Creating a Montessori Space at Home
The prepared environment is a crucial cornerstone of Montessori education. It is a carefully prepared space that is designed to encourage children to explore, develop independence and concentration, and find joy in learning. You can easily set up a Montessori space anywhere in your home following a few simple guidelines. The key is to create a ‘yes space’ where your child can work independently.
Create an Ordered Space
The key to the prepared environment is a sense of order. This means that everything has its place. In your child’s play space use the mantra “does it have a place?” If it doesn’t, store it, or give it away if it doesn’t have a purpose.
Restrict the number of toys and activities that your child has available. Begin by sorting your child’s toys into types i.e. cooking, dress ups, soft toys, musical instruments. Place these into tubs, baskets, or containers. Make six available. Favour activities that are wooden and educational. Remove toys that are plastic and ‘sing and dance’ as these remove the child’s independence and ability to entertain and educate themselves.
Rotate half your child’s activities every 2-4 weeks. If you find your child isn’t using a container or tub, you may choose to rotate it after only two weeks. If you child uses one or more tubs every day, allow them to remain in the rotation for a longer period. Observe your child’s interests and rotate accordingly.
Low Open Shelves
The next thing you need is low open shelves. This could be an IKEA or Kmart cube-styled bookshelf, a shoe rack, or the lowest shelves on a bookcase. The most important thing is to have an open space that children can independently approach, freely choose from, and explore in their own time. If you haven’t got a shelf handy, you can also use a coffee table or any child-sized table with a few baskets or containers of activities.
Containers and Baskets
To ensure that everything has a place, you should store activities in baskets, containers, or tubs. This makes it easier for your child to pack away.
Montessori spaces typically have neutral tones, no bright colours, and no central focal point. The reason for this is so that the child’s attention is on the activities.
Set your child up for success by providing them with child-sized tools. This may be a child-sized table and chair, a small washable rug, child-sized dustpan, and low open shelves that your child can reach. Where possible, everything in your Montessori space should cater to your child’s needs.
Real Life Tools
Where possible, give your child real life tools for practical life activities, such as ceramic jugs, metal spoons, and real glass or bowls. You can begin with plastic or melamine and slowly transition to more breakable items as your child’s competence develops.
Independence, Repetition & Practice
The most important thing about your Montessori space is to encourage independence, repetition, and practice. Children need the gift of time to repeat and practice in order to master skills and activities. They also need freedom of movement and choice to develop their independence and find joy in work.
Ideas to Extend Montessori Throughout the Home
- Low open shelves
- Child-sized table and chair
- Washable or wipe down rug
- Practical life activities
- Restricted choice of activities
- Activities in containers or baskets
- Real life tools
Living Room & Entry Way
- Child-sized cushions or seating
- Basket of activities
- Basket of books for quiet no-media time
- Rug to create a defined ‘yes space’ for children’s work
- Dedicated space for shoes and coats
- Step stool
- Accessible water or drinks station i.e. a drink dispenser and cup
- Child-sized plates, cups, and cutlery
- A dedicated space for snacks i.e. a low shelf in the pantry
- Child-sized chopping board and child-safe knife
- Child-sized gardening gloves
- Child-sized gardening tools i.e. shovel and rake
- Self-care basket or dedicated space with accessible sunscreen and a hat
- Accessible clothing with restricted choice
- Dedicated space for children’s shoes
- Self-care basket i.e. hair brush and tissues
- Dedicated rest space
- Book shelf
- Basket of quiet activities for older children
- Basket of toys for the bath
- Dedicated space for children’s self-care items i.e. a low shelf in the vanity or space on the bathroom caddy
- Basket of children’s self-care items i.e. comb, tooth brush, tooth paste, mirror
- Step stool
- Ladder and step stool with toilet training seat or potty
- Small bin for standing nappy changes and rubbish