If love the orderliness and independence the Montessori method promotes, you’ll love having a Montessori home which will help promote these traits in your children. You can make many areas of your house child-friendly by changing the children’s bedroom, schoolroom, and garden surroundings.
Contents of this article:
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- Setting up a Montessori Home
- Toys and Games
- Mistakes you can Make When Looking at Materials and Setting up Your Home
- Cheaper Versions of Expensive Montessori Materials
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Setting up a Montessori Home
When setting up your Montessori home, you want to keep in mind a couple of overarching themes, namely:
- Less is more – don’t give too many choices of activities or books, and don’t clutter the room. Store excess playthings in a cupboard.
- See the room as the child does – get down on their level and make sure students can see the things you want them to see. This will also help you see the clutter.
At the end of this section, we’ll look at identifying when you have too many materials. However, now it will be useful to look at seeing a space or room as a child does.
Seeing Your Montessori Home Like Children Do
Get down on a child’s level and look at the room. By sitting down you can observe objects you need to move (like cords) or excess rubbish or clutter in the room.
In the video further down the page, the presenter asks us to consider if the artwork and indoor plants in the room are only for the adults (that is, at the adult’s height), or are there artworks and/or plants on the children’s level. If everything is at the adult’s height, consider moving pictures closer to the ground.
Montessori Homeschooling Room (Schoolroom)
In the homeschooling room where children do their schoolwork, you can have:
- a low-lying bookcase – any bookcase that is designed for a child to access at his or her own height will be fine. Make sure you place books facing outwards so the front covers are visible instead of just the spines. Also, put toys on the shelves using a limited selection.
- other child-size furniture such as a table and chairs for children to easily access.
- a mat where children can bring activities and play with them on the floor. This also helps them localize their mess to the mat.
- plenty of indoor plants to make a pleasant and lovely space for children. They’ll love watering them too!
- some drying racks for paintings
These ideas will help children learn adult skills on a child’s level. By the time they’re able to reach adult equipment, they’ll know exactly what to do with them.
The Montessori Bookshelf
When you’re setting up your bookshelf, pay special attention to the way the front covers face. You want the covers to face outwards so children can admire the books and get excited about reading.
Keep in mind that less is more and you only want to display a limited number of books at once. Too much choice is confusing for small children.
If you buy a modular bookshelf, you can put books in some sections and baskets or modular storage cubes in other sections. The baskets can house smaller items such as pencils or small games that children can play with on their mat.
The cheaper version of a Montessori bookshelf is a few wooden boxes on the floor where you can stack books so children can flick through them easily and see the covers. This means that their books are still neat and you’re still encouraging them to be orderly.
Child-Size Montessori Furniture
You can usually buy child-size furniture from a store like IKEA or Office Works.
In this video, the presenter shows us a child-size chair which is only 22cm high, a child-size table only 37cm high and child-size shelves only 35cm high.
In the Montessori kitchen
Every Montessori home needs a great kitchen area. Items to make things easier for your children in their kitchen include:
- a water dispenser with a tray and cups,
- cleaning cloths for any spills that might result,
- chopping boards to deal with food items,
- utensils and napkins,
- aprons for preventing food spillage on clothing,
- a laundry basket for used aprons and spill cloths,
- child-sized dustpan, broom, mop, and any other relevant cleaning equipment,
- a compost bucket for any food scraps and,
- snacks children can serve themselves.
You can put all these items on or under a child-size shelf in the kitchen where children can get what they need. Have a small stepping stool for children will assist them to reach the sink area.
If you have the budget, you can buy a child-size Montessori kitchenette, complete with tap and removable plastic sink. You could also install hooks and handrails for drying aprons and washcloths near the kitchen area.
The Montessori Bedroom
Typically a toddler’s bed is low to the ground, assisting children in safely entering and exiting the bed. This increases their independence at bedtime and means children can transition from the cot at an earlier age than is usually possible.
Of course, if you don’t want to buy an expensive bed, you can just put the cot mattress on the floor. It’s not quite as cute, but it serves a similar purpose and is more affordable.
The Montessori bedroom should be an inviting place for children with appealing wall art and a limited selection of toys. Wall art can include pictures or hanging decorations like bunting or pom-poms. Also, include some live indoor plants to make the space even more appealing. (Keep in mind that Montessori homes should be colorful places.)
Think about including a bookshelf, small table, and chairs, couch or armchair (and some rugs if you have floorboards). For fun, you can include some round log offcuts (only a few inches tall) for children to jump across in the room. Consider other fun objects like a climbing apparatus, or some Montessori climbing stairs.
Every Montessori Home Should Have a Mat
Also, include a mat for children to bring their toys or activities to play on. The mat can be any type – hessian, fur, or any different mat you can find. On the importance of the mat, I read this from a teacher:
I always love the first few days of school when I present to my group how to roll and unroll a mat. I present with silence and preciseness and the students watch very intently. I show them how we carefully take a floor mat from the basket, hold it with two hands and set it down on the carpet. Once the mat is on the carpet, we carefully unroll it (despite many children wanting to flap it out in midair)! I then demonstrate how to walk around it (heel to toe), being careful not to step on the mat… When I show them how to roll it up again, I pay great attention to keeping the sides even as I roll. I then admire my tightly rolled mat and use two hands to return it to the basket. I always choose a few returning Montessori students to go through the steps while the remainder of the group patiently watches and anxiously awaits their turn. We talk about the importance of placing our work on the floor mat (not our bodies) and the importance of walking around the mats (not on them).
What a great way to foster order and coordination in children – two key aims of this type of education!
It’s easy to get caught up in designing indoor spaces. However, the garden is a very important part of the Montessori environment. This is because it’s a calming space where children can learn independence and responsibility as they tend plants and grow their vegetables.
Your Montessori garden should include:
- slightly raised vegetable garden beds – places where children can garden easily.
- walking labyrinth– this is basically a bunch of stones which combine to form a maze for children to find their way through
- stepping stones or wooden log offcuts to step over
- signs to prettily show the way
- vegetable labels to indicate what’s growing in the garden and
- obstacle courses, climbing ladders, and stone walkways.
Of course, you don’t have to have everything in your Montessori garden, but these ideas provide some brief ideas.
The Exciting Vegetable Garden
Children will love helping you water the garden, plant new flowers or vegetables, and pick fruits from trees. You’ll probably find your students will ask you constantly about the produce in the garden, impatiently waiting until it is grown or ripe. What fun, and what endless hours of fascination!
Mistakes you can Make When Setting up a Montessori Home
There are a couple of mistakes parents commonly make when they start setting up their Montessori homes. These are being too hasty when purchasing materials and having too many of these materials. Let’s talk about these mistakes below in more detail.
Being too hasty to purchase Montessori Materials
In Pitfalls of Montessori Homeschooling, the presenter looks at one of the biggest pitfalls of setting up a Montessori home which is buying materials too quickly.
The presenter says not to be too hasty about buying materials because some of these toys won’t be used by children and they’ll sit on the shelf, becoming only expensive toys carrying dust. Make sure you’re going to buy them and children will use them correctly…see the video linked above for more details.
Also, if you’re too hasty to make a purchase, you may become bitter towards this type of education, thinking it is only an expensive waste of money. Why not avoid this mistake by using some cheaper alternatives and constructing a few DIY activities?
Having Too Many Montessori Materials
You can easily overwhelm children with too many materials, so start from scratch and put away all the existing toys, then add only add about six Montessori activities back in – and make them good ones.
Then you need to rotate these activities every week (and leave in the ones they are still using and interested in).
Cheap Montessori Materials for Your Montessori Home
You can avoid these mistakes somewhat by purchasing cheap materials from a $2-shop. In the above video, the presenter says you can substitute the following expensive Montessori materials with the cheap options outlined below.
The cheap version of the:
- salt tray can be a low profile plastic containers with salt, sand, rice or colored sprinkles
- spindle box can be magnetic number cutouts and some wooden popsicle sticks or dowels to be used for the counters.
- counters can be magnetic numbers and flashcards with numerals on each card plus marbles or glass pebbles for the counters.
- pouring pitcher is a plastic jug
- transfer bowls (for transfer activities) can be small plastic containers with spouts. Then buy beans or rice so they can be transferred to and fro.
You can also buy some great cheap materials for your Montessori home like a:
- dustpan and broom for children to sweep their own messes
- washcloths for practice folding
- vases and fake flowers to practice flower arranging and
- socks to practice folding socks
As you can see, these suggestions show us we can use many ordinary household items as substitutes for expensive toys.
A Montessori home is a great way to bring this amazing educational method into your children’s everyday life. Some of the basic skills Maria Montessori valued – namely order, concentration, coordination, and cooperation – are incorporated into these ideas about the Montessori home, kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom. In addition, you can also have a tremendous amount of fun building your spaces – not to mention the amount of enjoyment you and your children will have living in and working in these spaces!