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January 04, 2016

How do you store and organize Montessori toys and materials?

Happy 2016! If you are anything like me, January is a time of organization and purging. After Christmas, it can feel like everything is spinning out of control in the toys department. I know in our home, there was a week of total chaos followed by the need for some serious cleaning, toy rotation and organization.

In a Montessori environment, we strive to have a place for everything and everything in its place. This can be easier said than done if too many things are out at one time. Therefore, Montessori environments (at home at least) typically rely on open shelving and toy rotation in order to keep everything organized. 

How do you store and organize Montessori toys and materials in your home? 

In my opinion, there is no specific way that toys have to be organized. I think you just have to do what works for you and for your space. I would love to have something similar to Kylie from How We Montessori -- where we could pull out drawers to easily replace items that aren't getting used. But, our system is far less fancy. 

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For items that are used frequently, and are age appropriate, the items are stored in the kids' closets. They have higher built in shelving that can be used for storage. These items are not for the kids to pull down on their own, and for the most part that's not an issue. 

On these shelves, toys with multiple parts are stored in large labeled buckets. The empty bucket means that the material is out on a shelf. Toys that don't need to be in a bucket, just sit on the shelves. 

For toys that are rotated in and out less frequently, I use a system of bins. Its not the prettiest system, but it works for now. The bins themselves can still get a bit unorganized if I don't stay on top of it. The bins are broken down by age and material type. We one whole bin devoted to puzzles, for example. Another is just for "older toddlers." 

There's not really a science to how I decided which materials head to what bin. They are just general categories and they are just flexible. If someone's interests change, something might head to the closet after being on a shelf, or it may head from the closet to the bin. In Montessori we have to constantly observe the children and meet them where they are at, instead of trying to impose our structure. 

Inside the bins, the organization is pretty simple. I use Ziploc bags and small boxes to contain anything with pieces. If the manufacturer's box is sturdy, then the material stays in that. Otherwise, I'll label something myself. 

I have found that 2 gallon Ziploc bags work great for puzzles. This way the entire puzzle can be stored together with all the pieces. If something gets knocked out of place, it won't get lost in the bin. If a material is on the shelf, then the storage bag/box stays right in the bin waiting for its return. 

How do you store materials in your home? 

Hopefully, this has given you a better idea about how we store materials in our home. And, it doesn't have to be fancy, it just has to work for you! 

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emh said…
OMG, I wish I had the space for bins! Our apartment is 900 sq. ft., and we have 2 real closets. Basically, I have 1 shelf of a built in bookcase and a bin in our room to rotate toys in and out of. At least it keeps me from buying all the things?
Anonymous said…
How often do you rotate out the toys in the boxes? Is it solely based on the child's interest or do you bring something out and see if it catches their attention? I have a similar set up for the toys in use except we use see through paint pails so that the kids can see exactly what's in them. We also have shelves where stuff if in the open. I am trying to come up with some sort of rotation, even if it means moving stuff from the top to the bottom, KWIM?
Anonymous said…
I meant "where stuff IS in the open"
Kevin Nguyen
Kevin Nguyen said…
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Nicole @ The Kavanaugh Report
I typically follow the child's interest. Sometimes work/toys will stay out for months at a time,sometimes they stay out for 7-10 days. I will try to write a post about how I rotate toys soon.
Nicole @ The Kavanaugh Report
Yes!! We could use a lesson in not buying all the things around here!
Vicky said…
Thanks for this post - it's really inspiring! Storing the kids' toys is a constant challenge. When I rotate a toy off the shelf it definitely doesn't have its own place to be stored. The cupboards are chaotic!! I love the way you have managed to give all your lovely toys a home :)
Courtney Mendoza
I really love Montessori teaching methods and I am sure that they can be used also for teaching the children to be clean and organized. We are having very big problems with being organized. I have twin toddlers that somehow manage to play with their toys everywhere around the house! I try to keep the house clean and tidy but with them two this is hard. I appreciate your post. I think that the post will be very useful for me, especially when the kids grow a bit older. Thanks for sharing!