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March 24, 2021

Our "Must- Haves" for Montessori Elementary

Sometimes I look around and wonder how I've gotten to this place. I have not one, but TWO, elementary children. A big one even! Henry just turned 10! T E N! Nora is already nearly 7. I honestly don't know where the time has gone. I thought they were just little tiny toddlers waddling around here a few moments ago. But, here we are. A big step into the elementary world. 

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Honestly, it's so fascinating. My heart truly belongs with infants and toddlers, but the older my kids have gotten the more appreciation I have had for the second plane of development. As Maria Montessori said, talking about newly second plane children, "Before, he was interested in things (changing the water for flowers, caring for the little fish, et cetera). Now he is interested mainly in the how and the why...But the adult finds this being, newly born to the world, a bit annoying." (From Childhood to Adolescence) Suddenly they talk constantly, they challenge every word you say, they struggle to keep order. It really is a big shift. 

And with this shift, there is a shift in what they use and do around the house. For my kids, the first plane is this golden age of practical work - of real work. But the second plane, this seems to be the golden age for the big idea - for the never ending project. So, I thought I would share my must-haves for preparing your space for Montessori second plane, elementary kids: 

1. A Big Table

No, seriously, my number 1 is a large table. They need work space that is just their own. A kitchen table works great but I've found that projects tend to linger, and if we want to use our large family table for eating, the big kids cannot work there. At the beginning of this school year we upgraded to a large table from Sprout Kids {use code Kavanaugh for 10% off.} We went with the 22" high 30" by 45" table. And, honestly, we even could have gone a little bigger. It is constantly in use, filled with ideas, work, and projects. 

2. Strips of Paper

Again, I'm not joking. My second must have is also not some fancy toy or material - it's strips of paper. Plain old computer paper cut into inch thick strips. I simply slice computer paper the short way (8.5") and put into a basket or tray. And, some cut into small rectangles (like a regular sheet cut into fourths.)  They are used for everything here. Writing notes, writing math problems, writing secret codes, gluing to stuff, writing reminders, drawing pictures. The little strip of paper is the unsung Montessori elementary hero. 

If I don't have these available then I find that regular sheets are ripped apart and the scraps are left where they lie and go wasted. Just anticipating and using smaller sheets has helped to keep waste at a minimum. Other paper is important too! Large rolls of paper, graph paper, and sketch pads are also used daily here. 

3. Pencil Sharpener

Remember the days when your preschooler would sit and sharpen pencils just for the fun of it?! Slowly they would watch the little shavings neatly fall into the bowl then go empty the bowl themselves into the garbage. Yeah, those days are gone in elementary. They just want the pencil sharp. 

And because they are always working on something or other project, the pencils are always in use and always seem to need a refresh. And the faster, the better. While I love a good old school crank pencil sharpener, we found that a mechanical pencil sharpener really fits the needs better for our space. 

4. Paper Catch-All Basket 

Fun fact, in the second plane of development children are no longer in the sensitive period for order. Yay. They become really unaware of restoring and cleaning up their spaces. It just no longer occurs to them. So it becomes even more important to create spaces that have inherent order that is easy for them to maintain. Without it, I find that things become chaotic very quickly, 

A catch-all basket for all those little scraps of paper has been a life saver. All those little scraps of paper, they can go in the bin. Can't find your stuff? Bin overflowing? Then, it becomes their job to look through and purge all the things that aren't important to them any more. We just use cheap plastic bins from the dollar spot, but any basket or paper organizer will work. 

5. Reference Books

Maria Montessori said this was the age of the "how and the why," and that means it comes with a lot of questions. A LOT. And you can't be the source of all the information, you just cannot. For us that means having a collection of reference books has been vital. Books with facts, books with jokes, books with timelines, books of lots of random bits of information for further study - these books have SO much appeal. I can't tell you how long Henry and his friends have spent looking at our Guinness World Record book

The exact reference books to invest in really depend on your child's interests and lines of inquiry but some that have been extremely popular here include: Timelines of Everything | Natural History: The Ultimate Visual Guide to Everything on Earth | LEGO Minifigure Year by Year: A Visual History (like I said, interest specific!) 

And, that's it! Those are my must-haves for Montessori elementary age! It's not fancy toys. It's not expensive materials. It's time, paper, pencils and some cool books. 

Is there any materials you would add to this list? 

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Melissa said…
I agree with this list! My eight year old daughter would rather be working with paper, pencils, and art supplies than anything else. She is always working on a project...whether it is writing/illustrating her own book or making a project. The paper bin is a good idea. This is something we struggle with and it usually ends up scattered everywhere. Would Childhood to Adolescence be a good book to read about the second plane? Do you have any other book recommendations?
Emily L.
Emily L. said…
I am so grateful for this post and would love to have more elementary age posts. I have an 8 year old and have struggled to figure out what toys/materials to put out to spark her interest. This helps me understand how she really only needs the basics. Yay!
Anonymous said…
My kid is 6.5 and literally the only things she uses 90% of the time are: Barbies, art supplies (but really only paper, colored pencils and crayons), and Legos. I'm so amazed by how few toys/things we need at this point, and how many old toys we have donated lately. (I LOVE IT!). But I also really wish that family members would cool it with the gift-giving.

I would love more posts on this plane of development!