Montessori Monday: Baby-proofing

Montessori Monday is an advice column written by yours truly. If you have a question about Montessori philosophy, parenting or discipline, or anything else in that realm, contact me and your question could be the next Montessori Monday post!

Dear Lindsey, 

If there is a Montessori theory on baby-proofing I would love to read about it in a Montessori Monday post. My 11 month old just started crawling a month ago and already wants to walk on her own (can't quite yet, but probably soon). We took precautions where she could get seriously hurt, but what about areas like a small floor bookshelf with books and magazines? I'd rather just teach her that she's not allowed to pull all of the books off the shelf. Do you have any tips or suggestions? Or am I being too optimistic?


Dear Tori,

There's darling baby Coco looking very guilty as she finds herself caught red-handed about to pull every single book out of the (bolted to the wall) bookshelf. The way I see it, baby-proofing comes down to two things: safely and sanity. It sounds like you've got the safety piece under control, so now it's time to gauge your approach to the sanity piece.

There are, of course, two opposing schools of thought with this. The first school of thought is that you make the baby fit into your life. The second is that you adapt everything to be baby friendly. The fit-the-baby-into-your-life folks believe that you can teach the baby not to do certain things. Rather than move the Fabergé eggs to a higher shelf, they're of the opinion that if you just reinforce again and again and again that the baby is not to touch them, after a while, the baby will accept this and ignore the eggs all together. This is a lovely idea in theory, but I have never heard of it actually working. What tends to happen instead is a power struggle. The eggs, or in this case books, become a point of contention and a battle of the wills ensues. I say it's best to just skip all of that and remove the books, or eggs, or whatever it is, all together.

For several months, in the spirit of making everything baby friendly, we took all of the books from the bottom two shelves of our bookcase and put them in a box in our cellar. We still left Coco's baby books on the bottom two shelves of her bookcase in the entryway and she pulled them out just about every single day. We could have moved those, too, but for whatever reason, I was able to maintain my sanity putting those away every day. Sometimes I had to put those books away multiple times per day. Other days I just stepped over them until she was in bed and only put them back once. Ha! Then, after she had outgrown that phase, we brought our books back.

The general rule is make sure everything is safe. Then, once safety is no longer an issue, don't have anything accessible to your baby or child that you can't easily part with if it gets broken or that you can't deal with in terms of sanity. Both of our kids went through long phases of unpacking everything from the kitchen cupboards on a daily basis. This was okay with me, but if it hadn't been, cabinet locks would have been in order. In terms of safety, we did lock the cabinet with all of the pyrex and stoneware. If you're really consistent and patient, you can try teaching your baby not to do certain things. And, depending on her personality, it might just work. If it's not working and you're starting to lose your mind, just eliminate the problem, keep calm and carry on. Happy baby-proofing! xo


  1. Sometimes it can help to create an activity that mirrors the undesirable one. We have had some success with creating posting/pegging/transferring activities when those came up with objects we didn't want treated that way. But books on low shelves are so appealing ... if you are montessori inclined I would make those shelves for the child. There will probably be other things you will want or need to use your energy preventing so it is wise not to create unnecessary battles.

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