Toddler Play: A Modified Montessori Setup

With the addition of Gareth, we have had to rethink our storage space so there would be room for all our things.  Ever since I read about the Montessori Method, I have wanted to design accessible shelves to store Gavin’s toys so he could lead his play time by deciding which toys he wanted to play.  Due to the limited space available, I’ve had to modify my shelving design…

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The original plan was to get IKEA shelves and mount it to the wall (note: wall mounting is necessary with kids because they will try to climb the shelves and if they aren’t wall-mounted, the whole unit can come down on them).  Now the original intention of IKEA may have been to sell “affordable” furniture, but in a country like ours, it is ridiculously expensive.  For the same price (more or less), I can get a more sturdy set of shelves that is put together by a professional carpenter who’ll deliver it straight to the spot I want it with no sweat off my nose.

Although the Montessori concept is to make all the toys within reach of your child so that he can choose to play with any of his toys, due to our limited space, I’ve had to build up.  There are some benefits to this design as opposed to my original design:

  • It keeps certain toys out of reach for when I “confiscate” them.
  • It stops Gavin from playing with Gareth’s battery-operated toys and killing the batteries.
  • I get a few shelves for myself to store my growing collection of parenting books.

It still leaves a sufficient number of toys within reach of Gavin for him to take as and when he desires.

The additional benefit of having the shelves is that we now have one place where we keep most of Gavin and Gareth’s toys and I no longer have to go hunting all over the house to find the first available space where we stashed them.  I’m sure it also reduces my MIL’s nightmare of having the kids’ stuff all over the house.  I’ve also been trying to get Gavin into the habit of packing up his toys and putting them away after he’s finished playing with them.

The latter is particularly important now that we have Gareth around.  We never really had a problem with Gavin putting toys in his mouth so the fear of him choking on a small bit was less of a concern.  Gareth, on the other hand, is demonstrating a keen desire to put things into his mouth.  Once he is mobile, there are a lot of toys we’ll need to keep out of reach unless supervised.

Having had a semi-Montessori setup in practice for a while, I have to say that one of the downsides is the fact that a child with access to toys and books is capable of making an enormous mess.  It takes a while to get him used to the idea that he can only take out a few things at a time and he must return the original items before taking more things out.  There are occasional lapses but I figure a child that is occupied with objects that are suitable for him is less likely to mess around with things that aren’t suitable.

While it might be annoying to have him take things out of his own cupboard all the time, I’m sure that’s got to be better than having him take things out of the kitchen cupboards.

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Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of Figur8.net (a website on parenting, education, child development) and RightBrainChild.com (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

2 thoughts on “Toddler Play: A Modified Montessori Setup

  1. Keller has shelves everywhere because we have such limited space. I find myself rotating toys from in use (on shelves) to out of use (storage closet). Keller went through a phase where she would pull everything down just to put everything back. Now, if I ask her to put a book back, she can put it on the right shelf. I think the shelves and cupboard will prove to be a great way to teach Gavin and Gareth about organization, enjoy!

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