A Montessori Play Space

Recently, a friend asked me where to buy “Montessori stuff”.  While there are of course specialty stores and catalogues focusing on Montessori-friendly items, I think it’s a common misconception that Montessori means lots of expensive stuff.  On the contrary, Montessori-friendly spaces are generally quite simple and it is just as much about the layout of the room as the items available to the child.

So a few months ago when we decided to turn our “office” (aka random room we never used, but called an office because it had a desk in it) into a playroom for James, I had a few things in mind:

  1. Plenty of open space to explore
  2. A low shelf with limited options that the child can choose from himself
  3. Art hung at the child’s level (as opposed to the adult’s level)
  4. A cozy space for reading books

We just finished the room this past weekend (as much as it will ever be finished, as I’m sure we’ll continually adjust as he grows), but have been using it for the last month or so and it has been great!

James has gotten to the point where he gets sick of being in his room; he wants to explore.  He loves crawling around the rest of the house, and we certainly let him, but it is also really nice to have another space that is his.

This room is also our guest room, so has a large couch that folds out into a bed, but this has actually been nice because James likes cruising along the couch and it is soft, so we don’t have to worry about him banging his head on it.  This isn’t as much of a concern now, but it was especially great when he first started pulling up.

We kept the room simple.  There is a reading nook in the corner and I really love the little bookshelf (from Ikea) because it is easy for James to see and choose the books and it is a good size for him.

It holds about four board books and I rotate them regularly.

Eventually, I’d like to get a cozier rug and cushion like his reading nook in his room, but for now this is working well.

He has a toy shelf with two levels, which is working great now that he can pull up.  I would only use a shelf with one level if he were not yet pulling up.  I originally planned to get the same shelf he has in his room, but Ikea is really far from us and the shipping was really expensive so I got  this one*on Amazon.  It is listed as a closet organizer, but is working really well for this relatively small room.

I rotate the toys regularly, not on a schedule, but according to what he’s playing with.  I observe him playing and, when I see that he no longer chooses a certain toy, I take it off of the shelf and add something different.  I also try to include both toys that are easy and familiar to him, and some that are newer or more challenging for him.

I got this road rug at Ikea when I was in Houston.  I think it was $15, so much less expensive than other ones I’ve seen.  It’s pretty small, but a good size for this room.

I originally wanted a white rug…but then I realized his spit up is now a whole array of colors since he’s eating solid foods and that was impractical.  Also, while he’s obviously too young to play with cars on the rug, he really likes patterned rugs and stops to examine different parts of it as he plays.

One of our favorite parts of the room is the big window, which James loves to look out.  Unfortunately, the couch blocks it and there really isn’t another configuration that works, but when James goes over to the window, I help him get onto the couch to look outside.

Lastly, I wanted to hang some art at his level.  I got a simple Winnie the Pooh Art Print for his reading nook.  I wanted something literary themed, and while I know some prefer to not include any children’s books with unrealistic talking animals, I like to make an exception for the classics because they are so wonderfully written and such good stories.  I have a very old copy of Winnie the Pooh that belonged to my grandmother and can’t wait to read it to him some day.  I also liked the simplicity of the image.

Since he can pull up now, I also wanted something for him to look at when he was standing at his shelf.  I decided to get 12×12 frames so that I could use calendar pages.  This is super inexpensive, especially if you buy calendars from past years, and allows you to easily change out the images as the child’s interests emerge and change.  I went with clouds for now.

Lastly, I added some black and white images to the inside of his shelf.  These are from this Art for Baby – it comes with a fold out of all of the images and I simply cut out a few that he seemed to enjoy from the book.  He sometimes sticks his whole head in the cube to get a better look and touch the picture.

While we’re using the room daily now, there are still a few things I would like to add:

  • Plants!  I would like to add at least one hanging plant.  I have the plant actually, I just need to figure out how to hang it.
  • A cozier cushion and rug for the reading nook
  • Either a mobile above his reading nook (I’m working on one, but am not sure I’ll ever finish) or some type of pretty glass hanging in the window

I really just thought the playroom would be a fun use for a room we never went it, but it has seriously been so great to have another space for him to play!

*Please note this post contains affiliate links – I get a small percentage if items are purchased, at no cost to you.  I only include items I have and love.  Thanks for your support!

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  1. I love all of this and will definitely steal ideas for the new baby. Just so you know, Liam is a HUGE fan of Winnie the Pooh already. At around 2, he asked us to read the little golden books one as a starter. He’s obsessed! A Winnie the Pooh lover is in your future and there are so many wonderful books! 😉

    1. Thank you! Aww, that is so sweet 🙂 Winnie the Pooh is definitely one of my favorite characters, I hope James likes him too!!

  2. Great post and ideas! My toddler has too much stuff…mostly gifts and hand me downs. I love your sparse shelf. Henry has the 2×2 block from Ikea (Kalax model) and I use the top squares for books and the bottom two for storage bins for smaller toys. Books are the one thing that I will buy, I actually just counted out of curiosity and my toddler has 61 books…! He knows nearly all of them by heart and he loves to sit and look through them and be read to. A love of reading is something I’m so excited to share with him. My home is in desperate need of remodeling projects, but with a toddler and a baby…nope! Future goals 🙂

    1. I totally agree about books – I actually filled my Amazon cart with some more for him yesterday. He has a bunch of books, we just rotate them out. We do the same with toys, we just switch out what is on the shelf. I brought out one of his favorite books yesterday (Hello Bugs) after it had been put away for a couple of weeks and he got SO excited, I read it to him like three times in a row! Thanks for reading!

  3. I love these ideas! Also, I bursted out laughing at the pose he is doing in the middle of the post. My son did that all the time and we called it his “sexy man” pose! lol

    1. Haha, that’s so funny! He does it ALL the time and I never see any other babies do it, it cracks me up too lol.

  4. I know nothing about Montessori, but just out of curiosity, what is the benefit of being so minimal? What is the thinking behind it? Would love to learn more. Looks like he is LOVING his new space though, it’s adorable!

    1. Such a great question! The idea is to offer a limited number of choices so that the baby can choose on his own, without being overwhelmed. Also, each item has a specific place on the shelf, and is returned to that same spot each time we’re done playing in the room to encourage the idea of caring for the environment / cleaning up from a young age. Each item having a specific spot, and having relatively few items, also helps orient the baby so he knows where to look for specific things (James often crawls to the spot where his favorite wooden cup is first thing in the morning). I rotate the items as he loses interest in them and I love doing that because when I bring an item out again a couple of weeks later, it is like it’s new again, he’s so excited to see it…like free new toys 🙂 I really like this post on The Kavanaugh Report about infant Montessori shelves too: http://www.thekavanaughreport.com/2017/06/using-shelf-montessori-baby-week-26.html . Thanks for reading!

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