Montessori materials can be costly, especially classroom tools. Sometimes, the hefty price tag is due to high raw material costs since Montessori materials tend to be high-quality and constructed from natural, sustainable sources; though at times, it could also be a result of marketing.
But Montessori is also possible on a budget, with some DIY and improvisation.
10 DIYs to Decorate & Furnish a Montessori Home from Household Materials
While I'm all about the aesthetics to make my Montessori homeschool inviting and beautiful, I remind myself that Montessori is also about appreciating and respecting the environment we live in, which is cosmic education, a concept typically introduced in the second plane.
As we teach our children to develop ownership/responsibility for the universe, the earth and their own lives, it's imperative to model taking care of our environment. When we incorporate DIY/improvisation into our everyday lives, and we actively reuse, reduce and recycle, we show our children that conserving resources and limiting waste can be an individual effort, and it matters.
In that vein, it feels exceptionally Montessori to me to DIY most of the practical decoration and items needed for our Montessori homeschool. These are 10 DIY ideas I've done for my Montessori homeschool, utilising upcycled household materials. Best of all, they're all made on a small budget:
1. Educational posters
Educational posters in a Montessori homeschool help to enhance aesthetics and bring about beauty in the child's environment. All the same time, it could help to accentuate a print-rich environment, or even pique interest in new topics in the child's life.
I made these nature-themed posters for Miss 3.1’s home reference library from cardboard and loose nature parts (leaves/twigs) we found outdoors. This brings a slice of nature into our home environment, bridging our indoor and outdoor environments.
Miss 3.2 played a big involvement in collecting the nature loose parts, as well as creating the educational posters!
Lots of fine motor practice, creativity and self-expression involved as she scissored, glued and washi-taped away to make the educational posters. In the above picture, we had sorted the twigs according to their lengths (other everyday items for size sorting practice here) and Miss 3.2 helped to apply white glue to them to stick onto a cardboard base.
Having her artworks displayed all around at home speaks volume to how much we value her creativity and creations, instilling in her a sense of pride in her work.
Here's our small, indoor gardening art trolley, adorned with a handmade inspirational poster.
I like to add twine as a final touch so the educational posters project a rustic charm and natural vibe.
2. Potted plant crafts for space beautification
Montessori spaces are often adorned with greenery, reminding children of the beauty of nature, which is why we have our gardening art trolley for Miss 3.2 to tend to.
However I don't have green thumbs to keep alive larger indoor plants.
How do I enliven my indoor spaces with greenery if that's the case? Some Montessorians bring in artificial plants.
However, faux plants are not my thing, because they are mostly plastic-made and might off-gas. Realistic looking faux plants are really expensive (might even cost more than real ones!) while more affordable ones can look tacky.
My solution? DIY potted plant crafts. It's a fun family project, eco-friendly, low-cost, and achieves my object of enlivening my indoor spaces.
Steps for DIY potted plant crafts:
- Save and upcycle paper bowls (from food takeouts). Wash clean and dry before use
- Coil twine/jute around the exterior of the paper bowls. Alternatively, wrap and hot glue burlap cloth over exterior of the paper bowls
- Place bowl over cardboard and trace its shape out. Cut and trim to fit the paper bowl. It should be a snug fit.
- Hot glue the cardboard circle into the paper bowl
- Illustrate paper plants and slot them into slits in the cardboard circle. You’re done!
I had previously featured and saved the step-by-step crafting video on my Instagram highlight.
Plants that are great for DIY crafts: succulents and cacti.
Baskets are great for corralling loose parts, putting things that belong together, signalling to children a sense of order and organisation. But to buy a basket for every category of items? That would require so many baskets and natural baskets made from rattan/jute/cotton etc are pricey.
My solution? I save kraft paper bags from grocery stores. I fold them downwards from the top and it forms a basket.
If you need a sturdier basket, stack a few Kraft paper bags before folding down.
The beauty of using kraft paper baskets is that they are height-adjustable and space-efficient (shape can be easily compressed to fit many paper baskets in a small area).
They're also easy to DIY. I've seen Miss 3.2 independently attempt basket-making a number of times to store her nick-nacks.
Trays are extremely useful to instill a sense of independence and order in children, and a common sight in Montessori homes and classrooms.
When an activity is arranged neatly on a tray and presented to a child, the child instinctively understands that the items belong together and now knows the place to neatly put the items away when done with the activity.
Trays are also functional, allowing children to transport a variety of items from place to place independently.
Wooden trays can be expensive too, especially considering the quantity needed for our homes. I like to create my own DIY trays using shallow carton boxes and small fruit crates.
I usually punch holes on opposing sides of the tray and tie handles to each side. Alternatively, a handle on the top can be made for easy lifting of the trays.
This is a tray I made for Miss 3.2 to carry mandarin oranges for Chinese New Year.
I don’t have a picture but space used to be a constraint when we lived in our 500sqft rented apartment.
To organize my small closet space (which also served as toy storage), I made a three tiered shelf from identical-sized diaper boxes stacked and duct-taped onto one another.
6. Kitchen helper stool
My daughter joined me in the kitchen since she was a young toddler.
We didn’t have the space for a kitchen helper stool back in our small apartment’s open kitchen so we taught our toddler to safely climb and get down from a foldable chair with its back leaning towards the kitchen counter top. This improvised kitchen helper stool worked really well for us for several months, before we eventually moved into a bigger space. We could fold and stow away the chair in a small gap when not in use.
As a plastic foldable chair isn't as sturdy as solid wood kitchen helper stools, we made sure to supervise her for every use.
I introduced a cleaning caddy and an art caddy to my daughter when she was a young toddler. Below shares a picture of our cleaning corner (vacuum cleaner, height-adjusted swiffer mop and cleaning caddy).
This cleaning caddy was made from a cardboard box with a sturdy cardboard tube attached on its top to serve as a handle (aluminium foil cardboard tubes are sturdy and work great). This same caddy can be used for art material storage too, where the child can easily bring it around the house, to the car, and even to outdoor places (like doctor's waiting room etc).
Recommendations for what to keep in the caddy:
Cleaning caddy: Towels, sponges, spray bottles, mist bottles, dust pan etc.
Art caddy: Cups holding scissors, washi tape, small paper scraps, markers, crayons and color pencils respectively.
8. Front facing wall shelf
Maximisation of vertical space was a skill I learnt in making my small rented apartment extremely space-efficient. This means using wall shelves, wall hooks etc to organise and store items.
This diy front facing wall shelf is made from cutting out the right angled section of a shallow cardboard box with a cardboard tube (from easel paper roll), inspired by IKEA flisat wall shelf design.
It can be taped to the wall using heavy duty 3M picture tape strips. Use more tape strips if you were to place heavier items in them, like books.
9. Towels with loops
Part of practical self-care for Montessori children includes being able to wash hands independently, as well as drying their own hands.
This is Three Minute Montessori’s practical life hack for making towels easy to reach for young children - tying elastic bands to the towels so they could be pulled down to the child's height. Upon release, the towel springs back.
This is particularly useful if you DIY hand towels like me! I like to upcycle old garments into absorbent hand towels. These DIY hand towels don't have loops for hanging up and tying an elastic band to them solves the problem.
This keeps towels from being strewn around the bathroom counter top which makes the space look cluttered, and deters the towels from air-drying easily.
10. Black and white visuals (for carers with newborn babies)
Newborn babies love black and white imagery. This visual stimulation helps their developing eyesight and brains.
As this is a short phase, DIYing of your own black and white visuals for the baby's play space and nursery could be a great cost-saver.
I engaged my toddler to craft these simple black and white prints, and it was fun, on top of it being great fine motor practice + shape learning as well as mentally preparation of the elder child for a newborn baby in the house.
11. Upcycled egg crate plant pots
I've been planting vegetable table scraps (scallions, celery, bak choy etc) in our gardening art trolley. Scallions in particular grow fast and Miss 3.2 enjoys watering them and seeing their growth.
Without spending a cent, reuse egg cartons as a seed-starting tray! If the plants are eventually transplanted, the egg carton can be biodegraded, making it eco-friendly too.
Tip: Poke small holes for drainage. I like to stack two egg cartons together, the inner one with holes for drainage, and the outer one to catch residual water that seeps through the first.
12. DIY learning tools
Here's a modified Hundred Board I made from white cardboard and dot stickers for my daughter when she showed interest in learning numbers in the 20s and 30s.
This Hundred Board fuses her love for stickers, thereby making the learning more engaging and hands-on.
I also made a DIY alphabet box using an egg crate and dot stickers. This is a Montessori inspired tool to teach phonetic letter sounds.
We place miniature figurines and loose parts into the egg crate compartments matching each letter sound.
There are a number of items that we didn't have a physical object for, which I encourage my daughter to draw. Drawing the phonetic objects leveraged more of her senses, helping to boost a stronger recall for the letters.
If you're DIY and crafty, also refer to this post for other low-cost, homemade Montessori learning tools you could try for toddlers/preschoolers.
I hope these DIY ideas inspire you to decorate and furnish your Montessori homeschool on a budget!
Follow our journey on Instagram, Pinterest or Facebook Group.
You might also like:
Hi! I am Yunnie. I am the newly minted mama to a little baby girl and a mum friend to everyone on this special (and many times scary) journey of motherhood. Also a graduated bride with a penchant for weddings.