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The Montessori Shelf – A Two Part Series, Part 2

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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Setting up a Montessori shelf

Whether you are just starting out with Montessori, wooden or open ended toys you do not need much to begin utilising a Montessori shelf in your home. Setting up an accessible, organised toy shelf for your little one is a great way to encourage more meaningful, focused play and learning at home, regardless of your preferred educational style or philosophy. It’s also a simple way to help prevent the overwhelm and stress of other toy storage methods, like an overflowing toy box that leaves your child bored and keeps your home in a constant state of disarray. People often ask me @mandasmoments how I keep our playroom so tidy and how it is always “insta worthy”. The secret according to Maria Montessori is “a place for everything and everything in its place”. Simply put, if you lead by example and present things in an orderly fashion your children will follow your lead.

Limit the quantity of toys offered

When it comes to the amount of toys you should have out on display it is best to go with a less is more or quality over quantity view. Having too many toys out can cause overwhelm for your child. By carefully selecting and limiting the overall number of toys your child has access to, it becomes simpler for your child to choose a single activity at a time that they will then focus on and deeply engage with. Even us adults can struggle to make choices when there are too many options presented. How many toys should you have out I hear you ask… There’s no perfect number of toys to display on your child’s shelf, though a good guide is to have between 6-8 items or activities.

How should the resources be presented?

Items should be thoughtfully placed and separated throughout the shelf space. Separating the activities isn’t just to have everything looking neat and tidy, by placing the materials in this way each is able to stand out allowing your child to select a specific task they wish to complete. Multi piece activities are best presented in baskets or trays while large stand alone items can be put directly onto the shelf. Toys are also more attractive when left in “unfinished states”. A puzzle on a tray with the pieces removed is far more enticing than one that has already done. This applies to any multi piece activity, they should be stored on a tray next to one another or grouped in a basket.This is not only far more appealing but makes for much more thoughtful and engaged play. Trays and baskets also make it easier for little ones to select an activity and move it where they like to attempt it. It can also be simply packed away promoting further independence and a sense of accomplishment.

Select a variety of activities

When preparing the materials to go on the shelf it is important to consider items that focus on different skills. A shape sorter, musical instruments, pound a ball, you get the idea. This will vary according to your child’s age and interests and should be developmentally and age appropriate. By diversifying the resources you prepare, you encourage your child to develop a wider variety of skills. If they are only presented with puzzles they may indeed gain problem solving and fine motor skills but that doesn’t enable them to become competent and acquire differing skills. It is also likely they will become bored easily and lack focus when only one style of item is offered. If you are struggling for a variety of ideas consider some household objects like family photographs, a silk scarf, a small pot and spoon, a book, a bowl of clothes pegs, leaves from the back yard or any other items you feel may be of interest. Another thing to consider is including toys with a higher degree of difficulty. A puzzle that contains more pieces than your child has previously completed is a great way to extend upon their skills. Children are given the opportunity to flourish and grow when you present them with safe challenges in this manner.

For more ideas on how we encourage learning through play in our home follow us @mandasmoments on instagram.

Written By Amanda @mandasmoments

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