The shelf is an essential part of a child’s prepared space. Although you can find many options that are labeled “Montessori shelf”. They are often expensive and ALL. LOOK. THE SAME.
I prefer to have the child’s space reflect the design style of the family. The most common version of the Montessori shelf is a Scandinavian design. I think this has evolved for 3 reasons:
- It is characteristically minimal, functional, with clean lines
- Scandinavian design was popular in the 60’s and 70’s when Montessori was growing in popularity in the US
- It is the predominant style found at IKEA which is accessible and affordable for many families.
The Montessori shelf needs to be sturdy, accessible, and functional. The color and design should not distract the from the work on it, and the size should fit the activities well, yet not restrict activities (this happens with the cube-style shelf of which I am not a fan).*
So, if you are looking for options that are not just Scandinavian, let me introduce you to some of our favorites:
- Mid Century Modern – This shelf will fit your style if you tend toward Mid-Century Modern design. The dark wood tone, angled legs, and low profile will house those wonderful activities and fit right in. Using a shoe bench rather than a bookshelf, ensures that this piece is sturdy. An important aspect if your child will be pulling to standing on the edge of this piece.
- Industrial look – The Hyllis from IKEA is under $10! Is versatile and I use it EVERYWHERE! This shelf is a natural material: metal, a neutral color: gray, and has an industrial feel. This shelf needs to be secured to the wall to minimize risk of injury (most manufacturers recommend this for shelving). It can be used as a first shelf in an infant area, a baking shelf in the kitchen, or a book shelf in the family room. We have used this shelf in many configurations in our house for years! Great investment!
- Floating Wall Shelf – It is often assumed that the shelf you choose bust be its own piece of furniture, but really, the look of floating shelves can be quite beautiful and minimal. If you truly have a minimalist design, consider a powder coated aluminum shelf or acrylic shelf. Just make sure to install them with the right wall anchors to hold the weight of activities.
These shelves can then be raised as your child grows. No need to buy a new shelf, just because your child is taller!
No matter your style, there is a shelf that fits you, your budget, and your aesthetic.
*although cube style shelves may see easy to use in a child’s prepared home, I am not a fan for these reasons: 1. They tend to be too deep and activities can get pushed to the back of the shelf, making the difficult to reach. 2. They restrict the size of basket, tray, and activities that can be housed on the shelf. When we talk about a young child’s activities that are a simple puzzle or language objects in a basket, this doesn’t seem like an issue. But in order for the shelf to evolve with your child, you will have to consider fitting activities like table scrubbing, flower arranging, and baking on those shelves.
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