by Laura Berthiaume August 15, 2022 3 min read
Montessori at home can be tricky. There's a lot of info online that's really meant for the classroom environment.
The reality is that the home environment is very different from the classroom - with a teacher, a group of peers, a more structured day, etc.
Plus, at home you're likely to have more than just Montessori materials, which is a good thing! More about that in this previous post > The #1 Open-Ended Toy On Our Shelf
If you're trying to set up your home like a classroom, you might end up frustrated when it's not perfect... or your child has a birthday party and are given a bunch of "non-Montessori" toys.
Don't give up! This is easier than you think.
There is a way to set up your playroom that aligns with Montessori without stressing about how perfection.
But first, one quick note:
The difference between Montessori materials and toys (skip this section if you already know)
Montessori materials are essentially hands-on educational "toys" that focus on developing specific skills (i.e. fine motor skills, problem solving, etc). They have a clearly defined purpose, with a beginning, middle, and end to the activity. A puzzle is a simple example.
With that explanation in mind, non-Montessori toys can be used in a Montessori way. It’s all in how you prepare them for and present them to the child.
Here's 4 easy ways to set up a Montessori aligned playroom at home:
1. Create Order and Easy Access
A bin full of toys can be overwhelming and distracting to a child. Imagine looking for a toy car in the bottom of a bin full of miscellaneous toys, before you know it the activity becomes the child loudly riffling through the bin, throwing things they don’t need and forgetting what they were looking for in the first place.
When the car they want can be easily found in a basket on the shelf (with 2 other types of vehicles) then the child can get to playing with it right away.
At home you can use any types of trays, baskets, boxes, bowls, or containers to keep each activity organized.
Put one activity per tray or basket so that everything the child needs can be found in one place.
Larger toys (ones that are too heavy or large for the child to carry) should be kept on the shelf or in an area of the room where the child can work with it.
In Montessori Classrooms, infants and toddlers are welcome to work directly on the shelf if they want to so don't stress if your child wants to use something like this right on the shelf > https://themontessoriroom.com/products/multi-raceway-ball-track.
If the activity includes loose parts, keep them in a container to the left of the toy. Working from left to right creates muscle memory for later reading and writing.
Here is an example of a non-Montessori toy set up in a Montessori way >
2. Limit The Amount of Toys Available at One Time
This helps the child to focus on what is available rather than being overwhelmed by choice, it also allows for rotation of toys which can keep toys interesting for longer periods of time.
Here's a helpful post about how and when to rotate toys, if you're new to this idea > Why Toy Rotation is the Key To a Beautiful Playroom (and Your Sanity!)
3. Simplify The Activity (So That You Set Your Child Up For Success)
Sometimes an activity may have too many pieces and can feel overwhelming your child. For instance, our beginner beading set has 12 beads but during the initial introduction, it's best to start with 3 beads and then gradually add more as the child grows more comfortable with the activity.
This also helps to set them up for success when it comes time to tidy up. A big mess with a lot of pieces is an overwhelming sight. You may have more success getting your child to help tidy up when there are fewer pieces.
4. To Pique The Child’s Interest, Deconstruct The Activity Before Putting It On The Shelf
For example remove puzzle pieces from the board and put them in a basket to the left of the puzzle. This invites the child to "complete" the activity. Because of a toddler’s need for order they will feel compelled to put it back together.
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