I first became interested in Montessori when I was graduating college and looking for something to do with my life. I was interested in teaching, and the play-based method really appealed to me because I was raised with a lot of that. After college I took a course and became certified as a Montessori teacher.
After teaching for a few years I got married and had my little girl, and I knew that even though she wasn’t old enough to go to school, I could create a Montessori playroom for her.
After my success with creating my own at-home Montessori playroom, I want to share how to do that with all of you. If you’re interested in creating your own Montessori-style playroom, read on for how to do it.
You’ve probably heard the term “Montessori” before, but maybe you don’t know exactly what it means. The Montessori Method was developed by doctor and educator Maria Montessori in the early 1900s as a way to educate special needs children who at that time were relegated to asylums and treated as if they were less than human.
After observing them for a time, Montessori figured out a way to help them learn, and this method has been used ever since for educating not only special needs children but every child.
The Montessori method is based on the senses and self-directed activity. The method closely follows the developmental stages of the child and takes its cues from where the child is in his or her development.
Everything is age-appropriate and designed to allow the child to make creative and self-directed choices. Nearly everything in the Montessori method is hands-on and involves all of the senses in one way or another, since that is how small children learn.
In the Montessori method, everything the child does is called “work”. This is because small kids don’t differentiate between work and play, and Montessori play is a great way for them to learn many different skills.
Montessori activities cover all areas of learning, from motor skills to math to reading and more. The materials are always beautiful and real: Montessori classrooms always use real glass and metal and even sharp(ish) knives so that the children learn to be careful. The activities are carefully presented by the lead teacher the first time, and then after that the child is free to choose whatever work he or she wishes to use during the day.
Children generally start in Montessori around age 3, although there are programs for infants and toddlers, and some schools go up through high school. The most common age is 3 years old to 6. If you want to set up a babies’ playroom, you can start at any age! Just make sure you have age-appropriate Montessori toy items for your child to work with.
The elements of Montessori playrooms are very important and should in some way mimic a Montessori classroom. I’m going to explain what I mean by that below.
Montessori is all about the environment, called the “prepared environment”. This means that the space is prepared to foster the child’s independent learning and exploration. The Montessori inspired space should be soothing to the child, so use neutral colors and not too many.
Have a few beautiful pieces of art on the walls at height the child can easily see. Use small tables and chairs, and low shelves that the child can easily reach. Include a big pillow or cozy chair where your child can relax.
Keep only a few toys out at a time so your child doesn’t become overwhelmed with choices. The ideal number is 8-10 per toy rotation. If you have a lot of toys, just put them in storage and rotate them every few weeks or so. You can set up a toy rotation schedule to help you with that.
Keep an eye on what your child gravitates to most, which is easy to do with only a few baby toys. If something doesn’t get touched, put it away for another time, but if your child has a favorite, keep it out and rotate the others.
Going back to the prepared environment where everything fosters the child’s independent learning and exploration, the room needs to have furniture that is child-friendly or accessible at child’s level. You can find child-sized furniture at places like Ikea, or online at stores that specialize in Montessori furniture.
Provide plenty of work space for your child, including tables and chairs and floor space. Place rugs around the room for your child to work on. Keep objects and furniture to a minimum and as close to the walls as possible so there’s plenty of open space for your child to move around in. Movement is essential for the young child to work on their gross motor skills.
Nature is an important part of the Montessori method, as it is how kids learn about their world. If you can, include real plants and animals in your environment and natural furniture like a wooden shelf or table. Toys made from natural materials are good to have in the Montessori play space. When your child is able, they can take care of plants and animals, and they add beauty to the room.
If possible, choose a room that has plenty of windows and natural light. Young children love watching the changing weather and it helps them learn about nature and how it works. If your windows are too high for your little one, use a safe step stool when age-appropriate.
Montessori classrooms primarily use materials that are made out of natural materials such as wood, metal, and even glass and ceramic, rather than plastic. Don’t use toys that make noise or light up, and keep everything open-ended and engaging rather than entertaining.
You’ll find that your child spends much more time with toys that engage over toys that just entertain. Engaging toys stimulate all of the senses and allow the child to touch and manipulate them, which improves their concentration and problem solving apart from developing their gross motor skills.
It’s pretty easy to find learning-based toys these days even in regular stores. There are also a variety of websites that offer fun toys made from natural materials such as Lovevery, or you can purchase real Montessori materials from Montessori toy shops for a discounted price. Parents on a budget can find plenty of DIYs on Pinterest, or you can scour thrift stores and yard sales.
In a Montessori classroom, every material has a specific spot on the shelf, and kids learn to return their work to the same spot every time. Small children love routine and repetition and order, and they need that in their Montessori inspired environment.
They need help achieving that, though, so help your child out by creating a specific spot for each item. Keep everything that your child uses easily accessible on open shelving rather than in a toy box so they can see it and easily learn where everything goes in the playroom. Some parents make use of toy storage containers without lids that can be stored underneath the shelf.
A Montessori classroom usually has all of its materials out at once because there is such a wide variety of subjects and different children with different developmental stages. In your child’s playroom, though, this will be overwhelming.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t have a variety of items out at once, though. 8-10 items is a good number. Provide activities that engage your child’s different senses and developmental needs, as well as the skills that they are working on. Observe your child and see what toy he or she gravitates towards and switch out your activities accordingly.
Your baby will benefit greatly from a Montessori play area in your home, even if they don’t go to a Montessori school. The open space playroom provides a safe, simple, age-appropriate environment that will help your child develop his or her skills as well as concentration and independence.
Because everything is designed for them, babies can really engage with their environment and own it. The Montessori playroom setup starts your child on their way to becoming an independent, creative, and self-disciplined person and will help your little one develops his or her fine motor skills which are essential for learning to write later on.
Creating a Montessori inspired play space is actually simple. Now that you know the key elements of the playroom, it’s time to set one up with these tips!
- Designate a wide cozy space or play area for infants near windows. Make sure you have plenty of comfy rugs or non-toxic play mats in your baby play zones and that nothing is a choking hazard or is in any way dangerous for your baby.
- Place a comfortable floor bed. Floor beds allow your baby to get up on his or her own initiative without any danger of falling out of bed. Use a thin, firm mattress with a fitted sheet.
- Set up soft bins and low shelving in your baby play space. Make sure they are at child’s level or child-sized so your baby can reach all of the toys and keep things back on their own.
- Install a baby gym in your toddler play space. This is great for working on gross motor skills and movement in general.
- Provide different educational toys. Ensure that they are open-ended toys that encourage fine motor skills and independence. Open-ended means that the toys can be used in a variety of different ways by the child, not just for entertainment. For example, this block set from Lovevery allows the child to do a variety of different things, including stringing, building, and role-playing.
- Hang a mirror. Babies love to look at themselves and it helps them learn about their own bodies. Hang the mirror at floor level so your baby can easily access it.
- Put up some beautiful art where your baby can see it. Use images of real things, not stylized or cartoon art. For example, hang up a painting that shows real children playing. Or hang up photos of things that the child can recognize.
- Add some cute stuffed toys to encourage creative play.
To help you have a better idea on how a real-life Montessori play area looks like, check out these videos for references:
You can start Montessori at any age! Many schools have infant and toddler programs that are very much like the Montessori playroom described above. Early childhood education begins between ages 2 ½ and 3.
Any time between conception and age 6 is considered the “absorbent mind” period, in which the child learns the most from his or her senses.
In an infant playroom toys are arranged on low, open shelves that young children can easily reach. In a Montessori classroom, materials are arranged from left to right in level of difficulty, so you can mimic that in your playroom.
Montessori doesn’t work for every child; some children don’t respond well to the method, though those children tend to be rare. Most of the time children respond well to the method. Montessori was originally developed for children with special needs, so it works very well for them!
It can be, if you’re buying genuine Montessori products from a company that makes Montessori toy materials for schools. It doesn’t have to be expensive, though: you can easily DIY a lot of Montessori materials or buy them secondhand.
Even if you aren’t planning to send your child to Montessori school at any point, it’s very beneficial to give him or her a Montessori home environment from the very beginning. Play spaces for toddlers that have a lot of things in them can overstimulate the child, and keeping things simple and minimalistic helps your child develop a sense of order and independence.
You won’t regret trying it out! My own little girl loves her Montessori playroom. It makes her day smoother and more peaceful. Just follow my steps above on how to set up a playroom and you’ll be well on your way. Added bonus: if you’re dreading those terrible twos, giving your child more independence will greatly help with that!
What do you think of Montessori? Are you planning to create a Montessori playroom in your home?
Please feel free to comment below if you have any questions, comments, or concerns, or if you have any Montessori playroom ideas.