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How to Make Your Home Montessori-Friendly

These design ideas are equal parts eye-catching and educational

Words by Kristen Brzoza | Photos by Arlene Laboy

I love working with families and showing them how, with a few small changes, the Montessori philosophy can make an immediate impact on their child’s play. Children learn best in a clutter-free environment with a limited number of toys and activities available.

No matter if you have a playroom or a designated corner of your living room, a prepared environment can be a meaningful place that brings joy and meets your little one’s developmental needs. When materials, books and toys are easily accessible, your child can gravitate toward their interests, giving them autonomy over their learning and play. Here are five simple ways to incorporate a Montessori approach into your own home:

Opt for Open, Low Shelving

Ideally, anything in your space will promote independence, and that includes where your toys and activities are located. In traditional playrooms, it’s typical to see large bins or baskets containing a mix of toys all thrown together. It may seem like these bins lead to organization, but it’s too many choices — something that can easily distract little ones. By displaying toys individually on an open shelf, it allows your child to see exactly what’s available, entices them to engage and shows them where items belong when it’s time to be put away.

Invest in Natural Wooden Toys

One of the most noticeable things you will find in a Montessori environment is how soothing, calm and minimal the space feels. When it comes to toys, there is a lack of bright colors, flashing lights or loud sounds. Features like these offer immediate gratification, but they also tend to limit problem-solving skills and imaginative play (not to mention get on the parents’ nerves). Montessori toys are often made of natural materials like wood, so they are beautiful, durable and tactile. Because the outside world can often lead to overstimulation and constant input, toys that promote a more peaceful and sustained play space can be wonderfully beneficial to a child’s development.

Choose a Forward-Facing Bookshelf

It’s important to have books available at a child’s level so they can easily access them. Since younger kids can’t read, a low shelf or ledge allows them to see the cover and prevents them from dumping books on the floor if they’re searching for a specific one. Try to keep the number of books minimal to make cleanup more manageable, and add a few floor cushions or a child-sized chair to create an inviting reading nook.

Provide Gross Motor Opportunities

If space allows, provide an area for indoor physical activity and climbing since babies and toddlers were made to move. By giving them a “yes” place to do that, we encourage their gross motor skills while also providing them an area to explore safely. Another perk: It redirects those babes who love to climb the coffee table or other off-limits furniture.

A good starting point is a Pikler triangle. It’s a favorite play structure because it encourages little ones to challenge their physical skills at their own pace. Kids begin using it by pulling to stand, move on to climbing and eventually navigate scaling the top. It gives children confidence in their own abilities independent of their parents.

Set Up A Functional Kitchen

Pretend kitchens are a mainstay in most play spaces, but in the Montessori world, we take it up a notch by encouraging children to actively prepare food and drink for themselves. By giving access to a small water source, even young toddlers can independently get a drink whenever they need to. Small dishes, utensils and rags for cleanup provide all the materials necessary to make a snack or wipe up spills. This is an easy Ikea hack, but many play kitchens can be modified to function similarly.

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