I noticed I've done a lot of book posts lately, so I thought I'd step back and talk about Montessori at home again. As Noora is now 16 months, fully mobile and into everything, she's everywhere and in everything. And as I was looking for ideas for her, I realized that every other blog I've seen features huge houses, large spaces, and a seemingly endless supply of rotating toys.
So let's talk about that. Firstly- there is no such thing as a Montessori toy. Maria Montessori created beautiful educational materials for classrooms. She did not create toys. There are certainly lovely toys out there that follow Montessori principles and ideals- natural, open ended, and beautiful- but there is no magical Montessori toy that will make your playroom suddenly 'Montessori'. Children don't need excessive amounts of toys. They don't require a shelf of themed activities to be rotated out every five weeks- that creates more stuff, more things to buy, and more competition to be the best Pinterest mum.
You also don't need the huge, beautiful house with separate play areas in the basement with a playroom off the kitchen, a media room, huge and airy bedrooms, and a backyard on par with a field. I don't have any of that. I have a tiny townhouse under a thousand square feet, in a co-op, in one of the most expensive cities on the planet to live in. I'm lucky to have the space I do, but I certainly don't have vast spaces for Noora. And yet- Montessori we do. So, let's look at those spaces, shall we?
This is my whole living area. As you can see, it's small. We have a couch, an armchair (behind which are Noora's big, big climbing blocks, and an IKEA tunnel), and shelving. The tv shelf has a few spaces for Noora- currently a rainbow puzzle she likes, a basket of blocks, a basket of musical instruments, and a Melissa and Doug house with keys that she's obsessed with. She has some stacking cups, Schleich animals, nuts and bolts, and a basket of books. That's it. The toys we have chosen for her are high quality, durable, mostly open-ended (the nuts and bolts, and the key house aren't entirely, but there's plenty of space for exploration within their intended purpose). She has the walker wagon that helped her with walking when she was first starting, and now she likes to push the dogs in it (you can imagine their excitement) or stacks of books. As you can see, there's a bookcase full of my Montessori work things- albums, card making materials, printer, laminator, etc. Again, we have no space for a separate office for me, so it stays neatly in place here. The shelf of books on the tv shelf are books that I am reviewing, about to review and old favourites of nieces and nephews and other children who are often at our house.
We don't have a big enough space to allow for entirely separate kid areas- Noora's things are integrated into most of the house. But we don't let them take over, and I think that children do best with limited toys anyways. Limiting things promotes creativity, concentration and focus. She doesn't need a constant rotation of toys to be content. She has quality toys that will last and that she can use for a multitude of purposes.
We have the IKEA kitchen that seems to be the Montessori standard (we did not put the top on it) and a child size table and chairs cut down to weaning table height. The Grimm's stacker was a gift from my lovely pals at Westside Montessori here in Vancouver. Noora eats most of her meals here, and does dishes (to the degree that a 16 month old can). Her dishes are stored in the kitchen, and accessible to her. Our kitchen is too tiny to fit a learning tower, as many Montessori homes have, and so we've elected to have her food area in a corner of our living room. We've created a space that allows for her own independence and Noora loves getting her own plates and doing dishes. Remember, children want to be grown up. More than anything. Create spaces that allow them to do work like we do, and they'll be happy.
The upstairs is just as small, but the space is just perfect for what we need. The playroom is a storage closet we converted- we placed down one of those foam mats, added a Kallax IKEA shelf, and a basket for her collection of balls. There's a lovely busy board her grandfather made (he also made the toddler balance beam in the living room). The large containers at the back are full of Montessori classroom materials I've made that I'm storing while on maternity leave. Eventually she'll have a dollhouse there (a lovely hand-me-down from her cousin that is currently being stored at her grandparent's house until she's old enough for it). This is her main space. It's small, but it works. She doesn't need more toys than what we can store here, and it also helps us to keep her toys limited- we have no space for them anyways!
Her bedroom is also small, and as we have very little space, she does have toys and things here because there's no room anywhere else. She gets four spaces in her shelving unit for toys, and usually her current favourites are here. (The bucket and poker chips are currently her absolute favourite toy- she spends ages throwing them in and it makes a terrible and loud noise and this is further proof children don't need fancy toys. Poker chips and a metal bucket, folks). Currently those toys include a peg toy, her Schleich horses, a beautiful shape sorter by a First Nations artist, and construction vehicles. She has a gorgeous front facing bookcase that was the big gift from her grandparents for her first birthday. There's the IKEA wardrobe made out of a 2x2 Kallax cube, and her crib. (Yes, we have a crib. I wrote a whole post about the trauma that was a floor bed for us. Sometimes things don't work out as planned. And that's okay.) There's a toy box to house all the stuffies that you inevitably get when you have a child (and some of them are my old lovies from my childhood I can't part with). There's not much, as you can see.
This is her closet. The three boxes hold clothes (ones that are currently too big, accessories like hats, and out of season ones like snowsuits. The middle shelf are all her other toys we rotate. There are a couple puzzles, stackers and Schleich animals. That's it. Those and the toys in the other pictures are all she has. Then her diapers are up top. (No, we don't cloth diaper. I'm a terrible Montessori and a terrible green mother).
Finally, for Noora's spaces, there is her space in the bathroom. She has a potty, a basket of bathroom related books, and a mirror and diapers. We do standing diaper changes, so there are diapers and wipes here. The mirror usually has a hairbrush in front of it, but Noora is walking around with it in this picture. In the hallway, you can see her chalkboard. It was our former key rack and once she became interested in drawing, we moved it up to her room and used a cheap little metal key hook in its place for us.
That's it. Noora has space in most of our rooms- the dining room and kitchen don't have specific things for her, and neither does our bedroom, but everywhere else has her stuff integrated into it. As you can see, our space is small. No big playrooms here. Just small spaces that we have adapted to be appropriate for our Montessori toddler. She doesn't have a ton of toys. We don't rotate them often and I'm certainly not able to financially manage a themed shelf every month or so. And that's okay.
Montessori doesn't require lots of toys, or themes, or big spaces. It requires a willingness to foster independence in your child. To make space for them to learn and explore. To provide areas that are child friendly and accessible. That's it. I'd love to see your small Montessori spaces!