Montessori Shelves – What We’ve Learned

Montessori Shelf Overview

Today I want to talk all about Montessori Shelves.

I talked a bit about our Montessori Playroom shelf in the Toy Rotation post I wrote a few weeks back, but in that article, I mainly spoke about rotating toys.

Since writing that post, we’ve also incorporated a few changes in our (always evolving) Montessori inspired home – and in particular with the shelf in K’s space.

What Is A Montessori Shelf?

With the Montessori approach, you always want to be promoting independence in the child when you can.

This means Montessori shelving should be built at a proper height for the child, so they can reach all of the items on the shelf.

Depending on the age of the child, you’d ideally be looking for a height of 1-2 feet for the unit.

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.

While there are companies out there that build Montessori specific shelving units, many shelving units out there fit the criteria for a “Montessori Shelf.”

How Should I Set Up My Montessori Playroom Shelf?

Our playroom shelf has gone through a lot of changes over the past months, but we are finally getting close to a correct Montessori shelf set up.

If you look at a Montessori classroom, you will often see the following with the shelving:

  • Activities at a height that all children can reach
  • Activities on display so the children can see them (not tucked away)
  • Activities aren’t too cluttered (fewer options)
  • Activities are on usually on trays

We’ve slowly transitioned our playroom shelving to more closely resemble a Montessori school over the past few months.

Not A Great Shelving Example:

We started with way too many activities and toys on our shelf. Some cubbies had multiple toys in them. There were no trays or baskets to help K move the toys to the carpet and back to the cubby. And we even had a toy out of reach.

Then We Cut Back On Toys/Activities:

This one was much better, as we limited the number of toys and activities.

(Fewer options is a great way to promote focus and let them master individual skills.)

But there were two minor problems with the Montessori inspired shelf setup pictured above…

Our Current Montessori Inspired Playroom Shelf:

We later learned from The Montessori Toddler book written by Simone Davies: “A completed activity is less attractive to a toddler than one that has been left undone.”

And that makes sense. If a child sees one of their activities undone or unassembled, they are probably more likely to want to put it back together.

We now try to leave her activities unassembled in the shelf to encourage her to work on them.

The second change that we’ve implemented is to start using trays and baskets for the activities.

Having the activities on a tray will make it easier for the child to transport the activity to the carpet (or whenever they are going to work on the activity).

The trays also make it much easier to clean up and put back (something we are still working on)!

Will We Be Making Further Changes To The Shelf?

Although we are relatively happy with how far our shelf has come for K, there are some more changes we’ve talked about.

As you can see from the image above, not every activity has a tray or basket, and some of the baskets don’t have handles.

We want to make it as easy as possible for K to use each activity, so one of our next purchase may be more trays with handles.

And lastly, we have two items out of reach currently for K (the globe and plant), which we will most likely move down to her height once we find a place for each. She’s at an age now where we hope she can be responsible 🙂

Where Can I Find Montessori Shelves?

You should be able to find the Montessori style shelving units at any big furniture store that sells wooden furniture for children.

Our shelf wasn’t specifically designed for Montessori homes, but it meets the criteria. We purchased ours at Ikea.

If you are looking for shelves that are specifically designed for Montessori homes and classrooms, I’ve come across the company Sprout Kids.

The reviews look good on their website, and we are thinking about making a purchase from them, but currently, we have no experience with them or their shelving.

Want Montessori Shelf Updates?

From time to time, we will be posting pictures of our shelving and talking about the different activities we have on the shelf on our Montessori Instagram Account @our.montessori.journey.

Give us a follow if you want some Montessori shelf updates 🙂 Thanks for reading and I hope this helped you.

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