That is why I only install it on sharp edges, and no other areas have any sort of bumpers.
Strictly speaking, even these sharp corners shouldn’t have guards, but I’m going ahead to install them for safety reasons. Their heads can be so soft when they are so young, and sometimes I’m just worried. I did notice that he seldom bumps his head onto anything now though, he’s 19-months-old and has learned that bumping his head into things is going to hurt. Maria Montessori is right!
On the other hand, when a child comes into collision a hundred times with an enormous heavy iron-bound desk, which a porter would have difficulty in moving; when he makes thousands of invisible ink-stains on a black bench; when he lets a metal plate fall to the ground a hundred times without breaking it, he remains immersed in his sea of defects without perceiving them; his environment meanwhile is so constructed as to hide and therefore to encourage his errors, with Mephistophelean hypocrisy.Maria Montessori
2. Secure cabinets to the wall
Toddlers tend to climb anything and everything. They may not climb now, but that’s not a guaranty they will not do it later. My son has shown no interest in climbing his wardrobe, but one day I caught him trying to climb it to get his toys.
The danger is when they climb it, it creates imbalanced weight and the cupboard falls on them. This has caused many deaths to children so we can’t ignore it.
Furniture like cupboards and cabinets must be secured to the wall. IKEA furniture usually comes with this option, but you must request it. Watch this video to learn how to secure furniture to the wall.
Once it is secured, the danger of climbing is reduced. I allow my toddler to climb other furniture like the chairs, sofas, beds, things that are natural to climb, but I will gently but firmly tell him that cabinets are off-limits. Set limits to what he can or cannot climb without taking away too much freedom to explore.
3. Secure the drawers
Preferably in a Montessori environment, you don’t want to lock your drawers or cabinets. Move the dangerous things away instead and let your toddler freely explore, once his curiosity is sated he likely won’t go for it anymore.
However, if there are drawers that you must restrict access, then get a good child cabinet safety lock, preferably not something that can be opened by pressing.
I have bought cheap ones before, and my son dismantled it in his first try. A toddler practicing Montessori at home will have better gross and fine motor skills than his peers, so make sure you buy one that is hard to open. The one I’m using takes quite a bit of finger strength to open the clips, and it has been safe so far.
Today, most of my drawers are not locked. Because I allow him to climb certain types of furniture at home, he spends most of his energy climbing those and shows no interest in climbing cabinets or drawers. Just make sure there’s nothing on the cabinets to cause him to want to climb and reach it.
If you see him trying, gently but firmly tell him: “Nate, you’re not allowed to climb the drawers because it’s dangerous, you can injure yourself“. You may have to repeat it for weeks, but he will eventually get it. This way, you’re practicing freedom to explore within limits, and not placing barriers so he can’t do it 🙂
4. Put as little things on the bed as possible
The safest bed is one that only has a mattress and nothing else. While this can be boring for adults, it’s excellent for children. But it’s ok to put some things on it. I give my son a pillow, a soft toy, and a small blanket, and that is all. Make sure that there are no gaps that your baby’s face can fall into it. If they can’t turn their body yet, it can cause breathing and suffocation dangers.
5. Make sure the stairs are gated
I trained my son to start using the stairs when he was around 14 months old, he showed the interest to do it, and I used the opportunity to teach him. When your toddler shows interest in something, don’t discourage him. Try your best to help him achieve what he wants to do as long as you can assure his safety.
Your toddler will show interest in the stairs and try to climb it. The Montessori method is to let him explore as long as it is within the limits you set. I do my best to let him explore as much as he wants, but when the gate is closed, it becomes off-limits to him.
Install the gates at both ends to avoid accidents from happening. If the side railings are too wide and your toddler can squeeze through, you may want to consider getting a banister guard, Amazon sells them and you can get it here.
These days? He won’t even attempt to climb the stairs unless there’s an adult beside him, because he knows that he is not allowed to use the stairs without an adult’s company. With that, I can leave the gate open without worry when I need to move things around with both hands.
6. Make sure that all power sockets are covered
All power sockets that your toddler can reach must be covered. You never know when they will take something and stick it into the power socket. Here’s an affordable and good one if you’re looking for one.
Whichever one you choose, just make sure it’s not easy to take out. If you require an effort to take it out, it’s good enough. Careful of the cheap ones though, if it breaks inside the socket you’re going to have a tough time getting it out, get those with good quality.
When you catch him playing with this, gently tell him it’s off-limits. He will also lose interest quickly if he can’t stick things into it. If he finds interest in the on-off switch, you may need to get a cover that completely covers the whole socket.
7. Make sure all electrical stuff are out of reach
Some bulky electrical stuff may be hard to keep out of reach from your toddler. Fortunately, there are solutions to this problem; here is how I keep them. Most of these boxes don’t come with a lock, so you may want to find a way to fasten it. Rubberbands are a good choice, it’s not easy to remove by your toddler, but you can remove it to open the box anytime.
Make sure there are no other electrical appliances on the floor or within reach. Every electrical stuff must either be locked or not accessible to your toddler. Gently remind him when he starts to touch the box, and soon he will lose interest in it.
8. Ensure all electrical wirings are secured
In many cases, there will be electrical wirings strewn about in the house, and there are two concerns for this. Either our toddler may pull it really hard and cause it to snap, or it brings down whatever electrical device it’s connected to. Worse, they bite and chew on it and may get electrocuted.
The solution? Get some electric cable covers and cover them up. Here is how mine looks, there’s no way for him to pull, bite, or chew. If you use those that are stuck to the ground, your toddler probably won’t even notice it.
9. Ensure that windows are out of reach
What happens when your little one climbs and reaches a window, manages to open it and fall out? That is a scary scenario. Check the windows in your house, and see if any of it is accessible to your toddler. Is there any furniture that he can use to climb to the windows? If yes, then you may want to consider moving your furniture away from it.
Sometimes, there’s nowhere to move the furniture. For situations like these, I install a roller blind. There’s no way he can move the blinds and get to the window, and as time goes on, he stopped trying, and this another way to let him know that windows are off-limits.
Installing window grills may seem like a good idea, but I’m generally against it. Window grills have caused families to be trapped inside the house during a fire, and the whole family perished. I have no grills installed on my windows.
While we’re at this topic, be careful of window blind cords. It has caused children to be strangled and have caused fatalities, and that is why we need to keep them out of reach. Getting a hook and hang the cords there when not in used is an easy way to deal with this.
10. Build a fence for the fireplace
If your house has a fireplace, create a fence and keep them out of reach. Make sure you install the fence further away from the fireplace, so it doesn’t heat up and cause injuries to your toddler if he touches it.
11. Keeping the television out of reach
TVs these days are thin, and light and can easily topple and fall on your toddler if he plays with it. Either mount it on a wall or make a fence around it if it’s standing. If you have any amps and speakers, make sure it’s out of reach too, especially any wires that may be running around the place.
12. Getting the washing machine away from children
This can be more dangerous if you have at least two toddlers. One can climb in, and the other lock him inside and turn on the washing machine. It has happened before, and they think it’s fun until disaster strikes.
I don’t make the washing machine off-limits, my toddler helps me put the clothes in and take them out. But I have a kitchen door that I will always lock. Like the stairs method, my toddler understands that if no parent around, the washer is off-limits.
13. Kitchen stoves needs to be off-limits too
Kids are really smart, especially a Montessori kid. They watch you cook long enough, and they will push a chair there, climb up and play with the stove. My stove is behind the kitchen door together with the washer, but if yours is not, get some stove guard or stove knob covers and secure it.
Practicing Child Safety At Home
Although now you know how to childproof your home, there are still a few more things to be aware of how to keep your toddler safe.
A Montessori kid can do a lot of things by himself at a younger age compared to others. While most of it can be done without supervision, there are a few things that should always be done with an adult around, ready to jump in whenever necessary.
1. Accompany your toddler when he bathes
If you have followed our earlier article, you have already made the bathroom Montessori ready. In the next article, we will talk about teaching your toddler to bathe himself. Depending on when you start teaching him, he can start bathing himself as early as the age of two.
That said, being able to bathe by himself doesn’t mean that he should bathe without supervision because accidents can still happen. He may slip into the bathtub and unable to get up, take the soap to taste, and other things.
Always accompany your toddler when he bathes until probably around the age of five to seven. Don’t let them bathe alone nomatter how skilled they may be.
2. Always wash the dishes together
In the previous article, we made a place for our toddler to wash their own dishes. It’s fantastic that they can wash their own dishes, but because of the following reasons, they should never wash alone.
- They are washing plates and cups that can break
- They may accidentally rub their mouth with soap
- It’s an elavated place, even with a kitchen helper, they shouldn’t climb up and down alone
Always wash the dishes together with them, it’s also a great bonding time!
3. Never allow him to use the stairs himself
If you teach him from young, your toddler can climb up and down the stairs as young as 15 months old, and maybe by 24 months, he would be so steady that he can consistently use the stairs without accidents. But remember, even adults can fall from the stairs.
Never allow your toddler to use the stairs by himself. As he grows up, he may even start running or jumping up and down the stairs. Make sure you are around, that way if anything happens you can attend to him immediately.
4. Make the kitchen off-limits when there are no adults
Helping out in the kitchen or using it is a part of Montessori at home, that’s why we even built a kitchen helper in the previous article. But because the kitchen contains so many dangerous equipments that a toddler should never be allowed to play there unsupervised.
There shouldn’t be any reason why he needs to use the kitchen unsupervised. If he wants to wash his dishes, he needs an adult to accompany him. If he needs food, make it accessible elsewhere. If he wants to throw rubbish, make sure there are bins elsewhere in the house.
That said, if you keep reminding your toddler that the kitchen is off-limits, it may create the opposite effect and make him so curious that he cannot resist going there himself. So whenever your toddler gets near the kitchen, accompany him instead of saying no. With his curiosity sated, there’s no reason for him to go there alone.
The easiest way is to install a gate at the kitchen. I did it, though my toddler never tries to go there himself. The play area is the place he can play alone, and with the toys rotation set up there, the play area is where he puts his attention, not the kitchen 🙂
5. Using only age appropriate toys
If you set the play area right, your toddler can play independently without supervision. That’s awesome because when he can keep himself occupied, you can go do your own thing!
What he plays with though, is extremely important. If you have a baby around or have a toddler that still likes to put things into his mouth, you need to make sure that the toys are not small enough for them to swallow. Pay special care here if you have two children that are a few years old apart.
If you have things like a mini slide, it may be a good idea to keep it whenever you’re not around. The same goes for an indoor bike or anything that he can fall off from. Independent play requires safe and age-appropriate toys. Also, make sure that there are no plastic bags around.
6. No using the toilet without an adult
In the previous article, we covered how toddlers can use an adult’s toilet, but that is strictly under adult supervision. The toilet bowl is too big and without support they can easily fall into it. Even if you have a toddler sized potty in the toilet, you should still accompany your toddler everytime he uses it.
Going into the toilet alone can be dangerous for multiple reasons, even adults have fallen in toilets. If your toddler slips and falls and no one notices it, it can get dangerous fast. Just make sure that toilets are also off-limits unless there’s an adult supervising.
7. Always have meals together
While Baby-led Weaning is not part of Montessori, many Montessori parents practice BLW. And it’s awesome when your child can eat by himself. But again, even though he can eat independently, it doesn’t mean he should eat alone.
Always eat with your toddler, he may accidentally swallow something he’s not supposed to, or worse, he chokes. It’s critical that an adult can act quickly in such situations. Learn more about first aid for children, and knowing how to differentiate gagging and choking as they are very different situations.
Spend some time to watch this video, and then attend a CPR for kids training. It is one of the most important skills to know when you have children around. I’ve written another article about Baby-led Weaning VS Traditional Weaning, check it out.
Next Steps in Montessori
To summarize, in the previous article we covered how to build a Montessori house. In this article, we covered how to childproof our home and practice safe Montessori at home. In the next article, we will talk about how to implement Montessori at home in detail.
I will show you how we raised our son through the Montessori method and there will be detailed steps and pictures. Although Montessori is more troublesome in the beginning, it is worth implementing at home because it gives your child such an important foundation that he can build upon for the rest of his life.