Preparing Montessori shelves and materials can be lots of fun. It’s one of my favorite creative activities! In case it’s helpful for you, I’ll show you what’s on the shelves in my living room for my 4½-year-old granddaughter, Zoey. I typically take care of Zoey a couple of afternoons each week.
Like most Montessori homes, mine is always a work in progress. My shelves change according to Zoey’s needs and interests. The shelves I’m showing here are designed for Montessori homeschooling. Check out my post on afterschooling to see more specific ideas on how to prepare a home environment for afterschooling a preschooler who attends a Montessori school.
The shelves I’m showing you today can change at any time. I do keep many of the same activities from the 15th of one month to the 15th of the next month when I change themes, though. Don’t worry about the exact activities on each shelf. I don’t want you to think that these are what should be on your 4½ year old’s shelves. If something is helpful for you, that’s awesome. But I hope you feel comfortable in going with your own child’s needs and interests. That’s what’s most important.
Note: Shelves for a 2½ year old, 3 year old, 3½ year old, 4 year old, and 4½ year old might be very similar. Don’t worry about the exact age. I mainly show our shelves every half year to give you a variety of activities and to show a couple of different themes and seasons. The photos and video were taken shortly before the 15th of the month when I had out tree-themed activities. Now I have out golf-themed activities.)
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How to Prepare a Montessori Home Environment for a 4½ Year Old – YouTube Video
What’s on My Montessori Shelves for a 4½ Year Old
Here’s my Montessori home environment in early May. If you’re interested in a particular activity below, just click on the link. It’ll go to a blog post or resource with more details. (Note: Zoey’s had Montessori activities and a Montessori environment since she was a baby, so your activities could be quite different if your child is new to Montessori.)
Between a comfortable armchair for reading together and Zoey’s shelves is a Montessori book basket that we use instead of a book shelf. We have a few of these in our home. Because of our tree theme, I have Nature Anatomy, A Tree for All Seasons, Botanicum (which Zoey loves, although Animalium is her favorite), The Seasons of Arnold’s Apple Tree, A Tree Is a Plant, Be a Friend to Trees, The Giving Tree, and The Hugging Tree. In this book basket, I often have some Steve Jenkins books (which Zoey adores), Pete the Cat books (favorites with even the adults), manners books, and some classic books, (Note: These aren’t all Montessori-style books, but they’re wonderful books!). One of the favorites that I always keep out is The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry, and The Big Hungry Bear.
Our rug container for Montessori Services rugs is an umbrella stand from China. I like to have some special items like this to give preschoolers a sense of beauty and to help them learn to take care of their environment. Of course, if a preschooler isn’t ready to handle something like this carefully, it shouldn’t be part of the environment.
A Montessori school generally has a shelf for each curriculum area. I used to have two shelving units, but I purchased a third one about a year and a half ago. One shelving unit is for my theme of the month, although you don’t need to organize any shelves that way if you don’t want to.
Montessori Themed Shelves
You can see most of the tree-themed activities in my free tree printables and Montessori-inspired tree activities post. During the month, I added a simple nature basket with tree treasures (especially seed pods, leaves, and flowers from our favorite tree) from our nature walks, a tree identification poster (in the upper right corner of the top shelf) from the Julia Rothman Collection that contains the Nature Anatomy book, “tree”spelling with movable alphabet, and hundred chart art using the free printable Summer Palm Tree Hundreds Chart Mystery Picture from Mrs. Thompson’s Treasures at Teachers Pay Teachers.
Montessori Sensorial and Movement Shelves
Top Shelf in the Sensorial and Movement Area
- Montessori cylinder blocks (full size). These are fun to use with a blindfold like the one on my office shelves (see below).
Middle Shelf in the Sensorial and Movement Area
- Knobless cylinders
- Montessori brown stair (with pink tower to the left of the shelf and red rods to the right of the shelf). This is a great age to focus on sensorial extensions to keep interest and add new understanding to the sensorial materials.
Bottom Shelf in the Sensorial and Movement Area
- Color grading tablets (color box 3 or printable color tablets) for finding the closest matches for the colors of trees from the Safari Ltd. Trees TOOB
- Montessori geometric solids
- DIY or inexpensive sound cylinders (mine are from the Montessori By Mom Making Music toolbox)
- themed exercise and counting dice inserts, which Zoey likes to use as a game.
Montessori Shelves in the Language and Cultural Area
I used to use this shelving unit for practical life, language, and cultural activities. My practical life activities are integrated more into our daily living as Zoey gets older. I’ll probably add sewing activities to the shelf at times, though.
Many of the cultural activities include language activities in them. The materials aren’t organized by curriculum area on a specific shelf, though. That’s more a matter of which tray fits better on a particular shelf. Organize your shelves in whatever way works best for you, too.
- Woods and Forests and Trees books (part of a great series that Zoey’s loved since she was a toddler)
- Trees, Leaves and Bark book open to the pages about an oak tree
- Peace work with I Offer You Peace book and labyrinth from Montessori Services along with a peace rose
- Our tree do-a-dot and oak life cycle tray
- Montessori continents globe
- Teach My Continents and Animals (This is really best for kids a bit younger, but Zoey loves to read the book that comes with it to her baby sister and cousin. Zoey especially likes working with animals and continents, and this is a nice set that’s very inexpensive but uses Montessori geography colors and appealing animal images.)
- paper box with typing paper (this is actually a Nienhuis paper box that I kept from when I had a Montessori school in the 1980s)
- paper box with square paper for inset work (this is also a Nienhuis paper box that I kept from my Montessori school)
- Markers, colored pencils, and crayons
- metal inset (plastic inset) work (used as sensorial for shapes plus writing)
- Alphabet box
To the left of the shelves is another book basket with A Tree Is Nice and a variety of geography books and other cultural books. To the right of the shelves is a large basket with a 54-piece jumbo world puzzle map. This is an alternative to the Montessori world map. It’s lots of fun with Safari Ltd. animals!
Zoey’s doing very well with her reading skills, and we also use a variety of readers. Some of our favorite readers are from the free Progressive Phonics program. Zoey often asks if I have a new book from Progressive Phonics printed out for her when she visits!
More Shelves and Other Primary Areas
Zoey’s had snack shelves in a cupboard in my kitchen, although she now just gets her snacks from the refrigerator or our regular pantry. She enjoys food preparation activities such as coring an apple and spreading peanut butter on the apple slices, making ants on a log, and making a variety of muffins and other snacks and desserts.
I have a number of Zoey’s activities in my dining room. She has her snack and meal table (and work area) with flower arranging activity and often a Montessori Services clear acrylic tray, glass pitcher, and small glass. She also has a kleen kanteen that she likes to get off the counter. Above her snack table, I keep the kleen kanteen with distilled water and a watering can for her to water the plants on the patio. I only have one child-size table, so we move it to the dining room when she isn’t working at her table in the living room. She has a Melissa & Doug cleaning set and a bucket for big spills and water recycling.
Next to the cleaning set is her Little Partners Learning Tower with easel. I move her Learning Tower for food preparation activities at the kitchen counter. I typically have a magnetic learning activity on the Learning Tower shelf. You can see phonics ideas and resources here.
This isn’t part of our shelves, but Zoey also has a DIY sensory table (could also be used as a water table) to use on my patio or indoors next to the patio doors. I typically change the sensory bin according to season or holiday. It won’t be found in a traditional Montessori school, but it’s wonderful for homeschooling and afterschooling. It promotes concentration and repetition and is a nice, calming activity. It can also be a fun way to introduce educational concepts in a way that’s not duplicating what your child will do in a Montessori school.
Montessori Activities in My Office
Zoey’s parents decided it was best to send Zoey to an individualized school closer to their home and to have the Montessori activities at my home. So I’m now Montessori homeschooling and afterschooling! (Note: if your child attends or will attend a Montessori school, you don’t need to buy any classic Montessori materials. In fact, it’s recommended that you don’t.) If you have a Montessori homeschool, you’ll want to buy Montessori materials and/or make your own Montessori materials. I homeschooled my now-adult kids through high school, and I have lots of posts about Montessori homeschooling. You’ll find many of them linked to in this post on how to set up a Montessori homeschool classroom.
I have my office Montessori shelf next to my cabinet of Spielgaben materials, which I use for preparing Montessori-inspired activities.
On the top shelf, I have a Montessori decimal system demonstration tray and decanomial box. I use the bead bars for a variety of math activities (often shown on my themed shelves).
On the bottom shelf, I have some musical activities:
In my gift guide for Montessori homeschoolers, you’ll find materials I recommend. Most of these would be wonderful for a 4½ year old. Just go with your child’s unique developmental needs. DIY Montessori materials can be great, too.
Here are some Montessori sensorial materials that could be especially good for your 4½ year old:
- pink tower , brown stair, and red rods with extensions
- cylinder blocks and colored cylinders (full size)
- color box 2 if your child is still working on those colors (or for extension activities, such as Spanish color names). I like these DIY color tablets (color matching cards) using a Montessori Print Shop free printable for introducing colors to a young child whether or not the child will be attending a Montessori school.
- color box 3 (can be used to match colors of objects along with the traditional color grading)
- mystery bag and blindfold
- making a variety of muffins and other recipes
- DIY or inexpensive sound cylinders (mine are from the Montessori By Mom Making Music toolbox)
- DIY smelling bottles
Zoey’s environment at her own home also has Montessori-friendly shelves, although with more toys than educational materials.
Children at age 4½ are tremendously capable! Don’t worry about being perfect. Just do the best you can to observe and meet your child’s needs … and have fun! 🙂
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
- 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
Learn more about my eBook Montessori at Home or School: How to. Teach Grace and Courtesy!
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