A few weeks ago Irene sent me a picture or two of her son Joshua working. In the background I could see his work shelves and of course I asked to see more. I was delighted by this clean, simple but inviting Montessori environment. I hope you enjoy the tour! Words by Irene.
My son Joshua is 20 months old at the moment and we live in Melbourne. We have been following Montessori since he was around 6 months old. I became interested in Montessori as my husband is a Montessori child himself and he attended a small local Montessori kindergarten. Once I had a little time on my hands I started looking into it and the independence, free thinking and sense of order that Montessori encourages really resonated with me. I have always admired my husband's creativity, spatial awareness and problem solving abilities, qualities I think he developed through his early Montessori experiences. It pleases me that Joshua is showing the same qualities and loves working to build things as well as mastering puzzles, posting items and shapes. Montessori has taught me to follow the child’s lead and provide the tools support his learning in an environment that is orderly with beautiful materials. At 20 months it has become clear to us that the environment we have provided for him has been invaluable in assisting with his development. His concentration level has improved so much and he appreciates beautiful things around him.
My reading started with recommendations of "How to Raise An Amazing Child the Montessori Way" by Tim Seldin, "Teach Me to Do It Myself" by Maja Pitamic and "Montessori from the Start" by Paula Polk Lillard. These were my first books to get a good idea for activities and processes to encourage and implement at home. I am currently reading "The Joyful Child" and “Child of the World” for further ideas and information. I loved the above resources as they speak to the reader in an easy way which makes implementing Montessori at home very simple and not as daunting.
I get a lot of inspiration from blogs and online resources - of course How We Montessori, The Full Montessori, Montessori Child, Feeding the Soil and recently Sixtine et Victoire for ideas on work spaces, activities and general thoughts on positive parenting. Pinterest is also a wonderful resource for finding and pinning ideas I have so that I can refer to them at any time. I have also found Aid to Life, At Home With Montessori and Michael Olaf are also fantastic for information on specific issues such as toilet learning and encouraging movement and dexterity. We also attend a Montessori Toddler group so there are sources of inspiration there for activities but also for presentation of activities, for example Joshua seems to be more drawn to painting and cleaning there simply because of the different presentation so I observe and change things at home to facilitate and promote these interests. Joshua’s work area has evolved considerably since he was born and continues to do so as his needs and interests change.
AREAS OF INTEREST
1. MAIN WORK AREA: This is located downstairs and we have set aside an area in our living room as Joshua enjoys working nearby while I am cooking or cleaning. Often he will come and get up on his step-stool and either take his afternoon snack and watch me cook or will want to help cut things up and sample. He works with his own tools - he has a chopping board, wavy chopper, whisk and a few other things. Baking time is particularly fun, I try to bake with Joshua at least once a week.
As the living room adjoins the kitchen and is tiled, we decided to put down a large low pile mat to define the work area. Practically speaking it is also a lot nicer to work on a mat rather than sit on the cold floor. We put in cube shelving as it was nice and low for accessibility when he was younger but we added another taller shelf as his interests changed. He has a small table and chairs and a small art area where he draws on the blackboard or paints when he feels inspired to.
We keep a small woven basket on the shelf. On our daily walks Joshua collects a few small treasures such as little sticks, rocks and flowers which he deposits into the basket when he returns. This is available for him to explore at a later time at his own leisure. His particular collecting interest at the moment is stones, he was excited to find some white quartz stones the other day. Other materials in the shelves are rotated periodically based on my observation of his interests.
A set of unit blocks that are permanently on display and easily accessible. Joshua has showed very strong interest in building blocks so these are displayed invitingly (inspired by How We Montessori). Joshua’s Christmas present is more unit blocks and this will complete the set he has with some more complex pieces so that he can commence undertaking some further exploration.
2. VEGGIE PATCH: We recently updated our garden to include a veggie patch. Joshua is responsible for watering the patch every day and keeps pointing to his favourite, the tomato plant. I think he is anticipating eating some lovely home grown tomatoes in the not too distant future, I hope our patch can oblige him. This is teaching him a love of plants and on our walks everyday he is more interested in flowers, trees, leaves and other bushes.
3. TOILET LEARNING AREA: We have two stations, one upstairs and one downstairs. These are easily accessible and have been set up to facilitate the toilet learning process. We make clean trainers and underwear available in baskets and a bucket for washing. The basin is easily reachable for washing hands as we have a sturdy step and the upstairs basin serves as water play, care of self and for washing hands.
4. SNACK AREA: This has been setup on a small table that was made by Joshua’s great grandfather and will eventually become Joshua’s bedside table when he is ready for a big bed. I try to make this area interesting by rotating the picture on the wall of beautiful art works. I am particularly interested in impressionist artists so I have been putting a few of my favourites there for Joshua to appreciate. I am looking at getting some life prints of butterflies and bugs to display as he has expressed a strong interest in these lately.
5. DRESSING AREA: Joshua has a cube chair that serves is multipurpose – he sits to help dress himself in the morning but he can also stand on the chair and look out the window or push it over to the light switch and turn the light on and off. Joshua also has a laundry basket in his room that he puts his used clothes into before bath time each night.
ITEMS OF INTEREST
Some of the first “Montessori” activities we commenced with were life activities which I feel are so important for development. These are able to be done easily at home and we purchased all items for these locally. For specific activities I followed Joshua’s interests, which are mainly shapes, puzzles and colours. Some of the items we have on the shelves at 20 months are:
- Tuzzles Puzzle – Purchased through Windmill Toys, a local toy shop. They are also online. This has been amazing for understanding graduating sizes of different shapes. Something similar is available from Michael Olaf online.
- Liquid timer – Purchased through Montessori Child and are fascinating to watch.
- Mini Knobbed Cylinders – A2Z Montessori Australia (however these can be purchased through several suppliers but I felt that the quality of these ones were wonderful). Joshua has pretty much mastered this one but there are still a few areas of difficulty, specifically presenting more than two together is very involved and tricky at the moment.
- Unit Blocks – Unfortunately Australia does not seem to not have many, if any, suppliers of quality unit blocks that I could find. These are Plan Toys Unit blocks (I think these are a 50 piece set) however I have found that there are many American suppliers of Unit blocks. One that I particularly admire is Carolina Pratt Unit Blocks which stocks large sets and individual pieces. They are a worthy investment and are made from Hard Rock Maple and will be a beautiful addition to our collection sometime in the near future.
Irene also mentions that Joshua has a second work area upstairs where they have utilised an existing bookshelf and devoted the bottom shelves to Joshua's materials. This is an area where he can work when he wakes in the morning or while Irene is doing household chores upstairs.
A sincere thank you to Irene for the gorgeous pictures and detailed explanations. Thank you for sharing your spaces with us Irene.
You can also find Joshua's gorgeous little tea set at Windmill Toys.