Little children, from the moment they are weaned, are making their way toward independence.
—Dr Maria Montessori
With spring cleaning on the horizon I have had some requests to reprint this article about how to set up Montessori in the home. Keep in mind the following principles when cleaning things out and setting up your space and you can’t go wrong!
Simple—Keep it simple
Respect—For the environment, for the materials, for the home, and for the people in the home
Scaled to child-size—Whether it be furniture, tools to help in the kitchen or garage, or the size and scope of a project, keep it sized to the child
All encompassing—Create a place in every room for the child
To put these ideas into a concrete form, let us start with a five year-old girl’s bedroom. We will call her Josephine.
Reworking a child’s bedroom may be as simple as removing the ‘catch all’ toy box and replacing it with boards and bricks that serve as shelves.
Let us imagine a room that is in a very quiet corner of the house with a view of the backyard and a bird-feeder. The windows are the right height that she may easily open them for fresh air.
Her junior size bed is a mattress on top of box springs, just the right height for freedom, comfort, and safety. She easily makes her bed each morning because there is a sleeping bag instead of sheets.
A hat rack has been cut down to size to hold her nightgown and outdoor coat. There is a Monet print framed and hangs at her eye-level; this art hangs next to several of her own watercolor paintings that are also framed.
Two walls have low shelves that contain books and toys; the look of the room is sparse rather than cluttered. This is because the parent took care in selecting appropriate sized trays and baskets for each toy.
A small wooden crate holds a few blocks (not the entire set).
There is a wooden doll house with a small box of furniture and dolls that combine with these open-ended sorts of toys to create many different scenes.
A tiny blue table and chairs reflects the current project—an art collage with string, paste, and dried macaroni (each in small dishes) and contained on a larger tray.
A long low chest holds Josephine’s clothes. The drawers are the right height for her to open and look inside. The four drawers are labeled by Josephine—socks, shirts, pants, and underwear. A low bar hangs in the closet with a few dresses and one fancy dress. A small wicker basket serves as a dirty laundry container.
The feel of the room is not that this is a child’s room but that it is Josephine’s room. It reflects her current interests and occupations. Order prevails. Each toy is self-contained and has its own place on the shelf.
The bathroom is also accustomed to Josephine’s needs.
There is a small stool so she may reach the sink, turn on the water, and reach her toothbrush and toothpaste without help.
There is a special shelf for her to keep her washcloth, and soap.
There is also a hook at her height to hang her towel and bathrobe.
Montessori felt that there should be a child’s corner in every room of the house.
In the living room Josephine keeps some markers and papers for drawing near a small chair and table.
In a corner of her parent’s room there are some rocks from a museum, fossils she had found, and two butterflies displayed on a low dresser.
In the kitchen there is a sponge for cleaning up spills, a small broom, and a dust-pan.
All children ages 2 to 6 delight in caring for their environment, establishing order in their surroundings, and doing self-help and practical life activities by themselves. I hope the description of Josephine’s home has given you a few ideas to create a child-centered space in your home.