Many families of young children are turning to Montessori methods when it comes to parenting. After all, it’s one approach that honors children as autonomous beings and gives them the respect they are due. But how can we make space for our children in our homes without the place becoming one giant toy bin? This list of seven helpful tips will get you started on the right track.
1. Have a child-friendly shelf or cabinet in the kitchen.
This is one of the simplest ways to encourage your children to be independent and show that you trust them. Starting when your children are toddlers and continuing until they are able to reach and use everything the adults do, set aside a small cabinet or drawer in your kitchen just for them. This is where you will keep child-sized plates, bowls, cups, silverware, and perhaps even a few cloth napkins. This will allow your children to get what they need whenever they need it. You won’t need to stop what you are doing to help them, and they can feel good about doing something for themselves.
Want to take it a step further? Keep pre-portioned snacks in the cabinet for your child to access whenever they want. Some families also designate an area of the refrigerator for this purpose, along with a small pitcher containing water or milk that little hands can easily pour themselves.
2. Consider a few minor additions to your entryway.
Getting out the door in the morning can be one of the most rushed and sometimes stressful times of day for families of young (and older!) children. A few quick additions to your entryway can help make everything run a bit more smoothly.
Consider your children’s height and hang one or two hooks near the door just for them. Keep a small box or bin that they can toss their shoes into, thus keeping shoes contained, tidy, and easy to find when they need them. We have even seen some families hang a small mirror at child-height in the same area. Taking these steps will help build responsibility, keep your home organized, and ease the frantic pace of many of our mornings.
3. Put most of the toys away.
This recent study covers the scientific reasoning behind why less is more. That said, it isn’t easy. Even if you are mindful of not buying your children too many toys (a feat in itself), there are always gifts from family members, party favors, and so many unpredictable little treasures that kids collect.
How can we manage all that stuff?
When your child is at an age at which they can comprehend the ideas, it’s good to talk to them about waste and consumption, then ask for their help in working to manage it all. Until then, observe your child at play, determine what they actually use or enjoy, then rotate toys according to what you notice. Avoid the bottomless toy box and opt instead for using low shelves as storage so that items are easier to see and manage.
4. Keep baskets of books handy.
Reading is great for children in so many ways, so keeping books handy wherever you are is important. It can even be fun to make your selections. Some ideas:
- Keep a basket of seasonal books in the corner of your living room.
- Stack your toilet learning books in the bathroom.
- Your child loves dinosaurs? Check some dino books out from the library and keep them in a bag in the car so they’re always on hand (for trips, waiting rooms, an older sibling’s soccer game…)
- Basically, anywhere your child spends time and there isn’t a bookshelf nearby, collect up a few books and tuck them within reach.
5. Build independence into children’s bedrooms.
One of the earliest ways to build independence into your children’s bedrooms is with your choice of bed when they are infants. Many Montessori families choose to use a floor bed. If the rest of the child’s room is safe, this allows them freedom of movement when they wake. Many babies and toddlers will wake up and crawl/walk around the room, keeping themselves occupied with their toys until their parents wake up and come to get them. The floor bed can be implemented whenever the parents feel comfortable giving it a try. If your little one starts crawling out of the crib but isn’t quite ready for the height of a toddler or regular bed, a simple solution is to just lay the mattress on the floor until they are ready for the next stage.
Another area to keep in mind: your children’s access to their clothing. Older toddlers and preschool aged children can begin selecting their own clothes. By making a limited number of choices available to them, you can ensure they will wear something appropriate for the weather while still giving them the empowering ability to decide for themselves.
6. Keep color schemes and decor simple and natural.
Depending on our own childhoods and other factors, sometimes we feel like we need to decorate children’s spaces in bright colors. The truth is, we all function better in calming environments. There’s no need to spend lots of money to replace what you already have, but consider the following swaps:
- Paint over bright walls with a more neutral color.
- Opt for wood, glass, metal, and natural fibers over plastics.
- Framed art (inexpensive prints or thrift store finds) or photos can replace cartoon posters.
7. Make space for your children.
It all really comes down to shifting our perspective. Our children are human beings who are worthy of living in a home that serves them and their needs. The key is balance. Should our children’s things take over the entire house? Definitely not! (You live there, too, after all.) Small adjustments in each room children spend time can make a huge difference in their lives.
Do you already implement some of these ideas in your home? How has it worked out for your family? Do you have other suggestions to share with families who are looking to make their home more Montessori friendly?