What is a Montessori Shelf

The Montessori method never goes out of style. It’s been around for over a century and parents just to love it, simply because it makes sense. 

Let your children discover on their own, keep the materials natural, simple toys, more creativity and open-ended play – who can’t get behind that?

With the simplicity of the Montessori method comes the Montessori shelf. A low, open, wooden shelf, made to hold a few toys at a time in a way that encourages creative play and freedom of expression for your child.

Let’s explore it further.

What is the Montessori method?

The Montessori method of education was developed by Maria Montessori in the early 1900s. The Italian physician opened her first classroom in 1907 and the method has been used ever since.

The Montessori method is based on a child-centred educational style. Children are naturally seeking knowledge and the Montessori method supports that way of thinking and acting. It gives children the ability and freedom to explore, without too many distractions.

Montessori toys are simple, tactile and made from natural materials such as wood. They are meant as open-ended tools to allow the child to decide what to do with them.

The Montessori shelf is a key part of the Montessori method because it allows the child to choose and pick up his own toy from a limited number of available choices.

what is a montessori shelf

What is a Montessori shelf?

A Montessori shelf is a relatively low, open shelf made out of wood that is used to hold toys in view and reach of a child. Montessori shelves are used wherever the Montessori method is used or encouraged. 

You will find many different versions of the Montessori shelf in places like playrooms, classrooms, daycares and even doctors’ offices.

There are many reasons to build or buy a Montessori for your home. They allow your child to take control of his playtime and encourage open-ended play and creativity.

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Why use a Montessori shelf for your toys?

Clutter doesn’t just frustrate adults, it also overwhelms your little ones. A typical toy box is usually full of toys of all kinds, one on top of the other. This kind of environment has been shown to frustrate kids. Reducing the number of toys available to your child is the first step.

Secondly, it is suggested that the toys are laid out clearly and in reach of your toddler. This is where the Montessori toy shelf comes in.

This type of open setup makes it fun and easy for kids to go at their own pace and discover what is available to them. The low shelf height allows for even small infants to start discovering.

It is suggested that no more than two toys are placed in each section of the Montessori shelf and a maximum of 8 to 12 toys total are available at each time.

Toy rotation is important as well and goes hand in hand with your Montessori shelf setup. I wrote a detailed post about toy rotation here.

A Montessori shelf is the way to offer toys to toddlers while following the Montessori method of open play. But you don’t have to follow the Montessori methods to the tee to take advantage of a Montessori shelf. In fact, any family could take advantage of this type of learning and build a similar shelf setup in any playroom.

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When to introduce a Montessori shelf to your child?

You can introduce the Montessori shelf as soon as your child is able to walk, crawl, pull himself up on his own or even just sit up. The whole idea is to let him decide what he wants to play with and have the choices available at arm’s reach.

There is no minimum age for the Montessori shelf, it will fully depend on your child and his ability to move and pick his own toys up from the shelf. 

One thing to keep in mind is to not place toys out of reach from your little one. If he can’t yet reach the top shelf, keep the toys on the low shelves.

How long can you use a Montessori shelf?

Your Montessori shelf will become a fixture in your playroom for years to come. Children love their toy shelves because they mean fun to them. Let the child outgrow the shelf and not the other way around. 

Kids go through phases all the time. There may be short periods when the toy shelf will seem like it hasn’t been used in a while, and that’s ok. As long as your child is still playing with toys, he will eventually return to the shelf for more fun.

Once your little one is grown and he stops going to the shelf for his toys it may be time to move on. But until then, don’t rush the process.