Setting up a Montessori inspired play space

I remember when I walked into a Montessori classroom for the first time, I was immediately drawn to the beautifully arranged toys and furniture. I must admit, it was very superficial at the beginning but as I read more about this method of teaching, the more I fell in love with it. I really wanted to be intentional with how I set up our home to promote independence and responsibility yet allowing Aliyana freedom to choose and be creative at the same time.

I also want to add a caveat that Mike and I do not follow all things Montessori, we have chosen select things and ideations of what we love about this way of life to present the materials to Aliyana.

Aliyana attends Montessori once a week and will be going three times a week starting in the Fall. It was really important to me to keep as much similarity in the home to mirror what she is doing at school, I felt that the connection of seeing things in the classroom setting and then again at home allowed her learn quickly.

My favourite thing about Montessori is “a place for everything and everything in its place”. My friends will come over and will be shocked at how tidy Aliyana’s play area is and how seamless all her toys fit into our small Vancouver home.

Here are some tips for setting up your own Montessori-style space.  This post will focus specifically on the play area and over the next few weeks, I’ll review other rooms that are important to us – the kitchen, bathroom and her room! I’ve also linked some of her materials below.

Ikea will be your best friend for a lot of things. I personally got a lot of stuff from there and adjusted/hacked it to fit our needs.

Child sized Furniture 

  • Look for a child size chair and table so they can do activities on. Aliyana also eats at her little table during meal times. We purchased our table/chair combo from Ikea and cut the legs so Aliyana’s feet rest nicely on the floor.
    We cut our table height down to 12-3/4″ and the chair to 5-3/4″. This height should last her till she’s approx 3 years old.
  • Look for furniture that your child can access without a lot of help. Aliyana has two play spaces, one in the living room and one in her bedroom. The bedroom one was recently added because I wanted Aliyana to find comfort in her room, for the longest time her only association with her nursery was for sleeping and she would cry bloody murder if I ever wanted to hang out in there for more than 5 minutes. Now she can play in there for long periods of time! #momwin.
    For her toy shelf in the nursery, we purchased an Ikea Eket unit and added some custom shelving to create more storage. We have a similar one in the living room using the Eket legs but the boxes were custom made to fit our smaller space.

See the space through their eyes 

  • We sometimes forget to get down low, very low. See the beauty of the surrounding through their eyes – add some plants and artwork so your LO can enjoy it too. I use to have everything hung up high but now you might have noticed through my instagram posts and stories that I keep two beautiful blue prints by the fireplace. I also have some plants on top of Aliyana’s toy shelf and she personally loves watering the succulents which is probably why they’re all dying. Whoops.

Toys, less is more 

  • We don’t have a lot of toys or activities, each toy shelf has approximately 6 toys and I have another 4 stored away so I can rotate them out when she seems bored or if I feel that the space needs a refresh.
  • Fewer yet attractive activities/toys allows them to concentrate and focus without feeling overwhelmed. Have you taken a look inside your toy basket lately? How does that it make you feel? How often do you see the bottom of it?
  • Quality over quantity. Although it’s usually a bit more money, we do purchase mostly wooden toys because they’re natural, durable, they encourage interaction and ultimately less distracting.

Aliyana is 15 months and is really fine tuning grasping, hand-eye coordination and overall movement (since she just discovered her legs in early April). Here are some toys that she loves to work with – I’ve linked most of the toys we have at home below, even if they’re not mentioned in the write up.

Puzzles:
Simple shape puzzles (with a knob to hold) are great. I find she looses interest very quickly if a puzzle is too complicated. Maybe in a few more months she’ll be ready for the harder ones.
Push balls: Hape has a perfect one but I removed the hammer for safety. This activity allows Aliyana to exert strength to push the balls through the holes. This activity will keep her busy because she loves the repetition.
Object Permanence boxes: We have two versions, a coin box and a ball. These activities encourage repetition and the coin box encourages her to take the extra step at the end to slide open the box to retrieve the coins.
Language basket: We have a small basket filled with Schiele farm animals. I’ve chosen to use these particular ones because they’re very realistic to what she will see in real life. It was with these animals, she learned to identify and say “nose” whether it’s on a plastic animal, leroy or even on us!
Instruments & shakers: I purchased a set of wooden musical instruments from Little Cottonwood – she loves to bang and clang away, usually make more noise than necessary.  I also know how to play the piano so I oftentimes play tunes while she listens and dances along.
Opening & Closing: I put together a basket of old makeup containers and a toothbrush holder. She loves trying to open and close the lids, especially the $2 toothbrush holder from Daiso. Toys don’t need to be expensive, they just need to serve a learning purpose. Let’s be honest, our LO’s won’t even notice!
Colouring: Chunky natural colouring pencils work best for this age group. It’s easier for them to grasp and get messy with. The ones I got from Chorus and Clouds are non-toxic and since Aliyana always colours off the sheet and onto the floor, you can easily wipe it clean with a damp cloth. For paper, I would stay away from colouring books instead go to Ikea and buy the rolls of paper and tear some off for your LO to get creative on. It’s so much fun watching them explore colour!
Books: Setting up a child height bookshelf is great for them to choose their own reading material. I’ll dive more into books in a later post.

I really hope this post was helpful, I’ve learned so much about raising a monti-baby over the last 8 months and it’s all because of Teacher Christie at North Star Montessori. If anyone is interested, I would definitely suggest signing up for her infant/toddler classes! It’s worth every penny to watch your little explore and develop in ways you never thought would be possible at a young age. Aliyana and I will be attending Wednesday mornings at 10:40 if anyone would like to join us. I would love to meet you guys!

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