Minimalist Montessori Toddler Bed

From the day we brought Plumblossom home from the hospital, she slept in her crib. We hadn’t researched other options, and she made it clear from the start that she had no interest in a family bed (the girl has always liked her own space). No matter, we weren’t offended: she was sleeping, we were sleeping, all was good.

However, around her second birthday, she started plotting an escape. She had height to her advantage, and began hoisting a leg over the side and teetering on the brink. She didn’t have quite enough leverage to get over, but she was close; we knew it was only a matter of time. So she was still sleeping, but we weren’t—every bump in the night had one of us jumping to check on her.

It was one of those milestones both anticipated and dreaded: time for a big girl bed. We could have bought a conversion kit for her crib; however, in the time since her birth, we had discovered and begun to implement Montessori practices in our home. And no Montessori home would be complete without a floor bed.

We would have loved to have put a mattress on the floor and called it a day—easy peasy lemon squeezy. Unfortunately, in our house, that would have been an invitation for mold; we needed a floor bed with air circulation underneath.

We decided to go straight to a twin-sized bed (rather than a toddler-sized one), as our little beanpole would certainly outgrow the latter by year’s end. But, as we learned after exhaustive Google searches, super-low twin bed frames are a rare commodity indeed. So our DIY minimalist Montessori bed project was born.

Time was not on our side. The nights were nerve-wracking, and we were determined to both build the bed and transition Plumblossom into it over the Christmas holiday (in case her newfound nighttime freedom meant no sleep for us). By no means would this be a designer-quality example of fine woodworking—we needed to throw something together fast.

Our solution: take the Ikea Sultan Laxeby slatted bed base, paint it white, and elevate it on three 4×1 wooden rails.

We also made a padded headboard and sideboard with plywood, batting, and fabric to add some cushioning and warmth against the wall (Plumblossom likes to sleep flush against the wall, with her head up in the corner). These padded panels are attached to the wall, and rest on the frame for additional support.

Here’s a photo of the finished product:

Minimalist Montessori Toddler Bed

We kept telling ourselves it was a temporary solution until we found something better—but, to be honest, we like the way it turned out and have no plans to change it. Most importantly, Plumblossom seems to love it—she made the transition without a hitch. And, as a bonus, she can do all the jumping and acrobatics she wants on it without her mom having a heart attack. :)

[Note: Montessorians recommend skipping the crib and using a floor bed from the start—not a bad idea if you can sufficiently baby-proof the room.]

So have you read through this entire post, even though you have no little ones underfoot? Bless your heart, and thank you for sticking with me. Because guess what? The concept makes a lovely, minimalist adult bed as well—my husband and I are sleeping on the queen-sized version, and we love it, too.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, be they about toddler beds, Montessori beds, or just minimalist beds in general!

{If you’d like to learn more about minimalist living, please consider reading my book, The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide, or subscribing to my RSS feed.}

55 comments to Minimalist Montessori Toddler Bed

  • Naomi

    We have a Montessori style bed for our two year old girl… just the cot mattress we were gifted on the floor. She’ll eventually get a larger mattress once she’s outgrown it. Husband and I have ours on the floor also.
    I also agree about the jumping on the bed. I’m a fairly firm mother, but there’s just some things a kid should be allowed to do sometimes and jumping on the bed is one of them (my Nana would have a fit to hear that ). She can fall out of bed in the night and I’m not worried about her. It’s much easier to teach her to make it while it’s so low too.
    We’re renting at the moment and had to move a few times last year due to work for my husband. Having less furniture to move is much easier (I’ve reduced our possessions by 30% again since we’ve been in this rental).
    I also am a little nostalgic about my art student days and sleeping on a mattress on the floor- just trying to hold onto my youth while investing a bit more in the quality of bedding… which not having to shell out for a bed frame means a splurge on a higher quality mattress.
    Floorbeds are obviously not for everyone and it won’t be for us forever- we’re going to get too old one day. For now they are working wonderfully for us.

  • Jackie

    We are planning on moving and dont currently have bed frames (or even a bed for our 4.5yo.. Yay cosleeping!) and i was thinking of what we could do, and this is perrct! For both us, and our son! Love it!!

  • Merja

    I’m sorry – maybe I am missing the point here. Why does an adult need a “minimalist bed”? Is there even any such thing? A bed is what we sleep on, surely, whether it be the floor, a mattress, a futon, a divan, etc. Even a sofa! Why on earth do we need to label a bed as ‘minimalist’? I am not being rude and I am genuinely interested: this just seems to be taking minimalism to a rather pretentious level to me, and possibly what gives minimalism a bad name in soem quarters, when we start describing an everyday, functional object as ‘minimalist’.

    • R

      You are correct, “a bed is what we sleep on” – Ah, but have you seen some of the beds out there? Giant headboards and footboards that each weigh a ton. Piles of decorative pillows that must be picked off the floor and rearranged every day. Not to mention canopies, curtains – a quick search on Pinterest and you’ll get the idea. IMHO, there are minimalist bedrooms and minimalist beds, just as there are the opposite.

      • Gina

        No one says you have to buy the cushions to put on a bed, though! ;-)

      • Another Diane

        I agree with you R. All my adult life I’ve only had two pillows on the bed with no headboard or footboard and got strange looks and/or comments from friends, family and guests like “Oh, when do you plan on finishing decorating since you moved in ages ago?” Currently, my mattress is on the box spring because the metal frame that came with the bed made it too high and I had to jump a bit to get into bed. However, according to feng shui, there should be air circulation under the bed so I’ll try Francine’s idea next time I move.

  • Dani

    I love this. I attended a Montessori school all my life (until now), and it was an amazing experience. My only complaint about it is that it made the transition to high school a lot more difficult for me. Anyway, my parents built me a bed just like this, and it was the best bed ever. Of course, it also allowed me to get into many more nighttime shenanigans :)

    • Cara

      Hi Dani, I realize it’s been two years since you posted this but I’m considering Montessori for my kids. I’m wondering why the high school transition was difficult for you because of it. Thanks!

  • Nancy

    Another great post! I truly believe that a crib is an optional piece of baby furniture! I have 3 children – A 13 year old, and twins that just turned 5. Unlike Plumblossom, not one of my girls liked being in a crib. They all wanted to sleep with Mama. Co-sleeping with twins proved to be a challenge but I eventually came around to twin mattresses on low profile frames right next to each other. I think the Montessori floor bed idea is a great one. I remember coming across that information after we had already purchased cribs. The bed you made is perfect! I love it and may have to do something similar in my oldest daughter’s room. It’s a look that would appeal to all ages:)

  • HokieKate

    Lovely! As soon as you said that you needed something to keep the mattress off the floor, I thought of an IKEA bed base.

    My girls are two years apart. we want them to share a room, but I wasn’t ready to get a big twin bed. Instead, we bought a simple IKEA toddler bed that is longer than a normal toddler bed. She should easily fit in it until #3 comes along and everyone moves up.

    By the way, I love your decor.

  • denise

    i love the idea of the low bed, unfortunately my knees will not handle it. I have been looking for a lower profile bed frame but have not found what i want yet and building was my last option. I like how you reused the Ikea bed base and will look into that. Thanks for another interesting post that makes me think!

    • MelD

      Aren’t a lot of European (and therefore Ikea) beds lower than typical US and UK beds? Perhaps you’d find something lower there without being on the floor.
      We can’t seem to get high beds at all, though when we put our thick Swiss mattress and slats on an Ikea metal-frame bed it actually did make it much higher than it is in the store (the dog couldn’t jump on it if she tried and even the old cat struggles…!).
      I like having a high, old-fashioned (but simple) bedframe with plenty of air below but when we move up to the large double-height attic space of our little house (when the last daughter leaves…) we plan to have a bigger bed lower to the floor. Our present bedroom is too small for anything but the smallest double (4’6″) and my husband is 6’4″.

  • My husband and I are preparing the family home to sell.
    We have gotten rid of most of our possessions and are living only with what we absolutely need until we move out.

    We needed to sort out a comfortable bed as we both have problems with our backs (we work too hard). We put a cotton stuffed mattress (designed for folks with severe allergies) on the floor – it is quite dense – and added a 4″ memory foam topper from Walmart to put on top.
    It’s like sleeping on a cloud.

    The only other bed that is just as comfortable is the one in our travel trailer – again,
    a dense mattress with memory foam on top.

    We highly recommend “camping out” with this minimalist set up.

    Oh, and by the way, we make the bed with a double sleeping bag on the bottom, a cotton comforter on top and a fleece backed velvet blanket on top of that, plus pillows. We found that we don’t need sheets if we sleep on top of the sleeping bag and under the cotton comforter. Everything is washable and I can make the bed in 5 minutes.

    For those with back/knee problems there is a clever way to get out of a low bed: you get on your side, then roll onto all fours, then roll onto your feet and stand up slowly. A good chiropractor can show you how to do this.

  • Verena

    I love simple minimalist beds, and think floor beds are great for children so they can get in and out easily, and no worries for parents too!
    However, I think adults don’t need a floor bed to be minimalist – we’re all able to get in and out of a normal bed easily, and a simple bed frame can be beautiful

  • J

    Cribs are made for Mom’s back and confinement of baby..Your homemade bed is a brilliant next step!!! I would probably like one too, but being old, I am not sure how well I could get up out of it in the morning! hahaha My dog and cat sleep on the foot of my bed, and it would probably be good for my little dog, because then I could get rid of the stairs on the far side of the bed. Great idea! J

  • Kaity

    Miss Plumblossom is so fortunate to have Miss Minimalist for her mom! That bedroom is serene yet fun, safe but wide open for adventure. How fortunate not to have her mind filled with pre-fab concepts like ‘You are a princess’ or ‘We are rich and ride horses’ or ‘We are bohemian’or ‘We are invested in movie themes’. Ugh. From the looks of it, Plumblossom can be herself. Congratulations!

  • Diane

    I am also a fan of simple beds and I am a 60+ woman.
    I have sleep apnea. That diagnosis comes with a CPAP machine that pumps air into me when I stop breathing so that my brain continues to receive oxygen and so that I am not aroused and am able to get restorative sleep. I have learned to live with this out of necessity but the CPAP requires that it be below the level of the bed for best use. A man I used to date agreed to build a bed for me as I have particular design aesthetics (simple and streamlined). It is a basic queen sized bed on a platform with two side tables that can be adjusted but that slide into and out of the bed frame so that they themselves don’t have legs on them. I don’t think my description is adequate. However, the bed frame itself is metal that he welded together based on my design. Anyway, it is a beautiful and simple piece of furniture that is relatively low and unfussy.

  • Diane

    I love your solution to the floor bed~ it is lovely, simple & practical. My sons are grown, but I’m saving this as a reminder to show them when they have kids someday. It looks like something that would appeal to them and they are easily capable of building it.

    We have simple bed bases here that don’t require box springs, but they are a bit higher. We are not at an age where we want to get from the floor during the night. I’d love to see photos of the bed you & your husband are using!

  • Chandra

    “…no Montessori home would be complete without a floor bed.”

    Could you please explain what a Montessori style home is? I read this post all the way through even though I do not have children because we haven’t decided yet if we will or not. I am curious since you have mentioned Montessori a few times now what it entails. And I apologize if it is something you have already addressed. :)

    I will say that if we every did have a little one, I would absolutely want to do something like this. My husband and I sleep on a low platform bed and really love it.

  • Rachel H.

    Such a lovely bed! I would have liked to do something like that for my daughters, but I have seen some freakishly large spiders running across the floor in the farmhouse we are living in, and I prefer a bit of space between them and my sleeping children. As for my bed, it is a Tempurpedic and has been the only thing to spare my back, especially during pregnancies. So it’s huge, and the minimalist in me resents that, but better that than back pain.

    Thanks for the post!

  • Jane

    I co slept with my daughter (just the way that worked for us) in a massive traditional bed and then found Miss Minimalist early last year. Woo hoo! I chopped the bed into a floor bed just before my girl could roll properly. We then made a floor bed, Montessori style, like this one out of the crib/cot bed we never used. We have the beds side by side and will eventually sleep in different rooms when given the nudge. We’ve had floor beds for over a year and love it. So thank you. It’s another choice and it’s worked great for us. Best wishes from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, UK.

  • Heather

    My bed is a mattress on the floor. I used to have the whole bedframe/box spring/mattress deal, but found that I prefer the way having just a mattress makes me feel like the room is bigger. My family laughs at me, but I love it – and it makes it easy for my cats to get into the bed to sleep with me. :)

  • That is awesome and I love it! We have our own minimalist bed. We sleep Japanese style. We have a queen size futon that we trifold during the day so lots of floor space in the bedroom. At night we unfold and put sheets and our “silk” comforter on with no animals harmed. It is instead made with mulberry I believe. We also use the traditional buckwheat hull pillows.
    My daughter has slept on this since she was about 6 months old and has slept with us since birth. Now she is ready for her own room and I have a comforter that she can use to sleep on the floor.

  • Liz

    Love this idea! Our girls were in cribs until one of them was able to climb in and out at will at which point we just left the side down. (I know they don’t have those drop rail cribs anymore but we had hand me downs) One of our twins would have slept in her crib forever I think so we were actually happy when with a little coaching we actually got her to crawl out of it a couple of times, lol. Maybe we’re just nuts… But we got them beds from Ikea on vacation 2 years ago and although not quite this low they are far lower than any other frame we found and because they are length adjustable we just put the two of them together in the middle of the room they share and it has made for much more pleasant bedtimes. Who knew? Our own bed is a log bed that we bought to replace my old “princess” bed-4 post canopy queen sized really super high bed that I was afraid they’d fall off of. Turns out with the platform and new mattress the log bed was even higher! Our solution was to nix the platform and put the mattress and box spring on the floor. Turned out to be the perfect height to allow little people to crawl in and out of without fear of falling off. Banging our head on the side rail while jumping about? Well, that’s another matter entirely… Ouch! Thankfully real wood gives. :)

  • Amy

    I’ve slept on a futon or mattress on the floor for most of my life. Then last year we bought some tatami mats for our floor and were just sleeping on them. A few months ago we started just laying a blanket on the ground and sleeping on it. My husband and 2 of the 3 children do the same thing. Our 13.5 year old sleeps on his LoveSac, he’s got the super sac.

  • Nicole

    My children slept in a crib until just over 1 year old, then I just put a normal single mattress on the floor for them. I wanted a floor bed also but my husband wouldn’t hear of it so we compromised with a low bed frame. ;)

  • pinkangelgirl

    We have tried to implement the Montessori idea for our daughter’s room but not our whole house. She has had a floor bed (mattress) since she was about 1 and loves it. Fortunately we don’t need to worry about mold in this home. However i love your bed style, it’s really cute and yet still simple. Our adult bed is futon slat base with a mattress and i love not having bulky headboards and side tables etc. This was one of the first changes i made when we downsized and decluttered. Francine thanks for sharing and giving us a glimpse of your real life, it really helps with the practical aspects of our everyday life.

  • Love this! I often wished I had done a platform for a futon in my home but it would’ve been unrealistic. There is too much dirt on the floor as I’m surrounded by open land with strong breezes. Also potential for critters running around (centipedes, scorpions or cane spiders as I’m in Hawaii). But I’ve always loved a very simple low bed design. I would’ve loved that bed as a child. It’s very cozy to curl up and look at books or listen to music.

    I saw someone’s question about calling a bed minimalist. Minimalism originally referred to design, not a lifestyle. A design that was pared down and limited to the essentials. Therefore, it is more than appropriate to use the term minimal to a piece of furniture.

  • Lei

    My most favorite thing about this type of bed setup is that there is no room to store things under it.

    • Kurkela

      Yep. But the dust, oh, the dust under the bed… and you have to raise it up every time you clean, because the vacuum cleaner does not reach conveniently… This is the reason why our family has either beds right on the floor (for our teens) or the beds raised sufficiently to be able to clean under them without daily weightlifting. Home is not a workhouse, nobody likes unnecessary effort when cleaning.
      By the way, it is interesting that children and teens like to play on the floor and to sleep as close to the floor as possible.

  • Anna D.

    My experience with my 2.5 year old toddler has been the following:
    I borrowed a bassinet from a friend, which I was happy to give back since I didn’t *love* it and eventually my son started “rolling” to either side, um, no thanks. I am glad I didn’t buy this “must-have” myself.
    Then we were given an awesome secondhand crib from the same friend which was later converted to a toddler bed.
    Not long after that we decided to purchase a twin bed sans head/foot boards for our son.
    In the meantime, we put his crib mattress on the ground. While we do have his mattress and box-spring on a simple bed frame, I found that a fitted sheet and blanket are all he needs…well, a few beloved stuffed animals and bed time story never hurt;) If I could do it all over, I would have co-slept more and then gone straight to a twin bed on the floor. P.S. Love the bed-slat hack!

  • The bedroom looks cozy and serene, just as one should be! This is something I’d consider for me or future-kiddos. I’ll have to read up on those resources you linked to as I’m curious to learn more about the reasoning behind this concept, how a low bed is beneficial, etc. Thanks for the pictures – it’s always such a highlight to get a small peek into your world!

  • Anne

    Read through it and loved it despite my only child being well past the age of majority ;-) I have always been a floor-sleeper advocate, but like this even better. Brilliantly done!

  • Kari

    We did the floor mattress thing with our kids. It just made sense, when they got too big for cribs, to put a twin-size mattress on the floor until they were old enough not to fall out of a higher bed. As for an adult bed, why does minimalist have to mean low? We have a very simple bed, but it’s at a normal height. Much easier for middle-age folks like us to get in and out of.

    • cynthia

      Probably because you omit the box springs, footboard and headboard. There are less things and it sits lower as a result. Less = minimal.

  • Elizabeth

    I found an inexpensive, simple hardwood platform bed from a company called World of Futons on ebay similar the one you built ($99 for twin+ shipping). We easily cut the legs down to make it lower for our daughter when she was little. We liked it so much we replaced every bed in the house!
    http://www.ebay.com/itm/NEW-WOOD-PLATFORM-BED-FRAME-Twin-Size-Solid-Hardwood-/350639586430?pt=US_Bed_and_Bed_Frames&hash=item51a3bf7c7e

  • Another Diane

    I am one who doesn’t have kids but read through the whole blog. What a great idea that was — I just might copy it for my bedroom in my next move!

  • Angela

    I love this! I will keep this in mind for our toddler. I don’t know why I didn’t think of it! When one of our older children transitioned from toddler bed to twin and didn’t like the high day bed, we got a used ikea platform like yours, and he still sleeps on it and loves the low bed!

  • Samantha Taylor

    Oh my Gosh!
    This is exactly what I have been looking for for my beds…. I want these for all of us. Only thing I would change is I want wheels on my bases so I can move them to clean under the beds… Vacuum and mop.
    I have searched and googled but found not a lot of info and I was thinking of buying second hand beds and refashioning them to get what I wanted. But this is just what I want. Now I just need to make a trip to ikea!
    I don’t like headboards generally but I like how you’ve done yours…. Looks like a low sofa and looks very versatile… All three of you could cuddle up for story time on that bed as there is no restrictive side bits… my kids current beds are fine for now but very hard to move and I just want simple floor beds for all of us…. I like to keep a very simple house, I too love my white walls and basic furniture pieces… My kids have only the few toys they play with and they spend a lot of time outdoors in the garden using twigs and leaves as part of their games. Having a simple home with simple things has added to my children’s simple lives. They are better off with simple practical toys and everyday objects found around the home have always been far more interesting to them anyway. I don’t have to spend $30 on a toy drum when they can have the whole kit with a wooden spoon and a couple of pots…. My kids go to a school in the country run by Australian author John Marsden. I’ve heard of the Montessori school, my friends daughter went to one and really loved it. My kids school is very hands on learning and all about learning in the natural environment…. It is a wonderful school with great values and the environment in which they learn is breathtaking. If you are ever in Australia in Melbourne it will be worth a visit just to see a little of how the school runs.
    Went a little off track – sorry :)
    I love the Bed!

  • Caylen

    great idea; thanks for sharing! i don’t have kids but you’re right, this would make a great adult bed as well! can double as a sofa, too, and what’s more minimalist than a contemporary-looking, low-cost piece of furniture that serves multiple purposes? :)

  • Does she use a blanket to stay warm?

  • Emma

    My bedframe is second-hand (at least, probably has been through more than one owner) and was made in about 1850 in France. We bought a good mattress and have two sets of bed linen. One for on the bed, one for the wash. Perfectly minimalist. There is no way I would swap that for sleeping on the floor. I’ve done before as a student and living in Japan. How do you deal with lifting up both the mattress and the bedframe to clean under there. Just wait until she gets to her teenage years and you find lots of rubbish under there….. And yes, that does happen to montessori children too!

    One thing I would add and I mean this very sincerely is please beware of falling into traps of labelling children. Having a montessori ‘lifestyle’ and bringing up your child in the montessori style may be more worthy and worthwhile but it’s still a label.

  • Francine, that is adorable! I’ve found that our Beanie loves a simply-appointed bedroom (although we’ve got WAY too many thrift store toys right now). Simplicity agrees with developing brains.

    I can see you writing “The Joy of Less–Parents’ Version” in the near future. ;-)

  • Sue

    Great idea! Did you use more than 3 rails or am I missing something?

  • Sara

    Peaceful atmosphere is said to be inducive to good sleep and I must agree with that, having been a troubled sleeper for years. For years I used to be able to sleep at any time, anywhere with the lights on and so on, but that changed at some point, and simple surroundings in the bedroom have helped get things in balance. Although we’re not sleeping on the floor anymore at the moment, our futon is simple and the bed frame is also a basic wooden one and that’s the way we like it. Our bedroom is minimalist also because there’s not much extra room for anything other than the bed.:D

  • Noemie

    Why not have the mattress on the floor, and forgo the bed base entirely?

    Minimalist, easy to flip up out of the way for extra space/cleaning/changing sheets, good for the back. I’ve slept on either a futon or mattress on the floor for most of my life and enjoy it.

    It also makes moving much easier, since there’s no bed to transport.

  • Anne S.

    My husband and I sleep on a queen size Japanese futon. I love that we never have to replace it as they last a lifetime as long as we air it in the sun a few times a year and fill it if it becomes to “flat” side note: we mixed the filler with socks that were past their mending days making me smile that it was one less thing in our landfill and aided to my sleep.

  • Megan

    Hi Francine, i love this toddler bed! My daughter has been sleeping on a single japanese bed with tatami mats underneath. However now that it is winter and she is 3.5yrs old I was wanting to put her into a raised bed because of mold concerns. I was wondering if Plumblossom is still in this bed or outgrown it? Would love to see pics of her room!

  • Kathy

    How did you make the cushions/headboards against the wall? What did you use??? Thank you!!!

  • Elina

    HI, Could you, please, tell me where i can purchase these wooden rails? Thank YOU

  • Diz

    Couldn’t agree more with the bedroom being a place of calm. I cannot understand why anyone would have a TV in their bedroom other than as a place to escape from their partner. If it came to that I’d rather not have a partner.

    I’m on a mission to ‘lose’ half of what I own right now, it’s just making me miserable. Too many clothes for one thing, but happily I have a new man in my life who isn’t afraid to help me decide what looks good and what doesn’t work, and I adore him for it. He’s not minimalist but his home isn’t cluttered, and he’s bonded closely with family and friends. I’m striving for less is more of what he has please!

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>