One of the most difficult tasks for a Montessori parent or caregiver is adapting the home environment to work for children who mouth objects as well as older children. Our Montessori home is in a constant state of change with grandchildren visiting often. Right now, they range from toddlers to early elementary. I’m sharing ideas for preparing a Montessori space in your living room adapted for those ages.
Of course, here’s no simple solution for everyone. It takes lots of observation and creativity to find the best solution for each unique family.
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In a previous post, I shared lots of ideas for preventing choking in babies and toddlers with older siblings. Many of the ideas are from Montessori homeschoolers and are helpful for any Montessori homeschoolers with babies or toddlers as well as older children.
My Montessori Living Room for Toddlers Through Early Elementary
I homeschooled my own two children through high school using Montessori principles. Now I’m on the Montessori homeschool team for my grandkids.
My son’s daughter’s, Zoey (6) and Sophia (23 months) aren’t technically homeschooled. Zoey attends first grade at a private school. It isn’t a Montessori school, but it works well location-wise and is a fabulous school. It’s very compatible with the Montessori activities I do with Zoey at my house after school some days and on Saturdays. So I’m sort of homeschooling Zoey in that I’m doing her Montessori education.
I’ve been helping homeschool Sophia until she starts preschool in January. She’s also been having toddler school with Caleb at his house! And I’m on the homeschool team for 21-month-old Caleb (and any future siblings), since my daughter, Christina, and her husband, Tom, plan to homeschool their kids.
Right now, my Montessori home environment has learning activities for toddlers through early elementary. Older children typically need fewer hands-on materials and can more easily use adult-size furniture, so they can be even easier to fit into a homeschool with babies and toddlers.
I’ll share how my home environment is changing right now.
At the start of our woodland animal unit, I showed materials on shelves designed for a preschooler or kindergartner. When Sophia and Caleb were babies and now when they’re toddlers, I immediately or almost immediately change the shelves to make the room safe for them. (See our woodland animal unit for any of the resources shown on this shelf.)
When Sophia and Caleb were younger toddlers, I had to remove the open book on the easel so they didn’t push it on the floor. Now that’s able to stay on the shelf. They might turn the pages to look through the book, but that’s fine. So the top shelf remained the same this time.
Sophia and Caleb are so excited that they’re allowed to have Safari Ltd. figures out now! It’s only recently that I felt it was safe enough. Neither of them puts a whole Safari Ltd. figure in their mouth. That may not be the case for your toddler. Remember to remove all choking hazards until your child is three years old unless you’re absolutely sure he or she won’t have a problem with an object. I still don’t allow round marble-like objects or a number of small objects. Even though I love beads for all sorts of activities, I only have those available with direct supervision until Sophia and Caleb are older.
I tried leaving the salt writing tray out, but it’s still too tempting to pour it on the floor. So I moved up the woodland animal footprints puzzles with Safari Ltd. animals to the middle shelf.
I don’t leave out the real acorns because they’re too much like food and would be tempting to eat. I placed the squirrel number cards 1-5 from our subscriber freebie pack in my large wooden display stand from Montessori Services along with wooden acorns and bowls. I put out acorns and bowls for 1-5. Sophia and Caleb love numbers and counting right now, so they’re enjoying this activity a lot!
Next to the squirrel and acorn activity, I placed a tray with the figures from the Safari Ltd. Powhatan Indians TOOB and the Powhatan village grammar word strips for elementary age (from the Montessori-inspired Native American History Printable Pack by Every Star Is Different). You can see how Zoey uses the printables here. The tray works well with our woodland animals unit since it contains a deer, bear, and fox, and the Powhatan Tribe is a Woodland Tribe.
Sophia and Caleb can open the GlassLock food storage containers that worked well for storing Zoey’s materials when they were babies and very young toddlers. So I don’t keep Zoey’s materials that they shouldn’t access on the shelves.
I have 3 shelves on the wall by the windows. (There’s one to the right that you can only see a bit of in the above photo. It has books and related Schleich animals, our Hugg-a-Planet Earth and Moon set, a book basket from our farm unit with farm book and Safari Ltd. farm figures, another basket of Safari Ltd. figures, a basket of Duplo blocks, Tegu magnetic blocks, which are great because the magnets aren’t loose, and a small basket of wooden toys.)
Next to the forward-facing bookcase is a built-in bookcase with 2 more shelves of kids’ books. The cabinets below the books have child locks. Zoey can open them, but the toddlers can’t. So we have Zoey’s craft materials in one cabinet, a lot of the work I do with her in another cabinet in the kitchen, and the pink tower in another cabinet. I keep the pink tower in a cabinet until I’m absolutely sure no one will try to mouth one of the small cubes. I recently introduced Caleb and Sophia to the pink tower, but they only use it with an adult at this point.
The above photo shows how it works best for me to have our living room arranged. We feel like we have plenty of space when I have our Montessori shelves and materials around the edge of our living room.
This shelf is in the living room right under the kitchen counter. (An island counter separates my living room from my kitchen. You can see a corner of the countertop in the bottom right corner of the photo above.)
Sometimes, I’ve used this shelf for practical life and language activities. At the moment, our practical life activities are in the kitchen and dining room.
Right now, I have themed books for our woodland unit on the top shelf along with a mini nature area. I often have a peace activity in that place.
The middle shelf has sensorial materials, and the bottom shelf has a variety of musical instruments.
The table is actually a Montessori weaning table with small slatted chairs that Zoey doesn’t mind still using. I’d prefer to have a regular child-size table and chairs at this point, but these still work! When Zoey wants to be at a bigger table or is doing work that’s too dangerous for the toddlers, she works at the dining room table.
Our grammar farm is behind the sofa (in our connected dining room. Now it’s all on the farm rug on the floor. You can see it in my post with my environment for babies through first graders. I still keep a few of the smallest items out of reach.
The mixture of educational materials (both traditional Montessori materials and Montessori-friendly materials), Montessori-friendly toys, and books of all kinds works well for us. And I love having our kid activities in the same area as our living space!
My Favorite Tips for Adapting Your Home Environment for Toddlers
- Observe, observe, observe! Observation is really the most important technique for keeping a safe environment that meets the needs of all the children using the environment.
- Do big projects and activities that will be a problem for toddlers during naptime whenever possible.
- Don’t be afraid to put some materials on high shelves or in a locked cabinet where they’re out of a toddler’s reach.
- Distraction and redirection can alleviate lots of problems. I like to use gentle redirection whenever needed.
- Find ways to include your toddler whenever possible. An older sibling reading a book to a toddler or acting as a teacher is wonderful for both children!
PREPARING MONTESSORI SPACES IN YOUR HOME
See “How to Create a Montessori-Friendly Home” for ideas for a number of levels. Here are some of my main home environment posts here:
- How to Prepare a Montessori Baby Room at Home (roundup post)
- How to Prepare a Montessori Toddler Environment at Home (roundup post)
- Preparing a Montessori Newborn Baby Space at Home
- How to Use Montessori Mobiles to Encourage a Newborn Baby’s Development and Delight
- Preparing a Montessori Baby Space with Shelves at Home
- Preparing a Montessori Baby Space in Your Living Room
- Preparing a Montessori Baby-Toddler Space at Home
- Preparing Montessori Toddler Spaces at Home (includes my Montessori toilet learning setup)
- How to Prepare Montessori Shelves for a 2 Year Old
- How to Prepare Montessori Shelves for a 2½ Year Old
- How to Prepare Montessori Shelves for a 3 Year Old
- How to Prepare Montessori Shelves for a 3½ Year Old
- How to Prepare Montessori Shelves for a 4 Year Old
- How to Prepare Montessori Shelves for a 4½ Year Old
- How to Prepare Montessori Shelves for a 5 Year Old
- How to Prepare Themed Montessori Shelves
- How to Prepare a Montessori Home Environment for Afterschooling
- Create an Attractive Home Environment from Montessori at Home!
- How to Set Up a Montessori Homeschool Classroom
- How to Prepare Montessori Homeschool Spaces for Babies through First Graders
- How to Prepare a Montessori Space in Your Living Room for Toddlers Through Early Elementary
Do you have some favorite ways to include a toddler in your Montessori home?
Learn more about my eBook Montessori at Home or School: How to. Teach Grace and Courtesy!