How to create the perfect Montessori nursery without spending a fortune!
The Montessori Method, developed in the early 20th Century (by its namesake, Italian physician, Maria Montessori) is a way of helping children learn that is now commonly accepted, the world over, as a highly effective way to approach early years education.
Whilst the tenets of the method are specific and detailed, the core principle of the idea is that children (particularly in the first six years of their lives) are naturally thirsty for knowledge and that they learn more, more effectively, through self-initiated experimentation.
Does this mean that Ms Montessori would’ve advocated 8-month-old children catching the train to London by themselves? Of course not; what it means is that, supported in an environment prepared in line with the Montessori principles, children can be at liberty to choose, and to act freely, and in so doing, they naturally build confidence, develop independence and self-esteem, and can discover and explore the world around them in a way that helps to hone their physical, emotional, social and cognitive abilities.
So, how do you go about creating a Montessori environment in your own home; in your child’s nursery/bedroom?
1. Decorate in neutral colours and steer clear of excessive amounts of wall-art or ornaments. Any artwork should be placed at your child’s eye-level.
Go for soft and warm lighting; the over-all vibe you are going for is uncluttered and calm: and of course, simplicity is key.
2. Use natural materials that appeal to your child’s five senses
Wherever possible, Montessori resources are made from natural materials: why? Because these materials help your child to use, and develop their senses, to explore differences in texture, weight, temperature and even taste. Synthetically-made materials just don’t do this as well.
Not just the mantra for toys, try to use naturally-made pieces of furniture and furnishings.
3. Use ‘real-life’ books and toys
The Montessori Method supports the idea that before the age of 6, children struggle to differentiate between fantasy and reality and, in order to be able to make this mental distinction, they first need repeated exposure to things that accurately represent the world around them: real-life objects.
So, whilst a book about a tap-dancing frog may be utterly charming; the Montessori approach would be that it’s not something that is going to help your young child in their understanding of the real world (unless you happen to live near an amphibian dance school!) and, if you’re wanting to follow the Montessori Method, the theory is that choosing a book, for example, about the life-cycle of frogs will better help them learn. By the same principle, instead of picking a cartoonish tiger toy, playing with a realistic, modelled-from-life toy tiger better teaches children the reality, so that they can then build on those experiences to imagine the fantasy.
Finally, in much the same vein as all of the above, Montessori teaching favours toys with ‘real’ consequences in favour of button-pressing toys that sing nursery rhymes and make random noises. A bell rings; a ball fits in a box, a spoon scoops. This begins to give your child an understanding of how things work.
4. Designate a place for everything: when you clearly demonstrate that “these toys go here; these ones here; your clothes go here, your teddy lives here...” your little one will quickly learn that everything has a place in which it belongs and (hooray!) they will learn to, and want to, tidy up after themselves.
(Catkin Toys even have a range of free-to-download Montessori labels for you to use!)
Zone the room: have a sleeping area; a reading nook, a toy corner etc.
5. Use child-sized furniture. This may sound obvious, but it really does make a huge difference to your child if they have a chair/bed/table etc. that is a suitable size for them.
Once you are comfortable that you’ve created a room that your child can use safely independently, a low-level or floor-bed (or a mattress on the floor!) is a Montessori-idea that promotes independence. If you’re using a higher-level bed, be sure to include a step-stool.
6. Store as much as you can at your child’s eye-level. Put clothing in low-height, easy-to-open drawers or boxes. I’ve found that four-in-a-row IKEA Kallax unit works really well on its side as a cubby-hole bench; I use the DRONA boxes too, which make it super-easy for the kids to find what they’re looking for and it’s a neat and tidy enough option to appeal to my homemaker neuroses!
Lower the rail in any wardrobes or closets to match your child’s reach and ensure that they can access all shelving.
7. Securely fix a mirror (plexiglass, not real glass) to the wall. Babies will enjoy the visual stimulation of looking at themselves, and children over the age of 18 months will be able to use the mirror in a more adult sense: they might look into it to brush their hair, or to view what they’re wearing.
Maria Montessori advocated setting up a little self-care station at your child’s mirror: providing them with a soft hairbrush, a cloth to wipe their face, a dry toothbrush etc.
And that’s about it, you can check out all the fab Montessori-inspired resources available from Catkin Toys HERE.
Do you support the Montessori Method? How do you organise your child’s bedroom space? As always, we love hearing from you, so do get in touch (@mummyscrummie or @catkintoys) and let us know!
See you next week! Xx