Montessori in the bathroom
One of the pillars of the Montessori method is to foster independence in children from an early age. If you have a toddler, one of the best ways to do this is by turning your house into a Montessori home, or a home that is created with the needs of your child in mind. This means making every part of your home environment suitable for your little one.
While a lot of parents may make conscious decisions to turn most rooms in the house into Montessori-friendly spaces, one of the most overlooked areas is the bathroom. If taken advantage of, the bathroom presents a great opportunity to empower your preschooler and allow them to learn key life skills. At this age, children are naturally curious with an innate desire to take care of themselves. They’ll welcome any opportunity to do so with open arms.
Ideally, you want to introduce Montessori elements in your bathroom to your toddler in simple, gradual steps. Make sure that all the materials are effortlessly accessible as well as in child-size proportions. For every skill that you introduce, allow some time and space for your toddler to practice and hone them.
Factors to consider to encourage your toddler’s independence in the bathroom
If you are considering introducing Montessori in your bathroom, here are some important considerations to keep in mind:
- Be observant. Look at your bathroom and pay attention to how your toddler is using it. Every time your little one asks for help during bathroom visits, or when you choose to help without being prompted, try to determine exactly what is keeping them from carrying out the task on their own.
- Depending on how old your child is, you may want to encourage them to be independent when it comes to self-care. As a rule of thumb, when your child can walk unaided, they can start taking a stab at their own self-care needs with little to no help.
Here are a few more questions you may want to ask yourself as you work towards making your bathroom Montessori-friendly:
- Does your toddler have toilet accessories that they can easily access?
- Does your child have any type of bath toys? Can they access them unaided? Are all the toys enjoyable to play with?
- Is your toddler able to turn the light switch on and off?
- Does your toddler have access to the bathroom mirror? How about the sink?
Setting up a bathroom
To successfully incorporate Montessori elements in your bathroom, you will need to set it up with the tools that your toddler will be using:
For potty learning
Before you begin potty learning, here are some of the things you might want to invest in:
- The right potty-training seat
There are two types of potty-training toilets; the kind that is placed on a regular toilet, and the kind that is placed on the floor. The latter, known as self-contained chairs, are typically used by toddlers that are just starting their toilet-training.
As you potty train your child, keep in mind that every toddler is different. The time it takes for them to move from the self-contained chairs to the potty seat that goes on the toilet will vary. In addition to your child’s development and personality, here are a few other factors to consider when selecting a potty seat for them:
- Your child’s gender: For boys, go for potty seats that come with splashguards. This will help minimize messes and spills.
- The shape and size of your toilet: Is your toilet oval or round? The size is also important, as you will want a potty that can fit comfortably on your toilet seat without sliding around too much.
- Ease of use: Your child needs to be able to operate the seat alone with ease to reduce the risk of them sliding off and getting injured.
- Cleaning: Look for potty seats that are easy to clean. Ideally, you want to be able to wash the unit, disinfect it, and have it ready for use again in no time.
- Installation: The seat should also be easy to install onto your toilet. You should be able to install it without having to use any tools.
- A stool
A stool will go a long way in helping your little one gain a bit of independence in the bathroom. With it, they will gain more stability as they climb up the toilet, as well as increasing their confidence when it comes to learning how to use their potty seat.
Other than allowing your little one to safely get onto the toilet, a step tool will also make it easier for them to reach for the soap or faucet afterward.
For older, slightly taller children, a one-step stool would be enough. If you have a very young toddler, though, go for a two-step stool.
- Consider potty learning awards
Instantly recognizing your toddler's efforts and rewarding them will motivate them to use their potty seat more frequently and eventually gain full confidence. Consider incorporating a fully personalized potty seat reward chart in your bathroom.
- Hand wash/soap
Don't forget the soap! This often-overlooked item can be a source of frustration as your child learns to use the toilet because it takes quite a bit of patience to get your toddler to wash their hands properly every time. Liquid soaps are the best because your little will be able to easily pump and use them by themselves.
You’re going to need a lot of wipes as your child learns to go by themselves. You want to keep them handy right next to the toilet where you can easily reach them. You will also need surface cleaning wipes that you can use to quickly clean up in case there are any accidents or when your toddler wasn’t able to make it to the toilet on time.
Other tools you might need to create the ideal Montessori bathroom
- Faucet extender
A faucet extender, as the name suggests, is a tool that is designed to bring the water stream from your faucet closer so that your toddler can have an easier time washing their hands.
- Baby bathtub for babies
Depending on your baby’s age as well as the amount of space you have in your bathroom, there are different types of baby bathtubs that you can use:
- Basin tubs: These are miniature standalone tubs. Some designs are made for your bathtub, while others can be used in your kitchen or bathroom sink, depending on their size. They are quite roomy and some varieties can be used through your little one’s first two years.
- Sink insert bath seats for babies: These are foam inserts that can be slipped into the sink to make it safer to bathe the baby.
- Convertible tubs: Convertible tubs grow with your little one – they can go from a newborn tub that features a sling to a traditional miniature basin tub.
- Light switch extender
This is another smart way to incorporate Montessori elements in your bathroom – a light switch extender will allow your toddler to turn the lights in your bathroom on and off on their own. This will make them more independent and help build their confidence.
- Nail brush
Toddlers love to get their hands dirty. A nail brush in the bathroom will, therefore, always come in handy. In addition to keeping their nails clean, it can also help to establish a nail cutting routine.
- Face cloth and mirror
Encourage your child to learn how to clean their face by allowing them to use colorful washcloths and a mirror. If your bathroom mirror is not at your child's eye level, offer a stool that they can use to boost themselves.
- Organic bathroom cleaners
Encourage your toddler to clean up after themselves by keeping an organic multi-surface cleaner, cleaning wipes, and a toilet bowl cleaner in the bathroom cabinet for them to use under your supervision.
When creating a Montessori bathroom, you want your toddler to have easy access to their accessories so that they don't have to keep asking for your help.
Ideally, you want to keep their accessories separate from your own. This will help them not mix things up while also allowing them to take responsibility for their items. Consider setting up a bathroom storage organizer that will allow you to store multiple items such as toothbrushes, nail brushes, and wipes, all within their reach.
Artwork or decorations
Child-friendly artwork and decorations always make for great additions to a kid's Montessori bathroom area. Go for fun fonts and bright colors. You also want to factor in your kid's personality and preferences when choosing the artworks or decorations.
These creative pieces can help the bathroom feel like a safe space for your toddler and allow them to be comfortable and confident in there.
Participating in bath time
Activities in the bath
Here are a few ideas that can make bath time more fun for your toddler:
- Bubble bath
If you have a toddler who hates bath time, a bubble bath may just be exactly what you need to turn bath time into something they look forward to. You can even go a step further by investing in a bubble machine that squirts out bubbles to make the experience even more fun for your child!
- Bath time music
Make bath time an activity to look forward to by playing some fun music in the background as they wash. Pick from a collection of your toddler's favorite sing-along songs, or even songs that have a simple, upbeat tune that can elevate your kid's mood during bath time.
- Bath painting
This is another great bath time activity that is very easy to pull off. All you’ll need is some shaving cream and some food coloring. Place a bit of shaving cream on a convenient surface like, say, a muffin tray, then mix the food coloring into it to make the paints. Your little one can then enjoy playing with the colors in the bath however they like. Once they are done, the colors can easily be washed away using just plain water!
- Fun Lego Bath
This one is as straightforward as it sounds: throw a bunch of Legos in a half-full bathtub with your toddler inside. It’ll keep them busy for hours!
Accessories and learning toys
Having accessories and learning toys that are specifically meant for bath time will have your toddler looking forward to their next bath. Here are a few ideas:
- Foam shapes: Foam bath shapes can serve as great educational toys to help your toddler learn how to identify letters, colors, animals, and numbers. Look for bath friendly foam shapes that will float as well as stick to the sides of the bathtub and wall.
- Bath books: If your toddler enjoys story time, consider getting waterproof bath books to make bath time a fun and unique learning experience for them.
- Bath swimmers: Bath swimmers are little wind-up toys that can serve as fun distractions for toddlers who are still getting used to bath time. They are great for keeping them occupied as you help them scrub away.
- Bath cups: Kids enjoy scooping up and pouring out water. Introduce a bowl, cup, or any other item that they can use to scoop and pour water on themselves as they bath. Besides being a fun learning experience, it will also encourage them to be independent.
Bath time safety
Safety in the bath should always be your number one priority. Here are a few ways to achieve it:
- Tearless shampoo: Whether you like it or not, soap will get into your toddler’s eyes at some point. To stop this from being a painful experience, consider using a tearless shampoo that is kid-friendly.
- Grip mat: Water and soap make bathtubs and bathroom floors very slippery. Place grip mats on both the bathtub floor and the bathroom floor to prevent slipping and potential accidents.
- Temperature control: Before putting your child into the bathwater, ensure that you always test the water temperature. Using water that is too cold or too hot can be pretty jarring for kids and make bath time something that they want to avoid entirely. You can either use a thermometer to check the temperature or simply feel the water with your hands.
Care of self
You also want to empower your little one with other essential bathroom life skills that will help them become even more independent. Here’s how to improve these self-care skills:
- Brushing teeth: Set up a tray with all the necessary supplies that they will need to brush their teeth, including their toothpaste, toothbrush, a small water cup, and a timer. You may want to portion out the toothpaste in small individual containers as a start rather than allowing access to the whole tube.
- Washing hands: Provide a bottle of handwashing soap that can easily be pumped and a washcloth that your toddler can use to dry their hands afterward. You might also want to use a faucet extender for your sink to make it easier for them to reach the water.
- Blowing the nose: Organize a few folded tissues in a basket for your toddler to access when they need to blow their nose.
- Combing hair: Set up a small tray that contains a comb and/or hairbrush for their hair combing station. Place this tray near a mirror to make it easy for your little one to look at themselves.
Incorporating Montessori principles in the bathroom may sound like a daunting thing, but as you can see, it shouldn’t be. With the tips and tricks outlined here, you should be able to create the ideal bathroom that will encourage independence and confidence in your child. At the end of the day, turning your home into a Montessori environment doesn’t have to break the bank. Good luck!