Do you wonder what types of learning activities to put on your shelves for a 4 year old? In case it’s helpful for you, I’ll show you what’s on the shelves in my living room for my 4-year-old granddaughter, Zoey. I typically take care of Zoey 3 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 4 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, and 4 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 moon-themed and fall-themed activities. Now I have out bear-themed and fall-themed activities.)
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How to Prepare a Montessori Home Environment for a 4 Year Old – YouTube Video
What’s on My Montessori Shelves for a 4 Year Old
Here’s my Montessori home environment in the late fall. 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 moon theme, I have The Fantastic Gifts of Fall and a few fall books as well as some moon books for our moon theme. I typically have some Pete the Cat books (favorites with even the adults), I Spy art books, manners books, and some classic books, (Note: These aren’t all Montessori-style books, but they’re wonderful books!). One of Zoey’s favorite books 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 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 moon-themed activities in my free moon printables and Montessori-inspired moon activities post. During the month, I added a solar system puzzle (one that’s a bit too easy for Zoey now but that is a good visual of the solar system), the book Margaret and the Moon, a Spielgaben rocket-building activity, the beautiful moon phases puzzle (too simple for a 4 year old as a puzzle but great for tracing, learning the names of the moon phases, and tracking the moon throughout the month) by FromJennifer, and the moon do-a-dot and cutting strips work that we had out for a couple of days.
Montessori Sensorial, Math, and Movement Shelves
Top Shelf in the Sensorial, Math, and Movement Area
- Thanksgiving hundred chart art with The First Thanksgiving print and book. Update: Even though The Thanksgiving Story by Alice Dalgliesh is a Caldecott Honor-winning book, it’s now outdated. I no longer use it. At Thanksgiving, my focus is simply on gratitude and family togetherness.
- Melissa and Doug monthly magnetic calendar
Middle Shelf in the Sensorial, Math, and Movement Area
- Months and seasons work
- Montessori brown stair (with pink tower to the left of the shelf and red rods to the right of the shelf)
Bottom Shelf in the Sensorial, Math, and Movement Area
- Color grading tablets (color box 3 or printable color tablets) for matching colored leaves from our nature walks
- 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 loves
Montessori Shelves in the Practical Life, Language, and Cultural Area
I use one shelving unit for practical life, language, and cultural activities. 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.
Right now, I have a lot of language materials on the shelves because of Zoey’s sensitive period for writing.
- Montessori continents globe
- Matching Montessori Print Shop continent cards with a Safari Ltd. animal for each continent (You can find animals for the various continents with their TOOB keys in this post.)
- Sandpaper letters
- Alphabet Cards from the Montessori Letters and Sounds Printable Pack Bundle by Renae from Every Star Is Different (on sale through today)! See my blog post about the bundle.
- Montessori Services objects and Safari Ltd. objects (one object for each letter)
- My Montessori Lowercase Letters and Sounds Book Zoey made
- a window washing tray with a Montessori Services squeegee, which Zoey loves (I always keep these on our shelves.) I often have more practical life activities on the shelves. Right now, our practical life isn’t in tray work as much as cooking, baking, cleaning, and care of plants. It varies according to Zoey’s needs.
- metal inset (plastic inset) work (used as sensorial for shapes plus writing)
- Printed alphabet wood tracing board (beautiful material and wonderful for extra work on letter formation) by FromJennifer
- 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
- Alphabet box
To the left of the shelves is another book basket. To the right of the shelves is a large basket with a 54-piece jumbo world puzzle map. This is my alternative to the Montessori world map. It’s lots of fun with Safari Ltd. animals!
More Shelves and Other Primary Areas
Zoey’s snack shelves are in a cupboard in my kitchen, although it isn’t as necessary as it used to be. I’ve changed a number of the items on the shelves from Zoey’s toddler snack shelves because she can get her own snacks out of the refrigerator and freezer. Many of the items here are for Zoey to prepare her snack (for example, washing berries in the strainer or using the cutting board with a nylon knife to cut her snack). Cutting a banana, coring an apple and spreading peanut butter on the apple slices, making ants on a log, and table washing have been fun activities for her as a toddler and preschooler.
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. Right now, we have a beginning sounds poster with magnetic letters. 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.
Some of the Montessori materials, like the movable alphabet and bead materials, I generally do with Zoey and don’t keep those materials out on the shelves (because of my limited space). 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 some musical activities:
The middle and bottom shelves have cylinder blocks, knobless cylinders, binomial cube, and trinomial cube.
In my gift guide for Montessori homeschoolers, you’ll find materials I recommend. Most of these would be wonderful for a 4 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 4 year old:
- pink tower , brown stair, and red rods
- 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
- Binomial cube and trinomial cube
- 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 4 are capable of learning so much … I love the age! 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:
- 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
Jo Ebisujima and I have a free Montessori at home webinar and introduction to our Montessori Crash Course.
Learn more about my eBook Montessori at Home or School: How to. Teach Grace and Courtesy!
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