Our Montessori Home

“To assist a child we must provide him with an environment which will enable him to develop freely.” – a quote from Maria Montessori 

A couple of moms have been asking me about how I rearranged our home so that we can transform a part of it into a “montessori classroom/prepared environment”. I apologize for the delay. I have been meaning to write something but I’ve been quite busy juggling life with an active toddler and being pregnant. But I have decided to finally set aside this time to write some tips down that may help answer some of your questions. 🙂 Before I begin I would like to explain what a prepared environment is and its components. You can use this as a guideline as you think about the space you plan to prepare for your child.

A prepared environment is a place designed to facilitate a maximum learning experience for a child that fosters independence and exploration. It is a well-thought of space that provides the child the freedom to discover and learn within limits. Structure is created through the arrangement of the classroom, well- chosen materials, order in the room and the location of the room you are preparing to make “your classroom”.

A key question I had to ask myself was “where do I put our classroom?” There is a basement in our house and when we bought it, we initially thought it would the perfect place for us to set up our classroom.  But after talking and thinking through it, my husband and I realized that though there was a lot of space and it was set apart from the rest of the house (which made it a distraction free zone), it had no access to natural light.  What seemed to be the perfect spot, turned out to be not so great after all. I looked through the house and realized that the best place for our classroom, was our dining room.  I consulted with my husband and I explained to him why it was the “best” location for our mini-homeschool. We had to talk about it since I was taking away our dining room! I chose to convert this area because it is the only place in our house that had giant windows, this allowed sunlight to shine in throughout the day (which saves electricity too) and it was spacious enough to set up our little work shelves. It had a little door in the back for me to access the room through the kitchen or at least peek through so I could occasionally check on my son during his work time while I was busy cooking or cleaning. The room was far enough that he wouldn’t get distracted if I was busy doing something else like cleaning the living room or doing the dishes in kitchen but close enough that I could get to him quickly if need be. So far it has worked out very nicely for us. Granted our dining table has been moved behind our living room, it is now a lot closer to the kitchen which makes cleaning up a lot easier! (haha) How about you? Are you thinking of your best spot?

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Here are some characteristics of a prepared environment for your home. You can use these tips for your child’s classroom or bedroom.

1. LOW OPEN shelves: These are designed so your child has access to them without needing your help! Remember, a key principle in montessori is INDEPENDENCE! You want to make sure you foster that in everything you do.We got our shelves from Wal-mart. They were $17 and I just put them together myself.

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2. Child-size tables and chairs: Ikea sells them, but they are only for children! Don’t make the mistake of sitting on it yourself because it will break! If you want better ones, invest in wooden ones from companies such as KidsKraft and Melissa and Doug.  Not only should your child be able to sit comfortably but he or she must be able to maintain proper posture as well. The best way to know this is his back is against the back rest and his feet is touching the ground. Granted if you have a toddler, he might have to grow a few more inches to fit perfectly but you get my point! 🙂 IMG_4260

This table is positioned by the window so my son can look outside, make observations about nature during work time. 

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Our second table is positioned against the wall. This allows for concentration and focus. IMG_5609

3. Group your materials according to the proper curriculum areas: practical life, sensorial, language, math and cultural: For now, I have a toddler shelf too. If you have shelves for more than one area, keep them right next to each other to show the progression.

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Toddler shelf: easiest materials on the bottom

4. Keep your classroom as attractive and as orderly as possible.:  Avoid clutter! There is a place for everything and keep everything in its place. Use trays or baskets to hold specific activities. You can even color code the activities so the child knows which “family” it belongs to. EX: Having an basket for his legos, a box for his wooden blocks or a tray with vegetables to cut allows him to select which one he wants to work with first. This also makes cleaning up a lot easier and faster!

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5. Divide the materials (such as puzzles, animals, etc) into sets, bringing out only a few at a time and rotating them periodically. This is our cultural top shelf. These are items I have collected from different parts of the world. Some are gifts from dear friends, some I bought and I just rotate them depending on our topic.

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My son loves to play the different instruments from around the world.

6. Have a bookshelf and a nice comfy chair to have some quiet reading time.: Encourage your child to have independent reading time! Allow your child to have a space in your house where he can sit back, relax and have some alone time. Don’t forget to ROTATE the books! Our current selections are books on being a big brother and having a new baby on the way since we have been talking to Micah about his baby brother that will be arriving any day now! 🙂 We are also learning about different animals, therefore books about them are on display as well! I personally prefer the one-sided bookshelves because it displays the books, allows for easy access, and it keeps the books nice and neat.  This couch and bookshelf are in his bedroom.

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7.  Use rugs or mats:  This defines your child’s workspace and teaches them order. Have a designated place for your rugs so your child can roll it and return it after use as well. Rolling and unrolling a rug indirectly teaches your child coordination of movement, development of muscles and concentration! Believe me! It’s not as easy as it looks! You can use mats for your work tables too, not just to protect them from accidental art work but it also teaches your child how to take control of his space on the table.

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RUG RULES!

I hope you find this post helpful as you create your own space at home! Feel free to share your ideas with me too!

15 comments

  • Awesome! Super filled with creative ideas and design! Can’t wait to follow!

  • Wonderful article Diane; where did you get your one sided bookshelf?

  • Awesome blog! What are the education materials & where dis you get them??

    • Hi Jem! Thank you! I am a Montessori trained teacher and throughout my years of teaching, I have collected some of the materials that you see on the shelves. Some of them I purchased online: Amazon & Montessori Outlet mostly, some of them were from my former boss: she was replacing with new ones and she gave the old ones to me, some of them I made myself. I will be posting some DIY materials soon. I hope you come back and check it out! 🙂

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  • Looks wonderful, Diane. We’re moving into a new, bigger home in the Summer and will have a designated play area right next to the living room (with sliding doors). I am not a Montessori girl (and our little girls of 1 and 3 won’t go to a Montessori school), but I do like some of its principles. To what extent do you think it’s realistic to incorporate some of these ideas into our new play area, even if we don’t have a Montessori lifestyle in general? Thanks!

    • I think just following the general principles of Montessori that you think will apply to you will help a lot. It has a lot to do with independence, concentration, growing in confidence and learning to have freedom within limits. 🙂

  • I’m happy to have come across this blog post! I was never fully sure what “Montessori” meant, and now I thank you for sharing your home. Looking forward to reading more!:)

  • Pingback: Setting Up a Montessori Home for Toddlers - Christian Montessori Network

  • Looks great and so neat and tidy and uncluttered!

  • Great ideas for our play room. We have the low shelves and kid table/chairs. But I love the idea of the reading corner.

  • Hi! Thanks for sharing. It’s an adventurous opportunity to start anew in a home more conducive to your family life and creating a Montessori environment.

    I have often seen Montessori Materials mixed together even in preschools, as it appears in your pictures. and think that if I am confused by it, children will not be able form categories so I believe separating them into Practical Life, Sensorial, Language, Math, Cultural, Art … would be better for various Montessori reasons: separate subject matter would make it easier for you and especially little ones to categorize, quickly noticing what to maintain in position, adding like materials, upgrading new equipment, adding Extentions, rotate themes or seasonal items on the Cultural shelves, Art materials on the art unit … so, I suggest, for the sake of this, IF YOU AGREE, that you buy six matching shelving units or near matching if you need more space on one now or in the future, and a large supply unit/shelving/plastic see-through bins stored perhaps in garage – hope you receive this suggestion with love.
    The other matter that I, personally, have been heavily involved myself, after reading a resonating article on the Nienhuis web site, which has to do with a Montessori educator’s observations as she, noting, like me, that there is a preponderance of non-Montessori materials in Montessori schools. I am in the midst of removing any of these materials. I’ve been involved in Montessori for four decades and have seen this as a problem in keeping children from progressing through the authentic Montessori Materials in classrooms and in my home school. [I gave birth to 11 children and taught other parents’ children in my home and, as I finished the Montessori courses and other Child Development courses, I also taught, subbed and did after school care I n Montessori schools].
    This said, I don’t know if your knowledge/training is similar to how I started out as a young mother, reading/following the guidelines in the book, Teaching Montessori in the Home by Elizabeth Hainstock, reading Maria Montessori’s books, plus other Montessori authors, with certain known funds, particular space issues or your goal is to go into this endeavor for the preschool duration, or are you utilizing a variety of materials using the Principles of the Montessori Method.
    I look forward to hearing back from you.

    • Wow! What an amazing momma you are! 11 children! what a blessing they must be! 🙂 A lot of the materials are expensive that’s why we opt to use some alternatives in our home. I would love to have all of them but some of them are just not affordable at the moment. I used to be able to categorize into different sections but now that we have a more limited space, we cant do that anymore. 🙂 we just wrok with what we have at the moment. Thanks for your thoughts!

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