On Instagram, there is a wonderful hashtag by Montessori on Mars called #Montessori_On. Right now it has themes for each week, and this week’s theme is Storage and Small Spaces. Coincidentally, that’s exactly what we’re working on in our home: the challenge of storage and setting up our small space, Montessori Style. We live in a two bedroom, one bathroom townhouse with a toddler under two, a dog, and a baby on the way. (I apologize in advance for the photo quality. I forgot to take pictures in the daylight of many rooms. Combined with a very slow internet connection, this is the best I’ve got access to at the moment, since all of my photos are stored in the cloud.)
We discovered the Montessori method when Prima was still an infant, but were often lost with how and where to begin. We’ve learned a lot since then, little by little. (Let me stop for a moment and point you to Simone Davies over at The Montessori Notebook. She has a webinar on how to set up your home, and a webinar tomorrow, May 25th, on “Montessori for Babies” ages 6 months and under.)
Tonight I’m sharing what we are doing right now, along with the changes we envision in each space for Prima and Secundus. We are working quickly to make some of these changes before the end of June (when Secundus arrives!) Others will happen slowly over the course of this year.
Because it is important to us that our children sit with us during mealtimes, we use either a high chair or a booster seat at meal times. The exception is often breakfast, when I’m cooking up eggs or oatmeal and Prima is starting off with yogurt. She prefers to be in the kitchen with me, and will often ask to eat her yogurt in there. She sits at the BEKVAM stool to eat when this happens. Some day I want to have a Tripp Trapp style high chair since it allows for more independence getting in and out. They are so expensive, though. And so far no one around us has offered up a used on for sale. Sigh. We have a picnic table that Prima sometimes eats snacks at. She prefers the BEKVAM stool for snacks most of the time. Otherwise, she uses it for some work or “reading.” I have a piece of foam board that I plan to attach with sticky tack (mounting putty?) so that the surface is easier to work on. Prima most often chooses to stand in a chair at our kitchen table for art activities.
In here we have the BEKVAM stool for reaching the sink and the counters, a cabinet, and a drawer specifically for Prima. The drawer needs to be organized, and the cabinet has some extra things that need to be moved out. Otherwise her dishes and tools are stored wherever we keep ours. That does mean that her dishes are not readily accessible to her. We did not teach her how to carry her own dishes or to set the table yet. Perhaps when she learns it we will move her dishes down. We also don’t have a drink or snack station for her. I’d like to make one but I do not know where it would go. When she can open the refrigerator by herself I can set one up on the bottom shelf for her. Another change: her apron needs a small hook at her level.
There is a small corner for Prima’s shelves and reading area tucked in next to the piano and love seat. The Norseman custom built the shelving for this space. Since we are renting and can’t drill into the walls, he made a brace that perfectly fits over the wall ledge on the stairwell landing.
I’m so proud of this shelf and his ingenuity. It forces us to drastically limit what is offered. This seems to be exactly what Prima needs. We had a larger shelf before, and she would get overwhelmed and scatter the toys/materials everywhere.
You can see that there is a basket holding some favorite books as well as a couple of books displayed on the shelves. I am trying out something new: using a “theme” on the shelves and keeping the rest of her books on the adult bookshelves. So far she has ignored the books on her shelves in favor of the rest of the ones on the adult shelves.
I think that she does not like having the covers face out. Just goes to show that the typical “Montessori” way is not necessarily what your child may prefer! Hence the importance of “following the child” rather than a set of hard and fast “Montessori” rules. Other things Prima has access to in this room: the piano, which she loves, and a couple of musical instruments that she chooses on occasion. They are a bit above her interest and skill level at the moment.
We have one teeny, tiny bathroom. Or perhaps normal sized anywhere outside of the United States? I have visited Japan once and although the hotel we stayed in was old and small, the bathroom was amazing and larger than this one! There are two baskets under the sink, one of which is supposed to hold Prima’s bathroom items. However, her shampoo and wash mitt are stored on the side of the bathtub instead. Her other items (toothbrush, toothpaste, hair brush, comb, “razor,” and “makeup brushes”) are stored either in the medicine cabinet or in baskets above the toilet. Some of them will be moved in June. Others that I do not trust her to regulate herself with yet (like the toothpaste) will stay out of reach. She will be able to ask for it, though, so that isn’t a big concern. There are two stools in here. A folding one for her to use at the sink, and a small IKEA one for stepping up to the toilet. I am so happy to have found the folding stool. While Prima can’t yet open it on her own, she can ask for it, and it easily stores out of the way. Two major changes I want to make in here: 1.) add some sort of mirror to the area right above the sink for independent teeth brushing, and 2.) a Command hook towel bar attached lower on the wall for her hand towel.
It’s pretty basic right now: twin mattress floor bed, a dresser/changing station, mirror, bookshelf, POANG chair, and random wall hangings. I have some frames and pictures of kittens (Prima loves them so much right now) to hang on the wall beneath her window. Some of the other wall art will be removed. The dresser will stay. Prima can open the drawers on her own. We store her clothes and pajamas in the lower ones where she can easily reach them. The mirror will be hung on the wall, vertically, using monkey hooks. These hooks are supposed to hold items up to 50 pounds, leaving a hole only the size of a regular nail! Most of Prima’s toys are in a couple of small bins in her closet. In a couple of months, we are going to rearrange the furniture and add in a bed for Secundus. Because of this, the changing station will stay put.
Most of Prima’s toys are in a couple of small bins in her room, out of her reach. They are rotated as she loses interest in what is out. I mentioned that most of her books were moved to the adult bookshelves. She has a couple on the bookshelf in her bedroom, too. There is a closet in the hall between the kitchen and dining room where art supplies and some very random items are kept. By kept, I mean thrown into some boxes of other things or stacked wherever. The Norseman will be building some storage shelving for this closet but at the moment it’s quite haphazard. And that is basically the extent of our storage! I don’t keep many items out as it overwhelms us and our space. We improvise a lot. We focus on helping Prima be independent rather than worrying about having all of the “right” materials. Not that it’s easy! I confess, there are so, so many things that I would love to have. The pink tower, a Pikler triangle and ramp, a place to hang mobiles, a weaning table and chair, a giant wall map of the world, and so many others. We may add some things this year, but only after carefully evaluating our space, our storage, and considering whether another option is available that will do just as well. In the end, so long as independence is promoted, developmental milestones are achieved, a sense of order prevails, and the spaces are beautiful, I think that we will have reached the goal of having Montessori-style home.
If you would like to follow along with us as we work on our home, we will be doing some posts here on Wednesdays, and using the hashtag #montessorismall on Instagram. Do you have a small space? I’d love to hear what works for you!