Montessori inspired spaces for your home
Whether your child attends a Montessori program or not, there are major benefits to informing yourself about the tenets of a Montessori environment, and even creating a Montessori inspired space for your child at home.
With the help of Beth Bayfield, M.Ed, of Little Acorn Consulting, I’d like to share the hallmarks of a Montessori inspired space along with their benefits. Even as a Montessori trained teacher myself, I’ve realized that I didn’t plan my daughter’s nursery with Montessori in mind. For example, with the exception of one lower toy & book shelf in her room, she can’t easily access her own things. She’s a young toddler now and I’m definitely brainstorming ways I can put these ideas into practice to improve her bedroom and her play area at home.
- A Montessori space is simple, free of clutter and orderly. Montessori classrooms have space between materials on the shelves, and teachers will put less out and simply switch things out when needed. You will not see an excessive amount of bright colors, artwork, or any busy posters in most Montessori classroom settings. Likewise for the home, when you de-clutter and have a more limited number of toys and books available, a child can more easily focus and treat their belongings with care. Leave space between items on shelves, don’t overdecorate, and don’t have every toy and book they own out for them at all times. Store some away, and switch out if you think they are getting antsy for change. But in general, we are in the habit of buying our kids much more than they need. Often they no longer focus on what they have, being overstimulated, they tire of something quickly because of distraction by something else. They also carelessly toss around what they have when it’s all put away in a seemingly bottomless bin of toys! They will clean up better after themselves when they have less to manage. So in summary — a limited number of items on their shelves is actually calming, encourages order, focus and care of their possessions.
2. A Montessori space must be accessible to maximize your child’s independence within it. It must contain child sized furniture and appropriately low shelves. It must contain developmentally appropriate items for them. Beth Bayfield, M.Ed, says “When creating a space for your child, focus on supporting your child’s independence and understand that you will need to trust them and their process. There will be spills. There will be crumbs. Everything is washable, even children!” Children are on an innate quest for increasing independence — it is their mission as they develop. Helping them be as independent as possible in their own home will only help you raise happier children. I’m all for happy and less tantrums (I don’t think there’s a way around tantrums all together, as they are just developmentally necessary!).
3. Montessori favored natural materials (wood shelves, tables, chairs, over synthetic), which can be expensive. Don’t dwell on this one too much if it’s just out of the price range, although I would highly encourage anyone to explore the joys of amateur carpentry! My husband has gotten into it and it’s been so amazing for our home! The low Montessori shelves I have mentioned are not difficult to build. Chairs may be more tricky, but I wouldn’t know — I’m not the woodworker of the family. The benefits of the natural materials are many — they are longer lasting, they are more aesthetically pleasing, they have that feel of weight and durability that makes one take better care with them, etc.
So my plan, if you’re interested, is to have my husband build low shelves for our front room which, due to the fact that we never bought a formal dining table, has been dubbed “the playroom”. It’s got a lot of things on the floor against the wall, and one sort of bucket style toy bin. I’m a Montessori teacher, I should be ashamed of myself. When these shelves are built I plan to organize puzzles and other types of toys on them that are developmentally appropriate for my daughter, leaving gaps and space so it is orderly and manageable for her to put things away by herself. I will stow away or give away extras. I will be finding (or also making husband build) a table and chair sized for her, as she is now very interested in scribbling and other more table appropriate kinds of endeavors. I also plan to adjust her crib which she never uses into her toddler bed, and make her clothing and other items more accessible to her to foster her independence. Stay tuned for pictures of these updates, I suppose!