I love walking into Montessori classrooms. The spaces are beautifully and intentionally designed with children's needs in mind, and are inviting spaces to explore, play and learn. That got me thinking...
Wouldn't it be nice to have a Montessori-style home for my daughter Gwen?
After I read The Montessori Toddler by Simone Davies, I was super inspired to apply Montessori principles to set up a child-friendly home for Gwen to enjoy and belong.
Why Montessori my Home?
I was drawn to the beauty and concept of a Montessori home. I love that a Montessori home provides what is known as "The Prepared Environment" for children, a place that facilitates independent play, learning and exploration, meeting the child's developmental interests and needs. It is a safe, calm and orderly environment where the child knows what to expect, where things belong, and are even able to return toys to where they should be. Read more about "The Prepared Environment" on Age of Montessori.
Advantages of a Montessori Home
Once I created a Montessori home, I found that clean-up was a joy, there was a system where there is a place for everything and it was easy to have everything in its place.
Hosting regular playdates at my home was not a problem, because though it's not spacious, there was meaningful activities and stations for children to engage in gross motor play, fine motor practice, reading, pretend play and more. I have once hosted a group of 4 children in my tiny 500sqft apartment and kept them meaningfully engaged for 3 hours!
Constraints & Challenges to Montessoring My Small Apartment
My husband and I rent a 500sqft apartment in one of the metropolitan cities of Washington, where the location and the community are superb! The only downside is the limited living space, which was perfectly fine for the two of us until Gwen came along and all of a sudden we had to store bulky furniture like strollers, changing tables, baby cot etc in our home. When Gwen reached the age when she was mobile and could roam about the house, the lack of space began to feel like a real constraint.
My Inspiration for Montessori Small Spaces
Undeterred, I researched long and hard and found many examples of small Montessori homes, among which How We Montessori, Three Minute Montessori and Coffee and Toast Mama stood out as shining examples.
I didn't have to move out or rent a bigger space just to own a Montessori home! I just have to apply Montessori principles to the way I set up my home.
Home Tour of My Montessori Spaces
A woman on a mission, I spent the next 3 months designing and setting up a Montessori child-friendly home that integrates Gwen's play area into our own living space.
Now my home is totally refreshed and the decision to commit to a Montessori-style living space is the best I have made for my home.
I am excited to share the Montessori-inspired spaces in my house, here goes a home tour:
Gwen's dedicated play area is moved to the window area, where it is lit by natural sunlight in the mornings and evening. Sometimes I still can't believe this tall Pikler Triangle can fit in my tiny little rented apartment (along with a three-tier book case, IKEA toy kitchen, Wobbel balance board and IKEA sensory table!)
My cosy, homely living area with cushions and a giant bean bag in place of a couch. The dining table is toddler-height, which makes it perfect for Gwen to lay out her utensils and have meals together with us.
Gwen has an art supply box which she can access at will too. She helps herself to her markers, crayons, pencils and paper whenever she has the urge to create art. I also include a pack of wet wipes in the art supply box for her to wipe away ink marks on furniture (she's quite enthusiastic about keeping her table ink-free!)
She isn't able to open the paint bottles on her own but would carry them to me for help whenever she feels like painting! This way, I don't have to second-guess what art supplies she needs and wants!
This is Gwen's little bag on a low wall hook. I place her food thermos and water bottle in the bag when preparing to head out and the little one brings it to the door. That's her cue to get herself ready for going out!
Kitchen (Gwen's Utensil Drawer)
This is the lowest drawer in my kitchen drawers. I freed it up to place Gwen's dining utensils (plate, bowl, cup, fork and teaspoons) and other simple kitchen tools (whisk, cookie cutters and small wooden board) which Gwen uses alongside me in our baking sessions.
We air our kitchen towels on a low oven rung that is Gwen's height and teach her to retrieve the towels to mop up her own spills! Try getting differently colored towels and requesting for a different color each time to condition little ones to get the towel for their own cleanups.
Entrance (Shoe Area)
There are two small baskets, one for Gwen's socks and the other for my husband and my socks. Gwen knows to take and put on her own socks before heading out. Sometimes she even takes socks for me and my husband! Another box and wire basket hold her shoes, the more commonly worn ones (sneakers and flats) closer to the outside while the box with snow boots on the inside.
The chair is a gift from a family member and it's perfect for putting at Gwen's shoe area, where she can sit comfortably to put on her clothes, socks and shoes!
Bathroom (Gwen's Clothes Drawer)
A wall hook holds Gwen's towel for her to wipe her face and hand after washing up in the morning. Here's a life hack! Use two hair ties to secure the towel and make a loop so a little child can easily place the loop over the hook!
Again, the lowest drawer for Gwen to easily access her own PJs, diapers/training pants and moisturisers.
A netted bag on a low wall hook contains her leggings and pants, which she dons on her own in preparation to head out.
Bathroom (Potty Area)
A basket on a low wall hook holds a book for Gwen to read as she sits and waits on the potty.
Tips to Setting Up Montessori Spaces in Small Spaces
- Maximise vertical space as much as possible. I can't count the number of hooks I have placed on the wall to store and organise stuff, especially bulky winter coats and small clothing items like socks!
- Declutter! Really, less is more. I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondō and it helped me be completely ruthless when it comes to deciding whether something should stay or go. The items that stay should really spark joy in your life. I found many preloved items a second home on Facebook Marketplace, and donated many more to Goodwill. For outgrown baby items, I passed them along to new mom friends that I befriended. Honestly it wasn't easy to part with many items, especially the baby stuff that have sentimental value (you'll understand if you read my earlier post I Teared Putting Away My Newborn's Outgrown Clothes) but hey, they will be given a new lease of life elsewhere and I reminded myself I'm making space for more suitable and meaningful things required for a new season in life. I haven't looked back since!
- Child-size home furniture as much as possible. It isn't everyone's cup of tea to have a low Japanese-style dining table and low bean bag chairs in place of couches, but I found that my tall queen-sized sofa bed and tall dining table and chairs were getting little mileage because they were shoved to the corner of the house for being bulky and I was always worrying about Gwen falling off them. So the husband and I blessed them away to other residents of the house within a week of deciding to part with them and revamped our living room area. Now it's a really liveable area where Gwen likes to cosy up in the giant bean bag to read books and it's so much easier to have family meals together without confining Gwen to her high chair throughout.
- Empower children to help themselves. Toddlers are enormously capable, if we let them be and teach them how to. Being Montessori in my parenting style allowed me to truly believe that, because I have seen a dramatic transformation in Gwen's independence. At 18 months, she takes her own utensils to the dining table for meals, places her shoes and socks in the baskets when she returns home, puts used clothes into the laundry basket on her own initiative, helps herself to art supplies whenever she wants to draw and color and gets herself dressed (pants/leggings, socks and shoes) when leaving the house!
- Bookmark neighboring nature spots and include visits there as part of a weekly schedule. I make it a point to regularly bring Gwen outdoors to nearby parks, beaches (and even empty grassy lawns) just to run about, see the trees and flowers and feel the breeze, to make up for the lack of backyard in my home. It's not ideal, but a good enough compromise! Outdoor play is so important to a child's development!
Where to Shop for Montessori-friendly Furniture
- Ikea! That's where I got Gwen's sensory table from. It's the IKEA flisat table which comes with storage tubs. The IKEA toy kitchen is also a lovely feature in a play area (it has amazing storage space in its cardboards) where children can do pretend cooking.
- Amazon, from which I sourced the Pikler Triangle and Wobbel balance board. There's not a day when Gwen isn't using the Pikler Triangle. I like that there is a well-constructed tool for all of Gwen's (dangerous) climbing tendencies.
- Anko, where they have amazing wooden toys, baskets and trays for storing and keeping things organised.
- Thrift stores, which has surprisingly good finds for wooden household items that double as interesting resources for sensory activities.
If you're interested in how I parent in a Montessori style, read about how I provide acknowledgement and feedback in place of praise in my Montessori home over here in an earlier post. It made me feel good to develop Gwen's intrinsic motivations to get things done vs. work only to receive external praise and rewards (ahhh a praise junkie!)
To follow my parenting adventure, check out @miraculove_sg (Instagram), save our pins or join A Toddler Activity A Day 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.