Everything You Need to Know about Creating a Montessori Playroom
Over 100 years ago, Maria Montessori changed the world with her inspirational education philosophy focused on the curiosity and dignity of young children. Known for its peaceful environments, organized spaces and clever materials that encourage hands-on learning in everything from practical life (think sweeping and getting dressed) to math and literacy, studies have linked Montessori environments to higher math and literacy skills.
Bring that philosophy home with a Montessori playroom. Imagine everything having a place and including beautiful things that inspire focused, engaged play for minutes—or even hours—on end, basically, a parent’s dream. To help make it happen, we’ve created a step-by-step guideline; keep reading to find out more.
Set the Tone
Simple, clean, beautiful, child-focused: that’s what you’re working towards when you create a Montessori-approved space. Think natural materials and light colors on the walls, sturdy wooden furniture, a soft rug, bright sunlight, and a calm atmosphere.
As you plan your room, build in a cozy corner with pillows or cushions for dreaming and book reading, designate a space for active play, and include easy-to-access shelves at child level.
The best Montessori environments nurture curiosity and independence by design. Everything starts with the child. Nothing’s off-limits, and materials (the Montessori word for toys, art supplies and everything else used to promote learning) always have a designated place so children can take things out and put them back again, all by themselves.
As you put together your playroom, think about what your child will be able to see and reach: a book basket that’s at their level is better than a high shelf, as is an art display that shows their newest masterpiece where they can see it.
What to Ditch
First step: kick the clutter. We recommend stocking your space with a few well-made toys and a bin of books. Box up plastic gadgets with missing parts, toss the free toys that came with chicken nuggets. There’s no need for expensive screens or toys with buttons, batteries or remotes. Montessori philosophies emphasize real over imaginary, so instead of animated characters, consider picking puzzles or books that feature realistic drawings of animals and plants.
Put away toys your child has outgrown or tricky games he’s not ready for quite yet. A Montessori playroom will look different for a two-year-old than it does for a five-year-old. Once your child has mastered a material—like zipping the zippers on a dressing frame, a Montessori work made to help kids learn to dress themselves, move it to a storage closet and put something fresh in its place. Plan to rotate toys in your Montessori space every few months.
Furniture and Furnishings to Add
Wooden shelves keep your Montessori playroom organized and streamlined. We like Ikea’s low wooden shelves paired with woven baskets and bins.
If you have space, bring in furniture that gives kids a chance to climb and use their big muscles. The Pikler triangle is a Montessori-inspired climber that can be adjusted as your child grows.
A soft rug that invites your child to settle in and explore Montessori materials on the floor creates a peaceful, cozy space. You might also add in a child-sized table and chairs for snack time, painting, or writing, like these.
Stocking Your Toy Shelf
Montessori classrooms have five different areas: language, math, practical life, sensorial and cultural studies. A Montessori-inspired playroom can incorporate items from each of these areas, depending on your budget, how closely you want to stick to Montessori principles and your child’s interests. Whatever you pick, choose quality over quantity and wood not plastic.
Montessori materials are self-correcting. If you put a puzzle piece in the wrong place, it won’t fit, so you take it out and try again. If a child stacks graduated blocks in the famed Montessori pink tower in the wrong order, the tower will tip over—the child tries again until the tower stays up. Whether it's the pink tower, a simple shape puzzle for infants or toddlers, or an animal puzzle for older kids, the best Montessori-inspired materials are sturdy and teach by design.
If you’re overwhelmed with the idea of stocking your playroom, check out the subscription kits like Monti Kids, which pack up age-based materials in a single box.
More Small Stuff to Add
There are more beautiful, practical, and high-quality materials to bring into your space.
A set of wooden blocks are a must for a Montessori playroom. They’ll grow with your child since they do everything from help babies work on grasping hold of things to four-year-olds building epic skyscrapers.
Preparing for everyday life, from getting dressed to cleaning up, is key in Montessori environments for toddlers and preschoolers. In your playroom, stash a pint-sized broom and dustpan in a corner and add in dressing frames. Other practical life materials include a small glass pitcher and glasses for pouring water and tweezers and scissors to build fine motor skills.
Preschool-aged kids are ready for hands-on methods of learning letters and practicing writing. Sandpaper letters, like these, are common in Montessori classrooms, or you can choose a Montessori-ish material like this wooden letter puzzle from Melissa & Doug. Add in paper and pencils with a child-sized clipboard, thick watercolor paper and a nice set of paints, too.
Here's the good news: not everything for a Montessori-inspired classroom comes from a store. Outside items like shiny rocks or daisies for flower arranging (a popular Montessori activity) make for affordable additions.
Want to Learn More?
To learn more about Montessori philosophy and classrooms, check out the American Montessori Society.
For at-home tips, including budget-friendly Montessori ideas, check out Montessori in Real Life
Carrots are Orange has endless at-home learning ideas
Purists will love the goods on display at Montessori Outlet
And here are more of our favorite brain-boosting Montessori-inspired toys.
Featured image: iStock