How to create a Montessori home for your toddler

Five simple tips for creating a Montessori-friendly set up at home for your toddler

The Montessori way doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. There are so many little things you can do to help empower your child with the independence and self-confidence that Montessori offers.

When it comes to toddlers, the Montessori philosophy is all about enabling the child to do things for himself, recognizing his developing capabilities and offering just enough help for him to be successful.

Here are five simple changes you can make to your home to set your toddler up for success.

  1. A low kitchen shelf

Many power struggles arise over things related to eating, toileting, and getting dressed.  Infusing a bit of choice and independence into these daily rituals can go a long way toward minimizing the tears.

In a Montessori classroom, all of the things a child needs for meal time are organized on a low shelf.  The child gets his own plate, cup, silverware, etc. and brings them to the table.  Children also help clear their plates, disposing of unwanted food, and helping to wash their dishes.

A great way to begin at home is to designate a low shelf or drawer in the kitchen for your child’s things. Include a few plates, bowls, and cups for her to choose from. Keep the extras in a separate spot so the amount of choice (and mess) isn’t overwhelming.

It’s a lot less likely that she’ll have a meltdown over the plate she’s using if she chose it herself!

  1. A Montessori Closet

Getting dressed can easily become a daily battle.

Try placing a small shelf or set of drawers in your child’s closet.  Keep it stocked with 2-3 shirts, 2-3 pairs of pants, etc. and let your child choose what to wear each day.

Offering choices gives your toddler a sense of autonomy and limiting the choices makes this a manageable task.

  1. Every toy in its place

If you visit a Montessori toddler classroom, you may be struck by how orderly it is.  Unlike many traditional preschools or daycares, you will not find toys strewn about the room.  Everything has a designated spot on a low shelf within reach. It sometimes takes gentle reminders, but the children tend to put things away in the right spot when they’re finished working on something.

Remember, that toddlers have a strong desire for order and routine. They naturally want to be in an orderly environment, but if there are too many toys or they don’t understand where things go, they aren’t able to sort through everything to clean up.

Try putting some of the toys away and rotating what’s available to your child every month or so.  With fewer toys, it will be easier to designate an exact spot where each toy belongs. Model putting something away in the same spot each time for your child and he will likely begin to do the same.

  1. Things within reach

Montessori classrooms are furnished with small chairs, tables and shelves that are perfectly proportioned for children. Kids don’t need to ask an adult for what they need as they are empowered to get it for themselves.

Unlike a classroom designed for children, your home will naturally include a lot of adult-sized furniture.  When you can, place your child’s toys and books on a low shelf where he can reach them.

For areas like the bathroom and kitchen, use step stools so that your toddler can independently reach the sink and other things that he needs.

  1. Something to take care of

A big part of a toddler’s work in a Montessori classroom is care of self (things like wiping his own nose, washing his own hands, getting dressed by himself) and care of the environment (cleaning the classroom, watering the plants, feeding an animal).

Try letting your child choose a house plant to keep in his room.  Give him a small watering can and show him how to check if the plant needs water.

If you have a cat or dog, show your toddler how to fill its food bowl.

Try giving your child a bucket and a scrub brush and showing him how to scrub his outside toys.

These are a few of the many ways to let your child experience the independence and pride of caring for something.

These changes not only allow your toddler to be more independent but they also cut down on tantrums and the daily frustrations that toddlers face when they aren’t able to do things for themselves. An environment that allows toddlers to safely explore within limits and gain independence is a gift to your child and your family.