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May 19, 2014

Montessori at Home -- How to Start

When I first started to learn about Montessori, I was completely overwhelmed. I wasn't sure where to start or how I could incorporate Montessori ideas into my home. For a time, I stalked blogs without making changes just because I really had no idea where to start. 

Then, one day I bit the bullet with a shelf in our sunroom. It had been filled with bins of toys. I cleared away the bins, picked a few toys and placed them on the self. We've never looked back. 

This isn't necessarily how I would set up a shelf today, but it was a very important first step. Seeing it in action gave me the motivation and the courage to spread Montessori ideas throughout our house. 

I know there are those of you who would love to incorporate Montessori  ideas into your home. But, I also know how absolutely overwhelming it can be. Baskets, shelves, wood, glass, toys?!? There are so many questions about what is necessary and what is not. So, where can you start? 

Here are my suggestions: 

1. Start Small! Just like I did, start with one area of your house. For me, a play shelf or room is a great place. Clear the space of clutter, keep out a few things and put them into a designated space. Don't feel pressured to change every room in your house at once or even an entire room at once. Any change is a great first step.

2. Use what you have! I know some Montessori purists would disagree with me, but I don't think you need to go out and buy a bunch of traditional Montessori work, or special shelves, or trays. If you have baskets/trays/work -- great, use them! 

If not, keep your eyes open. Thrift stores, craft stores, Craigslist and other places have affordable options. Baskets/trays are great for separating activities. Glass dishes are perfect for practical life activities or for daily use. But, it doesn't all have to happen at once. 

3. Get on your child's level! When you've started changing your space, make sure it works for a child. Is something too heavy? Too high? Too scattered? 

Don't be afraid to get on your hands and knees and check out the changes from your child's perspective. You may notice that things need to be adjusted. I find this  is especially true when planning where to hang decorations, and choosing the type of tray for a particular work.

4. Make it practical. Need some inspiration? Practical life activities such as pouring, scooping, transferring, lacing, cleaning, or getting dressed are great places to start. Young children are naturally drawn to these types of activities. Plus, they are easy to pull together with common household items. Two small bowls, a spoon, and a handful of rice can be awesome place to start, without much cost or effort.

And some helpful things to remember: 

Natural materials are preferred. If you have the choice between a natural material {wood, fabric, glass, metal} choose that over plastic. 

A tray or basket can help focus a young child. Ditch the bins with masses of toys, shoot for one basket/bin/tray per toy/activity/work. 

Less is more. You don't need 500 toy options out at once. I promise. Instead, pick a few and rotate, rotate, rotate. {But I fully admit that I still struggle with this one}

I hope this helps you take the plunge into incorporating Montessori principals into your home. Anyone recently made a change or thinking about it?! Any questions for me? 

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melissa said…
This is so practical and just great, Nicole! I can lean a bit toward the "purist" side of things at times, but I totally agree with using what you have - there is NO need to go crazy buying. We all do what we can, and simple is beautiful! Thanks for writing this! I'll be sharing :)
Cherine Muirhead
Wonderful advice and resources!! Thanks for sharing :)
Azelle Photography
Thank you very much! This is helpful. I am still overwhelmed with the number of options for our almost 2 yo tots. Not sure how many activities to present them with weekly. As a follow up to this post, maybe you could do a post on a sample weekly activity grid for a child? I know we are to follow the child's lead based on their interests, and this is what stomps me. If they are into vehicles-do I give them all activities (sensory, language, parts for toy building) based on vehicles only? They've also learned their colors-do we work on colors, too? They need to be learning shapes/sizes-do I keep those activities on the shelf as well? Also, practical life and courtsey snd backyard exploration/gross motor skills, fine motor skills, books-it becomes a mountain of activities for me on top of my standard household management. I think a specific wekly example would be helpful
Azelle Photography
I am approaching reading books and explaining/interacting with them as a vocabulary building exercise, then at age 3- start incorporating standard montessori exercises?? Timeline for ages 1-3, 3-7 would be helpful too! Just basic ones. I just need to concentrate on 1 stage at a time. They grow so quickly that I am struggling to keep up with their developmental needs!!
Azelle Photography
Thank you so much ahead of time
Anonymous said…
I really have almost the same questions as Azelle above. Thank you!
Another question. .. my older is 4 and i want to incorporate montessori to him as it possible?
Mama's Happy Hive
Thank you SO much! This is exactly what I needed to hear :) I have felt overwhelmed and a bit intimidated by the Montessori purists. I know I have a lot to learn, but I am having SO much fun exploring the Montessori principles. Thanks for sharing! This post gives me courage to keep going! :) ~ Visiting from Mama's Happy Hive Blog :)