Pictured is:

  • Single piece puzzles (these should be your child’s first experience with puzzles)
  • Colour exploration activity (these are simply food colouring in water inside hot glued containers)
  • Opening and closing objects in a basket
  • Posting box with drawer (tricky as the drawer will come out if pulled too far. Lots of cause and effect and sequencing happening in this one!)
  • A wooden toy (not strictly ‘montessori’ I know, but good for gross motor skills and moving with equilibrium. Also good for ‘maximum effort’ as it is decently heavy)
  • Posting activity (this is wood clothes pins in a toothbrush container, perfect for fine motor and hand eye coordination). 

Little ones love these forms of activities over open ended play things a lot of the time. These activities build concentration and repetition. They require learning of important life skills and indirect preparation for language and maths, all the while little ones just enjoy having fun with them!

Pictured is:

  • Simple one piece knobbed puzzles
  • Ball run (this one has a hammer too which adds to complexity but it could also just be pushed in by hand),
  • Posting box (cylinder)
  • Language objects (these are Australian animals, make sure that they are a realistic as possible, particularly ensure they are size relative to each other – e.g. that a starfish isn’t the same size as a whale)
  • Hammering
  • Construction materials (these are natural wood blocks that I am in love with! Don’t put too many out, just a few in a basket will do). 

Pictured is:

  • Posting with ‘match’ sticks (they are blunt on both ends, not sharp toothpicks or a hazard like actual match sticks) into an old herb/spice bottle
  • Rainbow stacker
  • Coin posting into a moneybox (ensure that your little one knows how to open/close the latches, if not make that an activity and lesson on its own first)
  • Nut and bolt screwing
  • Russian dolls (only use a few really obviously different sizes at first then add the other sizes in later)
  • Dress up items
  • Posting box. 

Add a child sized table and chair and a comfy mat or rug and you’re good to go! Note – keep in mind any sensory issues for little ones with special/high needs e.g. the rainbow stacker can be completed standing or laying down. Also change out coins for buttons if sound sensitivity is an issue.

Practical life shelf: these are the skills needed for everyday life: care of self, the environment and food preparation. 

  • Pouring (I usually only have the ‘two jug pouring’ activity out if a child is really obsessed with pouring or requires specific remedial help with the task as I usually prefer to have pouring practice as part of daily life (e.g. pouring water into their own glass for a drink etc.) not so much on a tray. You can change up the material in the jug e.g. chickpeas etc.)
  • Strawberry slicing
  • Water pouring (no handle)
  • Dustpan and brush (I am not a fan of the ‘staged’ dustpan activity of tip dirt out and then sweep it up, rather I use it in a practical sense, if there’s a spill or mess let’s clean it up)
  • Fruit rinsing
  • Table wiping. 

Teaching your little ones these skills is setting them up for an independent, successful life.

Here you can see:

  • Toileting area
  • Number work
  • Stickers and rock crayons
  • Dustpan, brush and cloth
  • Geometric solids in a  bag
  • Australian animals
  • Posting box
  • Large knobbed puzzle
  • Ring stacker
  • Russian dolls
  • Basket of cars
  • Ball tracker. 

These items incorporate a wide range of skills and activities.

Pictured is:

  • Landmark cards and objects
  • Car run
  • Coin posting
  • Letter cards
  • Music box (inside a zipped bag for extra sneaky fine motor work!)
  • Pegging
  • Picnic basket with wooden food and utensils. 

When using multi step activities such as putting a music box inside a zipped bag, ensure that your little one knows how to open the zip. If they don’t know how to do this, it will only cause frustration. Have the unknown item as a separate activity first. 

Practical life shelf:

  • Slinky apple making
  • Apple cutting
  • Orange juicing
  • Dustpan and brush
  • Egg or strawberry slicing
  • Hair brushing
  • Table wiping. 

Ideally you would have a complete shelf or section for each practical life area (care of self, care of environment, food prep) but if you are short on space then combining the three into one area works just fine!

Pictured is:

  • Art supplies (crayon rocks, stickers, paper)
  • Threading
  • Alphabet sounds
  • Landmark objects with matching cards
  • Treasure basket
  • Posting activity
  • Pouring activity
  • Natural blocks
  • Wooden shop set
  • Animals
  • Cars
  • Sensory books
  • Sensory balls
  • Tool kit
  • Duplo blocks.

It’s important to observe and notice what your little ones do and don’t use. If something hasn’t been used in a while, take it away and put it in storage. Alternatively you can change the tray/basket/container that it’s in and that can re spark interest. On the flip side, if something is being constantly used, keep it out on the shelves until it isn’t. You don’t need to cycle things in and out based on the TIME it’s been on the shelves for, rather how much use and interest they get. 

Note – Only ever cycle out around half of the activities at once though, otherwise the change can be too overwhelming and unsettling (especially true for those with higher needs e.g. autism). If you change out everything at once it can also cause little ones to become a bit ‘frenzied’ and flit from one to another without really engaging in anything (think of Christmas morning for example). 

Pictured is:

  • Natural blocks
  • Ball tracker
  • Australian animal objects
  • Nesting doll
  • Collective noun book
  • Animal wood tiles (for matching or memory games)
  • Farm set
  • Duplo blocks.

Pictured is:

  • Two wind up music boxes, 
  • A coin posting activity
  • A hammer
  • Ball run in a tray to catch the balls (else they escape under the fridge!) 
  • Huge assortment of open and closing objects. 

Ordinarily you wouldn’t have any more than 5 objects in an activity, but given Miss V’s obsession at the time this was taken I added more. We also always have different art mediums and yoga mats available.

Pictured is:

  • Threading/beading
  • Sensory bottle
  • Toothpick posting
  • Car run
  • Ring stacker and a button matching activity. 

Remember to follow the child, if you notice that particular activities are no longer being used then it is time to either change it up or switch it out. 

To change it up you can change the medium used (e.g. if it was rice pouring, use pasta or cacao nibs instead), you could change the basket/box/tray being used or change it slightly but keep the same ‘theme’ (e.g. car run to a ball run). Only changing half of your activities at once maximum, as changing them all can be very unsettling.

Very ‘pretend play’ focussed shelves – not very Montessori, but it’s always most important to follow the child and their interests. 

Pictured is:

  • Basket full of outside activities e.g. frisbee and other random bits
  • Doctors kit (in ours we have herbs, oils and natural remedies in addition to normal doctor stuff)
  • Basket of various open and closing items
  • Tool kit
  • Nesting dolls
  • Treasure basket
  • Plastic toy clock we were given when Miss S was a baby, they love the songs (our only ‘plastic, battery operated, light up toy’)
  • Wind up music box (old biscuit tin one). 
  • We also have the toy kitchen out. 

The girls made ice cream shops, drive throughs and all kinds of things using it (Miss S writes up menus and signs too). Lots of imitating real life situations, imagination, and social modelling happening using these items right now!

Pictured is:

  • Robotic butterfly
  • Letter tiles
  • Puzzles
  • Books
  • Affirmation cards
  • Sensory basket
  • Box of figurines to assemble
  • Vet kit
  • Doll house
  • Various art supplies
  • Construction ‘blocks’
  • Wooden toy car. 

Both of the girls utilise these activities (aged 9 and 4). 

I get asked a lot about how I set up our areas at home. This is how I had Miss V’s area set up from crawling to walking stage. 

It had:

  • Easily accessible shelves
  • Her toileting area
  • A mirror (not glass) and pull up bar (to pull up on to aid in standing and cruising for pre-walkers)
  • Her table and chair were nearby also
  • I used 3 floor mats from IKEA as they wiped down easily and folded up if need be, plus they are nice and cushy! 

This area was in the central open plan living area (photo taken from standing near kitchen bench). I’m a big believer that younger children want to be where you are, so I have play areas in the central part of the house. This means not only can I easily chat with them and keep an eye on them while I’m cooking but it means mess isn’t being carted through the house from a play room to a central area for example. 

Point of note, I never have a tv on when the children are awake as it is just an unnecessary noise and distraction interrupting their concentration.

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