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The Montessori Shelf – A Two Part Series, Part 1

The Montessori approach itself is a method of education that is based on self-directed activity, hands-on learning and collaborative play. Montessori children’s environments are carefully designed to encourage independence, accessibility, concentration and freedom for children. The idea of a prepared environment is that everything the child comes into contact with facilitates and maximizes independent learning and exploration. In this calm environment children are free to choose and work on activities at their own pace. Here, in this calm, well-ordered environment they experience a combination of freedom and self-discipline, as guided by their surroundings. I have seen first hand with my own children the positive benefits of this approach and am continuing to learn and develop what we do in our home to best foster their independence.

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The Montessori Shelf, Why I love it & you will too!

The goal of the Montessori shelf is not to fill children with information, but rather to provide a rich environment and support their natural drive to learn through play. Fox Wood Co’s Montessori shelves are thoughtfully designed to invite children to choose among the materials you present for their learning and play. The shelves promote independence as the child is able to access them by themselves without the assistance of a carer. They also promote order, the child is able to see all of their materials and when they are slightly older will be able to put them back where they came from. In our home the children have complete open and free access to the material presented on the shelves. They are able to pick and choose what to play with and when. You can see the great delight they have once they are given the opportunity to play and learn at their own pace.

To fulfil these standards, Montessori shelving should be built at a proper height for the child, so they can reach all of the items on the shelf. A Montessori toy shelf is typically a low, open shelf that is made with natural wood. Another critical aspect of the Montessori style shelving is that the front is completely open with no doors so that everything is on display for the child. This invites them to engage with the activities. When little ones can clearly see and easily access their toys without help, they spend more time playing and learning and less time digging through an overflowing and overwhelming toy box looking for something to do. In doing this you are encouraging children to build independence and concentration. Disarray and overwhelm from clutter is often seen as an obstacle to their development and can be a great source of rowdy behaviour, which we as parents would like to reduce as best we can for both our children and ourselves.

Montessori shelves are usually low so that for young children like a crawling infant, they can see the materials on the top shelf and are able to use the shelves to pull to standing and walk around them. As such the shelves must be safe, solid and stable. It’s also worth noting that Montessori shelves are organised, clean and not cluttered. On a Montessori shelf, toys and other materials are stored neatly in baskets and trays. You may have seen some of our “toy shelfie” posts on my instagram @mandasmoments where everything is beautifully set out and ordered. This is deliberate and intentional. There’s a place for everything, and through practice, children learn how to return their toys to the correct place. This helps children develop a sense of order, as well as responsibility for their belongings. Order is an important aspect of any environment as children thrive on routine, giving them a point of reference and the ability to predict and anticipate what is happening to them. External order brings internal order and this is especially true for the young child as they learn to adapt to their time, place and culture. Finally the shelves are constructed for longevity in order to be used right through toddlerhood, pre-schoolers and beyond. Being built to last means you’ll have years and years of use and be reducing your environmental impact in the process.

At the end of the day we all want what is best for our children and take on board what we feel is most suited to them and our home. Remember that you do not have to have a “Montessori home” to implement Montessori practises.

Written By Amanda @mandasmoments

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