There’s nothing wrong with the usual nursery. They are designed mostly with the adults in mind and they work just fine.
There is another way worth considering. A Montessori nursery.
The difference between a typical baby’s room and a Montessori-insprired one is that a Montessori environment, just like a Montessori classroom, puts the child’s needs first. Because a Montessori infant environment is quite different from the norm, you’ve got to do your homework to be able to understand the logic and the wisdom behind a Montessori baby’s room (for more on Montessori from infancy, check out this book).
Here are two examples:
These rooms, which include a floor bed, low shelving with a few objects, a mobile selected for the current stage of development, a rug, a wall mirror, and a small chair, are designed for the needs of the child.
In infancy the child simply observes their environment. Once they begin to roll and crawl they are free to explore and touch the objects in the room. Everything in the room is selected for age-appropriateness and placed where the child can easily get to it. (The entire room becomes the “crib”, so safety is paramount.) The mirror securely fixed low on the wall encourages tummy time from the get-go.
I know what you’re saying…”No crib? That’s crazy!”
Does this really work? Here are some links to real-life experiences of parents who have created similar environments for their children. Providing freedom of movement has many positive benefits.
It also poses some challenges.
Online, several parents wrote that when their child began to crawl that getting them to sleep and stay asleep became significantly more difficult. In our own home, our crib-sleeping children also had disruptions in their sleep when they became mobile. Crib or no crib, transitions in mobility typically result in difficulties with the sleep routine. This is a shared experience regardless of how the nursery is set up.
Over the long run, it looks to us that the benefits outweigh the difficulties.
Michael Olaf writes:
“Every child follows a unique timetable of learning to crawl to those things he has been looking at, so that he may finally handle them. This visual, followed by tactile, exploration is very important for many aspects of human development. If we provide a floor bed or mattress on the floor in a completely safe room—rather than a crib or playpen with bars—the child has a clear view of the surroundings and freedom to explore.”
“A young child develops trust in herself, the basis of self-esteem, as she interacts with the environment. She learns to move out into the world, to touch and grasp through her own effort, those things she has been longing to reach. With the loving support of adults and older children, and in an environment that meets her changing needs, she will learn that she is capable, that her choices are wise, that she is indeed a fine person. “
Here are more helpful links and examples:
from Montessori Homes: Montessori Infant Rooms + Sleep
from Michael Olaf: Montessori: The First Year – Unique Development + the Child’s Self Respect
from Michael Olaf catalog: trusting in the world + European floor bed
from How We Montessori: Montessori room for Otis
from Sew Liberated: Finn’s Montessori room (with sourcing info)
From MariaMontessori.com: To Crib or Not to Crib