Organizing your Montessori Play Space

In a Montessori environment the types of things that we have available may be a bit different than those in mainstream environments. But, they may not be. The biggest difference between a Montessori play space and a typical environment is how the space is organized. Organizing your Montessori play space is an important part of making the room engaging and available to your child.

Ideas and tips for organizing your Montessori playroom. Here are some thoughts on how to make your play space accessible and organized for children.

For me, the most important thing to remember about creating a Montessori play space in your home is that you need A Place for Everything and Everything in its Place. If you make that your guiding principle it is much easier to move forward with creating a space that you and your child will truly love.

How Do You Organize a Montessori Play Space? 

There are many things to keep in mind when organizing a Montessori space. Know that your space will be unique and does not need to be a carbon copy of anything someone else has created in order to be "Montessori." Make it your own, and have it fit the needs for your children. Some things to keep in mind before placing materials into your space: 

Open Shelving

In a Montessori environment, materials are arranged on open shelving. This is so a child can see all the choices available and easily remove them. These shelves do NOT need to be anything fancy. I've seen cardboard boxes used nicely to make shelving, wooden crates, shoe racks, cheap shelving, expensive choices. As long as a child is able to access the material {and not need to dig in a toy box} then you're good. 

Limited Choices

Remember that pile of toys you purged? Every single toy that you kept does NOT need to make its way back into your playroom at once. Selecting a few toys and rotating between them is key to making sure that your space is organized, promotes a sense of order, and is not overwhelming. 

Now, there is no strict "Montessori" rule on the number of materials that should be available at one time. I, personally, stick to the rule of about 1 toy for every month old my child is up to about 12-14 choices. So for a 9-month-old, nine choices in a space is enough. But, I don't count every block to be 1 thing, but instead a basket with 10 blocks (or whatever) is one thing. I'm flexible with this number, especially for older children who may be able to handle a lot more. Other toys can be placed in storage and rotated in and out as needed.


Organize Your Choices with Baskets and Trays 

Using baskets and trays to organize materials can be an important way to help children maintain order. By using a basket/tray all of the materials can be easily removed from the shelves for use. Using these containers can also be a great way to make the material more inviting to young children to use the materials. These containers should be big enough to keep all of the work together and easily accessible to the child. These don't have to be fancy or expensive, many thrift stores will have great choices for less than $1 each.

When this work is placed on the shelf, it should be complete -- so children do not have to look around for pieces. It should also be neatly organized with a clear order.

Ideas and tips for organizing your Montessori playroom. Here are some thoughts on how to make your play space accessible and organized for children.


Other Tips for Organizing

Now, finally, we can talk specific tips for placing your materials back in your play space.  

Toy Placement 

In a Montessori classroom materials are arranged from left to right in order of difficulty. This is indirect preparation for reading/writing and helps to provide logic and order to the sequential materials. You could chose to organize your play shelves the same way. I don't, however. I don't often have a sequence of work available on my shelves. So, I arrange my shelves in a way that is visually appealing. What fits the best where? What will make it easiest for my child to access the material? Is there a logical order that would make the most sense -- to your child?

Categories 

If you look at the toys you have, can you see certain categories? Fine motor toys, open ended toys, creative materials, language development, pretend play? The exact categories, or what you want to call them, don't really matter, but I like to choose materials from a few of them. However, your child's current interests should be your ultimate guide about how you choose which materials line your shelves at any given time. I find a good mix, generally gives me a good sense of what my child is interested in and what he or she is drawn to.


Using the Floor 

Using the floor can be a good way to organize certain materials in your space. I find a large basket of blocks, stuffed animals, baby dolls, or gross motor toys. When doing this, though, put the toys in a logical place and dedicate that place to the item. Book-ending shelves with a large basket, for example, has worked well for us. But then, that's ALWAYS where that basket is returned. Or, always placing the baby stroller, back to the same corner of the room.

Multiple Children 

It is possible to have multiple children in the same space. This can be done in many different ways including using taller shelves for older children or placing materials in different areas of the room. Choosing materials that work for each child may not be possible, so a set of materials for both may be necessary -- depending on the age gap.

Open Space 

Finally, when organizing a play space make sure there is room to play! Keep space clear of clutter, and floors as clean as possible. Kids need the space to move around and really engage with the materials. So, if you are choosing a toy that requires space, a train set, for example, make sure that space is actually there! If there isn't the space to actually use the toy, place the toy in a different area. 

Ideas and tips for organizing your Montessori playroom. Here are some thoughts on how to make your play space accessible and organized for children.

How do you organize your Montessori play spaces? What guidelines do you follow? 

Don't Miss the First Posts in this Series: The Problem with Too Many Toys | A Montessori Approach to Purging Your Toys

Comments

  1. This came at a great time for me because I'm thinking of converting our office (which we never use) into a playroom. Thanks for the tips!

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  2. I have been scouring your wonderful ideas, as I develop my own homeschool space for my toddler and infant. Is your tot school that you feature in your posts where your children play in the evenings and weekends? Or is it just a space used during "school" hours? And, I am curious about how your children use their bedroom: how often do they play in there? Is the bedroom just for sleeping and dressing? Thanks for all the detailed ideas and inspiration!

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  3. This is such a great blog! My older son is 3.5 year old. I hope we are not too late to start montessori. I so wish I knew this sooner.
    Where did you purchase the white shelf? It looks like the one from IKEA with baskets. Did you replace the baskets with a piece of board? If so where did you get the board?

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    Replies
    1. It is the trofast line with the baskets, but IKEA also sells shelves that fit. So these are just those.

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