February 2014

Oh Baby, The Ultimate Modern Nursery

Author: Rebecca Edwards

According to The New York Times, the most common birthday is September 16, and if you do the math, you realize it wasn’t just the fireplace getting hot over the holiday season. Over 9 percent of all babies are conceived in the month of December, making it truly “the most wonderful time of the year” for hopeful parents.

Now it’s February, and designing the nursery can be as challenging as the 40 weeks of pregnancy—especially for moms-to-be with a full-blown case of the nesting bug. With my first, I remember often waking up in the middle of night, downing a quart of ice cold milk and a bag of ginger snaps dipped in peanut butter, online researching until the wee hours for just the thing for my wee little bundle of joy, and feeling like I was going to pop from binging on food and web content.

You don’t have to be “that bump,” nor does your daughter, daughter-in-law, sister, wife or best friend. Giving life to the ultimate modern nursery is actually a creative process that should be nurtured and enjoyed at every phase, made affordable through a little ingenuity, and yes—thanks to the following insights and tips—simple.

“I had convinced myself we were going to have a boy,” Ashley Lashbrook said. “For four months, I worked on an idea board designing our nursery based on the theme Where the Wild Things Are. And then we had a gender reveal party and found out we were having a girl. That’s when I did a total 180 and started reading about Montessori-inspired rooms.”

The Montessori nursery is based on the method developed by Maria Montessori in 1907. Sea Pines Montessori Academy defines the technique as a “method structured for the developmental instincts of children that encourages his or her growth as a whole individual—intellectually, socially, spiritually and physically.”

Elements of a Montessori-inspired nursery include child-sized furniture, a self-care station with a mirror and maybe a brush, low-level shelves and wall hooks (14-15 inches from the floor) with minimal articles so the child can learn to organize his or her things, artwork (like letters or family photographs) at the child’s eye level, wooden trays (which, in an effort to not over-stimulate the child, are rotated in and out of the room) containing simple activities like using tongs, and last—and perhaps the most unconventional—a floor bed so the child can freely walk around the room. Because of its simplicity, a Montessori nursery will save expectant parents time, money and space. And as an added bonus, the Montessori mind frame allows the room to grow as the child grows. Rather than feeling constantly bombarded with superfluous and even toxic items like huge bins of plastic toys, parents can add needed gear and goodies as time, space, budget and developmental stages allow. Lastly, the Montessori-themed room activates the learning process from day one.

“The driving design factors in designing our nursery were freedom and order, which may seem like opposites, but we’ve found the more order we offer to Alessandra’s room, the more freedom she has to explore it. As the Montessori saying goes, ‘A place for everything and everything in its place,’” Lashbrook said. “For our family, the Montessori inspired nursery has fostered a healthy, confident independence in our daughter. Her attitude towards self-directed learning and quiet play is amazing to watch.

“That said, we’ve had our ups and downs with the floor bed,” Lashbrook continued. “Nights were never a problem, but when Alessandra started crawling, her desire to explore overrode her need to nap. As parents, it is our responsibility to ensure our children receive the rest they need. We decided to borrow a crib for a few months until Alessandra adjusts to her newly discovered crawling and walking abilities.”

According to Senny Powell of Island Child, Lashbrook defines the modern mom in many ways. “Moms today have a minimalistic mentality and they have specific thoughts about the Waldorf or Montessori-methods and specific preferences like using organic linens or unique color palates,” she said.

Powell and her husband Steve have seven adopted children and have spent nearly the past three decades selling specialty nursery items. Both truly enjoy helping expectant parents and grandparents “make their nursery dreams come true,” and Powell is a powerhouse of baby-paraphernalia information—from what’s trending to what’s essential. Her top six recommendations for the ultimate modern nursery include a great crib like one made by Bratt Decor or Stokke, a glider, amazing bedding and linens like the bamboo line Aden and Anais, the Mamaroo swing (which mimics the way a parent moves when rocking a child, has an iPod plug-in and provides an array of ambient sounds), a changing table, and sleep aids like the Sleep Sheep and Gentle Giraffe, as well as sleep sacks, the Zen Swaddle, Blabla knit dolls, and Angel Dear blankies (which all three of my girls adore).

When designing your ultimate modern nursery, whether it’s Montessori-inspired or not, The Joyful Child author, Susan Stephenson advises, “Before the child is born, crawl around the child’s rooms to see what the child can reach or will be attracted to. Listen to the sounds. Can you hear the wind in the trees?” Revisit this approach as the child enters each new phase to constantly assess safety measures. Also, from the start, think about turning the current door to the room into a Dutch door so you can easily keep an eye on Junior.

As for monitors, I would recommend four models for four different reasons. The Angelcare Baby Movement and Sound Monitor is great for SIDs-terrified caregivers (like me) who feel compelled to constantly check to see if the baby is breathing or not. Though this does not have a video component, it does give you peace of mind during the nighttime (especially when you are sleeping). A sensor is placed under the mattress of either a floor or crib bed and an alarm will sound off if no movement or breathing is detected. The Summer Infant Baby Touch is the technological mother ship of monitors. This video and sound monitor has a huge 3.5-inch color video display, ability to connect to up to three additional cameras, hooks up to a TV with a USB port, and the camera can be controlled remotely, tilting up-and-down and side-to-side. The Motorola MBP33 Wireless Video Baby Monitor with infrared night vision and zoom 2.8-inch color LCD is a great overall monitor and the one I would buy if my hubby would ever say “yes” to round four. With this device, you can add up to three additional cameras, zoom in remotely (but not pan or tilt), talk to your baby over a speaker, and check the temperature of your baby’s room. For the budget minded folks who still want a high quality monitor, check out the Infant Optics DXR-5 2.4 GHz Digital Video Baby Monitor with night vision.

Other must haves that are not so much safety-oriented but sure to guarantee mom and dad get some much needed sleep include a sound machine or iPod docking station and a humidifier. Also, seriously consider getting dark shades or lining your current ones and add an area rug to reduce the sound of creaking boards (and to make the floor more comfortable for tummy time and crawling).

Tips for personalizing your ultimate modern nursery
Make your own mobile. See YouTube and Pinterest for how tos and clever ideas.

Include dear old dad. Check out tacticalbabygear.com, a local company that allows dad to build his own modular diaper bag. Start with the main bag and then add on other compartments like the bottle pouch, a utility pouch, a gadgets pouch for cell phones and keys, and the dump pouch for trash and dirty diapers. All components are made from Cordura® fabric (which is 1000 denier), a combat-quality material that makes these dude-totes “the toughest baby gear on the planet.”

If you take away one thing from the Montessori-inspired room let it be the toys. You don’t need a bunch of knickknacks, and often times you can “make your own toys” by having a tray with Tupperware or a small dustpan and broom.

Make it comfortable for the caregiver. Have a nightstand with a clock and coaster. Invest in a comfortable robe and cozy Boppy pillow to give your arms a break.

Bring in heirlooms. Nothing is more special than giving your child something from your childhood.
Liven up the walls. Use low VOC paint and then add details like decals. Dezignwithaz.com has a large selection of mirror decals that come in all sorts of shapes and sizes—from standard geometric shapes, to a map of the United States, to cupcakes and fairy trees. Place these decals low so baby can entertain him/herself for endless narcissistic hours. 

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