Okay...I promised a post on our floor bed and the whole deal with floor beds in general. Honestly right now as I start this post I don't know a ton about them. Staci does because friends of her's have used them and she read the book Montessori from the Start...plus it follows tenets of the Montessori philosophy which she teaches. I've absorbed some of the info from her and such but we'll learn together as I wade through some websites.
That all being the case think of this as a Cliffs Notes version of floor beds...and I have learned from experience that teaches are correct that you can't pass the test by reading the Cliffs Notes alone.
It's easy to explain what it is...just a crib mattress on the floor. You can add a floor bed frame, which is a 3 sided wood frame, but people we've talked to see them as a waste and a place for shins to bang into. You also need to set up the room so it's a completely safe place...every thing at reach is age appropriate...hide stray cords and all around baby proof the room and place a baby gate at the door.
We found it a bit hard to design a room aesthetic around a floor bed as we're used to matching furniture to cribs...and height of shelves and such are therefore taller.
The why of floor beds is harder to explain. Basically it allows the child to explore his/her environment on their own.
When a child can roam free and explore their whole environment he/she really gets a good sense of who they are in the world which helps him/her gain self confidence. It allows the child to satisfy it's need for tactile stimulation from their environment.
Not only does it help children get a great sense of independence, it can keep parents from having to get up early while the child cries to get out of a crib...I like this part. A child can go to sleep and get out of bed at will. Once up the child keep him/herself occupied in it's safe environment while the parents know the child is OK and confined to the room via the baby gate.
If you use a floor bed you should transition around the same time you are planning on putting the baby in a crib, so after a bassinet, moses basket etc. It's really just used instead of a crib.
The most frequently asked question is what happens if the baby falls out of the bed. The mattress is about 4-5 inches high and once they are able to wiggle themselves out of the bed they are okay with the tiny drop. I've seen pictures of children sleeping halfway on the bed and half on the floor. Again it's not really a problem.
Like I said that's just grazing the surface behind floor beds. If you want more info you can check out that book Montessori from the Start, or one of these sites; montessori.edu, Michael Olaf or montessori.org.
If you still have more questions you can ask below and I'll try to have Staci answer them.