Maria Montessori stressed the importance of freedom of movement.
So having a safe play area, where the child can move and touch everything freely, is essential in the Montessori approach.
What is a Montessori playroom?
A Montessori playroom is a play area based on the Montessori principles of education. It is a simple, clutter-free space that puts emphasis on the freedom of movement, child’s independence, and various activities developing all the most important soft motor and gross motor skills.
Of course, your Montessori playroom doesn’t have to be a separate room. It can be simply a part of your living room or bedroom – there are no strict rules.
Let’s take a look at the most important principles when creating a play area for your little one:
1. Create a “yes” space
A Montessori playroom is a “yes” space. You shouldn’t chase the child constantly, control their every move, or say “no!” a million times a day.
“No one can be free unless he is independent.”
– Maria Montessori
In this environment, children are encouraged to explore freely and take care of themselves and their play area. It enables a child to move and play independently.
The key element is simplicity. A “minimalist” space with clear lines and a limited number of items is soothing and helps the child to focus on the current activity.
For older children, a “yes” space may mean an environment where they can:
- Move without any significant restrictions
- Use a potty when needed
- Pour water into a cup when thirsty (and having a piece of cloth for wiping if they spill something)
- Help themselves for some snacks (of course, those you are fine with them eating),
- Dress themselves
…the possibilities are endless.
This great reversible cushioned playmat comes in two sizes and various patterns. It is a great addition to the play area that allows your child to move, play and explore safely on a soft, well-insulated surface.
2. Use natural materials
Using natural materials is a typical Montessori way.
Materials like wood, cotton, or wool are more pleasing to the eye and to the touch. What’s more, they contribute to the “cozy feeling” of the place and have been proven to have a calming effect and reduce stress.
Also, wooden toys tend to be more durable than their plastic counterparts. They may be a little more expensive but they’re more eco-friendly and they’ll last longer (and can be passed on to other children in the family or among the friends).
3. Baby-proof the area
Baby-proof the whole environment. The furniture must be stable, there should be no obstacles, sharp edges, or a precious great-grandma’s china vase to break.
Tip: Try to look at the place from your child’s perspective. You can literally sit down to see the world (and possible dangers) from the perspective of your child.
It is also much easier, as you don’t need to be constantly behind their back, control and limit their movement, forbid on things, or decide what they’ll do next.
It’s a win-win situation.
This high-quality baby safety kit by Baitiny provides complete protection for any little crawler.
It consists of 12 cabinet locks with 12 bars, 6 baby safety locks, 14 large clear corner guards, 13 outlet plugs, and a key. Great deal!
4. Put everything at a child’s level
The Montessori method is all about independence. Everything children need should be in their height and reach, so that there’s no need for assistance from the parent.
A perfect way to reach this state is to use the widely popular Montessori shelves.
There’s nothing special about these shelves. All you need is a simple, wooden unit that is at the same level as your child.
One of the typical aspects of Montessori shelving is that the front part is open so that your child can pick the toys and put them back freely.
Other shelving principles include:
- Montessori toys should be presented in a “deconstructed way” as it challenges the child to start the activity
- Don’t stuff too many toys on one shelf – the activities should be clearly separated from each other. You can use trays or baskets to show what belongs together (see the next tip)
- You can arrange the activities by difficulty (e. g. from left to right or from the bottom to the top)
- Display the books front-facing so that little kids can easily find the book they are looking for
This easy-to-assemble wooden toy shelf is very sturdy and has the perfect height for a toddler.
It has rounded corners to protect the child from injuries and a Greenguard Gold safety certificate. It is available in various sizes.
5. Give everything a dedicated place
Children have a great sense of order. It naturally helps them to navigate in the world they are about to explore.
To help them, every object or toy should have a dedicated place.
This approach also teaches order. You should encourage the child to learn where each item has a place and return the toys after finished playing with them.
Simone Davies, a Montessori teacher, recommends the same in her bestseller The Montessori Toddler (a great book, by the way):
“When the child is finished with an activity, we can encourage them to return it to its place on a shelf. This routine emphasizes that there is a beginning, middle, and end to a task. And putting things back in their special place on the shelf gives order and calm to the space.”
This simple, beechwood tray has practical internal dimensions of the base (11″ x 7″ or 28 x 18 cm), so it will fit perfectly into the majority of the toy shelf models.
These aesthetically pleasing, 100% organic cotton rope baskets are perfect for storing wooden blocks or any other smaller toys. We love that they can be hand washed.
6. Use toys that have a purpose
Montessori toys are toys with a purpose.
They are usually simple objects and activities that aim at the development of one particular skill, whether it’s hand-eye coordination, holding small items, doing up buttons, learning the language, or moving in a particular way.
7. Offer a limited number of toys
As we’ve mentioned before, the “less is more” approach is one of the most distinctive principles of Montessori education.
But the rising trend of the “toy-free” kindergartens and clutter-free households suggests that the problem with “too much” may be a wider phenomenon in our society.
“As you decrease the quantity of your child’s toys and clutter, you increase their attention and their capacity for deep play.”
– Kim John Payne
A study conducted by a child development specialist Claire Lerner suggests that too many toys can cause that “children become overwhelmed and over-stimulated and cannot concentrate on one toy long enough to learn.”
On the other hand, fewer toys can lead to:
- More developed imagination
- Longer attention spans
- Openness to exploring art and music
- Less fighting between kids
Tip: Having fewer toys doesn’t mean that your kid must spend his or her childhood playing with 5 objects. The best practice is to display only a limited number of toys at once and rotate them after a certain period of time.
8. Include an open space
Physical development in babies and toddlers is tightly connected to their mental and emotional development.
Making a Montessori playroom at home is not only about shelves and trays. It should also offer an open space where the child can practice free movement and develop all the gross motor skills – from crawling, walking, and dancing to jumping, climbing and balancing.
This beautifully crafted natural birch hardwood balance board is a perfect toy for the development of various gross motor skills, mainly the sense of balance.
It has numerous applications your little one can discover. The only limit is their imagination.
Just don’t forget that the best thing to encourage the development of your child’s gross motor skills is going outside. Nature offers all kinds of obstacles and challenges and forces children to incorporate all their senses at the same time.
9. Don’t forget the table
A child-sized table (with a chair) is a perfect piece of furniture for a Montessori playroom.
As soon as your little one can sit independently, he/she can start slowly getting used to sitting at a table to do simple arts and crafts or eat.
Activities at the table are an inseparable part of the daily routine of older toddlers.
This sturdy and well-crafted set of a child-sized table and 2 chairs has the ideal height for your toddler (and can be adjusted to 2 different height levels).
It was thoroughly tested and certified and it comes in 4 different colors.
10. Promote aesthetics and art
The Montessori education also puts emphasis on aesthetics.
“The child should live in an environment of beauty.”
– Maria Montessori
Children spend a lot of time at home, and this is where they learn about the beauty of the world. It is worth surrounding them with aesthetically pleasing things, art, and music.
Tip: Despite the dad’s concerns, we put a classic vinyl record player on the shelf right next to our little one’s play area. She quickly learned to be responsible around it and enjoys listening to Bob Dylan or her favorite audio fairy tales.
Besides using natural materials, de-cluttering the place, and promoting simplicity, you can create an environment of beauty by:
- Hanging a framed picture at the child’s height
- Including potted plants and flowers
- Displaying hand-made artwork or their own drawings
All of this will also add a unique character to your kid’s little kingdom.
We absolutely love the beautiful watercolor prints and illustrations by Studio Tuesday.
All the artwork is inspired by animals and nature – from birds, fish, and wild animals to educational posters of minerals, mushrooms, or different kinds of acorns.
A Montessori-friendly environment is a prepared environment.
By creating a beautiful Montessori playroom at home, you show respect for your child’s autonomy and natural curiosity to explore and move. We hope this guide has helped you to reach this goal.
If you’re interested in making your household a great Montessori-friendly place, check out our guide to the 7 best pieces of Montessori furniture every household should have.
Let us know your experience in the comments!