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May 31, 2023

Ideas for Outdoor Montessori Work Shelves

There are so many beautiful examples of Montessori shelves on the internet. Beautiful toys, work, and materials for children of all ages to use and explore. But, why should the inside shelves have all the fun? The Montessori approach was never supposed to be limited to perfectly curated little indoor playrooms. Nope, the method was for all children in all places. Her early classrooms included an indoor/outdoor flow that many of us wish we could still find today.  

At home, I'm determined to provide my children the opportunity to work both indoors and out during the months where the weather makes that possible. I do that with the help of my outdoor work shelves and some simple prepared outdoor work. These shelves include so many great Montessori activities for toddlers and preschoolers. My kids spend their summers out here happily working away. 

Montessori outdoor shelves with a variety of outdoor safe, engaging Montessori activities for toddlers and preschoolers

What Should I include on a Montessori Outdoor Work Shelf?

Now the type of work that I could choose to put outside is nearly endless. My most important consideration is weather. I don't want to put anything outside that will be ruined. So we stick to plastic trays, containers that can get wet or dirty, and work that is easily stored. I also provide an outdoor chowki if my kids want to take work from inside and do it outside. 

When it comes to the actual work, I like to pick a few things that will last a long time and will interest many of my children. I think about a few broad categories and make sure I have something from each represented. These categories include: 

Art Exploration

I love taking art outside because it really provides a great inspiration. Plus, it's a great way to keep some of the mess outside. I try to rotate these throughout the summer as my children need new opportunities. Right now we have a couple of options to start the summer. They include:

  • Color pencil coloring: plastic tray, small color pencils, paper box with paper squares 
  • Natural Flower Stamping: plastic tray,  flower shaped stamp (similar) - this can be used on leaves or paper 

Natural Exploration

There are so many ways to explore the natural world and having a few works dedicated to nature exploration just feels right for the summer. 

  • Seed/Weed Planting: this is for digging up and replanting weeds, or planting random seeds. Includes an old root viewer (similar) and small shovel 
  • Nature Collections: Just a simple tray for all the treasures they find outside and a magnifying glass, this way all the special treasures are in one place 

Practical Life

Practical life work will dominate our outdoor shelves this summer. Most of this won't really even change that much as the season changes. Right now our outdoor Montessori practical life work includes: 
  • Scrubbing: A tray, thrifted large metal bowl, hand scrub brush (similar), soap, and sponge. This is for scrubbing everything from feet to toys. Eventually, I'll share how to to use the bowl and a whisk to make bubbles.  
  • Flowering Arranging: A tray, random small vases, scissors, a funnel. This is for all the clippings as the flowers start to bloom around our yard.  
  • Hand broom (similar): for small messes
  • Planting and Watering Tray: watering can and empty flower pots for planting. This is one that will change as planting season ends. 
  • Mortar and Pestle: we use this in a couple ways. One to explore herbs (crushing and mixing combos) and to make natural paint (crushing natural flowers and materials, add a little water)

Open Ended Play

We do a ton of water play and games outside in the summer, so our outdoor shelves will always include a basket of different buckets, scoops, cups and toys for water and sand play. This won't change much throughout the summer. 

  • Basket of Sand/Water Toys: usually just random toys and dollar store buckets and cups 

The options for Montessori-inspired outdoor activities in the summer are endless. You can rest assured knowing that your child is having fun while learning in a meaningful way about the world around them. So go ahead and get creative to make summer days even more special for your kids this year! Let the educational summer fun begin!

You might be surprised to learn that the Montessori approach was never meant to be limited to indoor playrooms. Explore the benefits of taking Montessori learning outside and how to create an outdoor work space.  We break down the must-have categories for the perfect outdoor learning experience: Art Exploration, Natural Exploration, Practical Life, and Open Ended Play.


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Simona said…
Do you leave these shelves out there all summer? Meaning that you have to clean them/dry them after each rain?
Nicole @ The Kavanaugh Report
We do leave them out, they are under the eaves of the house so unless its a super heavy storm, they usually stay pretty dry. We do clean them off as needed, they do get dusty.