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Using a Shelf -- Montessori Baby Week 26

From birth, a child seeks to develop and maintain order in their environment. Even small babies will pick up on changes to their environment and react to them. It's actually pretty incredible. One of the ways that Montessori environments encourage order is by using a shelf instead of a toy box or bins.

In Montessori baby spaces an open shelf can help to maintain order and make toys accessible to babies. Here are some tips on how to use a shelf in a baby play space.

On the shelf, things are neatly organized and clearly have a spot. The order on the shelf is clear and materials can be easily and independently accessed. Some might assume that this ideal applies only to older toddlers or children, but really this starts at birth.

But, this doesn't mean that a baby will use a shelf on his/her own right away, or even all the time! It takes time for a baby to get mobile enough to discover the shelf, and even longer for a baby to be able to maintain order.


Augustus has recently gained enough mobility to remove items from the shelf! And it's one of those incredible Montessori baby milestones to watch. He suddenly has complete freedom to choose the activity that he will be engaged in.

I love watching him make his way to his shelf in his movement area and remove the toy/material he wants to play with. It's also amazing just to see what and how he chooses to work with!

Tips for Using an Open Shelf with Babies 

Here are a few tips to consider as you incorporate a shelf into your baby's space: 

First, keep in mind your role in this process. You're  job is to help maintain order by joyfully modeling how to return materials. By starting that process at birth it becomes ingrained in them as they grown. Second, it's your job to really deeply observe your baby and choose materials to place on the shelf that will engage and interest your baby. 

Also, as you consider using a shelf, keep these things in mind:
  • Keep the shelf as low to the ground as possible {ours is from IKEA}
  • Limit the number of materials you place on the shelf 
  • Use baskets {especially softer ones} to maintain order 
  • Placing single toys on the shelf is also great at this age 
  • Make sure the shelf is safe to pull up on, since this movement is right around the corner 
In Montessori baby spaces an open shelf can help to maintain order and make toys accessible to babies. Here are some tips on how to use a shelf in a baby play space.

Have you used an open shelf with your baby? Did you enjoy watching him/her discover it? 

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