Tour our play room set up, including links to everything. This is our current arrangement at 2.5 years old, though it hasn’t changed much since he was a baby.
I’m so excited to finally share our play room with you! We spend so much time in here, and it is one of my favorite spaces in our home. I designed it with Montessori principles in mind, really trying to keep it calm and minimalistic, organized and accessible. Though I am just now getting around to sharing our tour (2.5 years later!), it has been in this setup since he was born. To keep it calming, I like to keep the large pieces neutral and use toys to bring in pops of color. Contrary to what popular toy manufacturers want you to believe, bright colors and lights are very overwhelming to children and they do much better without.
ROTATE YOUR TOYS
I only offer a limited selection of toys on his shelf at a time, and store the rest in bins in our basement. I definitely need to put together a better organization system down there, but that’s a whole other project! Science has shown that kids actually play better and are more engaged when they have LESS to choose from. Montessori recommends only about 8-10 toys out at a time. Pay attention to which toys interest your child most, and put the rest away into storage. Once a toy goes untouched for a while, put that one away and bring out something “new”. You can rotate out one toy at a time periodically, or what I prefer to do, is a larger toy rotation once every few weeks. Rotating toys keeps them feeling new and exciting for a much longer period of time, and they end up getting more use in the long run. I aim to do bi-weekly toy rotations, though often we may go 3-4 weeks between rotations, especially during the warmer months when we are spending the majority of our time outdoors and away from the play room.
Another aspect of Montessori is how toys are displayed. Every item should have a designated place, which is easy to accomplish when you offer limited toys (bonus: this makes clean up so quick and easy!). Display toys with just a few on each shelf and leave plenty of space between them. Activities such as puzzles or stacking rings should be displayed unfinished, with loose objects placed in a basket or tray. This invites the child to complete the work (activity).
To be honest, much of Max’s time is spent on open-ended play with cars and trucks, and there are some days the shelf activities are barely touched. It’s been that way since he was a baby, and I just follow his lead. He does always play more just after a toy rotation, but do not worry at all if you feel like your child isn’t doing enough shelf work. They are learning and growing no matter what activity they are engaged in.
In the center of the room, we will rotate between large items. We used to have a ball pit here (link), which Max loved when we was around one. It lost its excitement a bit, and then got eaten by our dog, so I didn’t bother to replace it. When we have our next baby, I will definitely get a new one! Sometimes we have our pikler climber here, and sometimes we have a train table – either set up with the train tracks on it, or flipped over to the blank side with roads and a town set up for cars. Other times, we will just leave the center empty to allow for lots of movement! Children need to run, jump, dance, etc. and unrestricted movement is another key principle of Montessori.
It is important for development to provide children with a room or designated space where they can move freely without the fear of hurting themselves or being reprimanded. You should secure the area and be sure all potential dangers are removed, and keep out only items that they are allowed to freely explore. It seems like such an obvious concept, but play time is so much more enjoyable for both kids and mama when you don’t have to constantly be moving things away or telling them “no”. We keep a gate at the door and now that Max is a little older, I can be in the kitchen (right outside the playroom), while Max enjoys independent play time, and feel comfortable knowing he is safe in that room and I don’t need to worry about having my eyes away from him. We have made both his playroom and his bedroom “yes” spaces.
A really key Montessori principle is to help little ones become more autonomous. By making the environment accessible, you are setting them up for success. This also sets you on the path for more independent play and less time you as a parent must be actively entertaining them.
Several ideas to consider:
When we did our home renovation, this room was planned to be my office, which is why we have the built in desks. Of course, I got pregnant the very same month we moved in! I do wish the desks weren’t there so we could have more wall space, but we make it work.
I love our sensory table from Ikea. We will rotate different sensory activities here, like water beads (link), dried beans and construction trucks (link), sand, pom poms, or play dough. Behind that table is a mounted acrylic mirror and pull up bar. A must-have for babies! Max spent a lot of time on a mat beside the mirror, learning to explore. The pull up bar helps when they are first learning to stand and walk. Once he was too old for it, we moved the sensory table in, but are keeping the mirror up for the next baby!
This table from Sprout is mostly used for art or playdough activities. We keep the art cart (link) beside the table, and I put a different activity on each shelf, like crayons and a coloring book, paint and paper, and stickers, for example. The rest of his art supplies are stored in the basement. When he was a baby, I used the cart to store all art supplies, but once he was old enough to access the cart himself, I found it better to only leave out a few ready-to-go options that he can choose and take to the table.
We modified the Ikea play kitchen a bit to turn it into more of a functional kitchen. Basically, I removed the faucet and put a water dispenser there instead, drilled a hole into the sink and put a bucket underneath. You can also replace the stove top with a cutting board, but Max really enjoys pretending to cook with pots and pans. Occasionally we’ll try to sit and eat his snack at the table, but haven’t been able to get consistent with that, so his kitchen isn’t being used yet for things like food prep.
The reading corner is my favorite area. Max loves books almost as much as cars, so we spend quite a bit of time here. This Nugget sofa is wonderful. We have the same one in a reading corner in his bedroom as well. It is perfect for building forts. Every time I do a toy rotation, I also rotate the books out for new ones. If there is one book he is particularly enjoying at the moment, I may leave that one a bit longer, but typically I just replace them all.
In addition to the playroom, we keep a small collection of toys and another reading corner in our family room. He has a toy shelf and reading corner in his bedroom, as well as a reading area in the bathroom (we really love books around here!). We keep a few gross motor toys out too – right now it is a push bicycle and scooter.
Thank you for following along on our Montessori journey! And I just wanted to give a reminder, please do not compare your playroom to ours or anyone else’s. A lot of homes don’t have an extra space for a playroom and that’s normal! Adapt to what works for your family, and know that kids are happy with whatever we can provide for them, and all that truly matters to them is your time and love.