How do you clean and store your Montessori materials? Every month it's worth deep cleaning your materials and play spaces to keep them safe and in good working order. This includes running a damp cloth over dusty shelves and drawers. Here are a few other materials that could do with a clean!
Schleich and similar model animals. You can involve your child in the process, however, a deep clean by an adult is a good idea every month depending if you've had any illnesses or if they have been used in the bath (watch for mould and soap scum), outside or in the sandpit. We soak our model animals in warm soapy water for a couple of hours, to loosen the dirt, and then clean with a soft bristled brush. We rinse and air or towel dry. We store our animals in small plastic tubs. We have a few separate tubs including a tub for dinosaurs, sea/ocean animals, farm animals and for miscellaneous animals.
Wooden baby toys. We wipe these down with a damp clean cloth and air dry. They are stored wrapped in brown tissue paper in small plastic tubs. We use a beeswax polish to maintain them. We also use the beeswax polish on other wooden toys such as our wooden barn. The barn gets dusty easily and needs a good wipe out every couple of weeks. Our playgym gets wiped down every week.
Montessori mobiles. Our mobiles usually only need a wipe down with a clean and dry cloth. We store our tactile mobiles in the box they came in. Our visual mobiles, we currently use the dancers, butterflies, hot air balloon, and whales, are stored in A4 plastic pockets.
Child's table and chairs. I absolutely recommend having your children help with this but every month we give the chairs and tables a once over. A soapy cloth will remove most build up followed up with a hand dry with a soft cloth. For our art table, I give it a deep clean once every six months and if necessary I will also sand it back and then repolish with beeswax to remove paint and protect it for another six months.
Kitchen and gardening tools. It's a good idea to teach children how to maintain these. We generally store the children's gardening tools with the adult's gardening tools and give them a wash down with the hose every weekend. They will need to dry completely before storing to avoid rust. Kitchen tools are mostly stored in the children's shelves or drawers in the kitchen and most often they go through the dishwasher after being used. Our children's brooms need a shake outside every other day. Dustpans can be wiped down with a damp cloth. Aprons laundered weekly, or more/less often depending on use. It is worth considering sanitising children's mops with hot water weekly and air dry after every use.
Miscellaneous Montessori toys and materials. I try to store toys like puzzles, imbucare boxes, coin boxes, and stacking materials in their original boxes. This helps to protect them and makes them easy to stack. A dust with a damp cloth is all they need, make sure they are completely dry before storing.
Laminated cards and materials. If you are anything like me you have a lot of these. Before our cards are put away we wipe them down with a damp cloth and leave them to air dry on a clean cloth. This is so important for toddler cards, sticky toddler hands can leave fingerprints or food marks which can ruin the cards. The cards also need to be completely dry so they don't deteriorate or get moldy in storage.
Some companies sell their cards in labeled, durable thick plastic pockets which are ideal. I store my handmade cards in fabric pouches or drawstring bags or ziplock bags if I can't find an alternative. Clean and labeled envelopes would work well too. I will often store packets of cards in glasslock containers either by topic or age group. For example, some containers will have lifecycles in them, while others will have toddler matching cards.
In our home, we try to reduce, reuse and recycle as much as possible. We keep as many original boxes and packets as we can and we keep all small fabric pouches and drawstring bags as they are fantastic for keeping materials together. Now with three children, I really appreciate clean, well packed and stored Montessori materials!