The Montessori Shelf

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:

  1. It is characteristically minimal, functional, with clean lines
  2. Scandinavian design was popular in the 60’s and 70’s when Montessori was growing in popularity in the US
  3. 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 ModernThis 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 lookThe 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.

*We may receive compensation when you click our links and make a purchase. However, there is no additional cost to you and this does not impact our recommendation choices.

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Creating a Montessori Home

The prepared environment is the term used in Montessori to describe how each Montessori space is designed to enrich the lives of the people who use the space. SO you may ask, “How do you create a Montessori home?”

In a Montessori school, each classroom is specifically designed to appeal to the age range of children in that class (a three year age span in Montessori). In a Montessori home, the family room and kitchen will offer opportunity for all those who live there, where the bedrooms will be specific to only those who sleep in that space.

A Montessori home responds to the individual as well as the community/family needs. For example, in a prepared kitchen, young children can reach their own dishes in order to help set the table, and use a stool to reach the counter in order to help prepare food for meals.

Here at Family Friendly Home, we want to be your practical guide to Montessori at home. We have put together many free resources to support you and are always publishing new content to inspire you. For more information on how to make your home a prepared environment follow @familyfriendlyhome on Instagram, Pinterest, and Youtube. Also, check out all the other resources on this site from book recommendations to how to choose the right table and chair.

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Sensorial Clutter

I have been speaking with many clients lately about sensorial clutter. We see the piles of papers or the over crowding of furniture, but we often miss the clash of sounds, different lighting, and over crowding of shelves and wall space.  Young children don’t miss these things.  They unconsciously absorb it.  They are not able to filter out clutter like adults can.  We will all be taking a break from work in the next few days.  I challenge you to take a few moments Friday to remove some sensorial clutter from your home.  

I recently found this article about one teachers observations around simplifying her classrooms. She offers some inspirational imagery.

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Montessori in your Home

It is wonderful to see how many families are embracing Montessori philosophy and bringing it into there homes. There are many blogs by moms about how this is working for them, some Montessori trained, some self-educated, and all with a unique point-of-view to share. One key element to consider when bringing Montessori home is the prepared environment.
The environment is its own “teacher/guide” for children.  It is through living in a prepared environment that children learn.  Each environment they experience becomes part of their education.  So whether you choose to home school or not, Montessori education can be in your home.  Montessori teachers strive to make their classrooms home-like, comfortable, and liveable. As I read blogs of Montessori home-schooling families, I see them describe the desire to create a classroom with in their homes.  Interestingly, in Montessori philosophy, if your home is prepared for little ones to live there, you do have a workable classroom in your home, no need for an extra room. To those parents wanting to create a Montessori homeschool, I recommend seeing the whole home as the classroom.
Tips to maximize your home as an educational space:
1. Know that every space is valuable to learning.  Whether it is the kitchen where you bake together or the bathroom where your child learns self care, these spaces are full of learning opportunities and they do not have to be set on a tray and described as “work” to be educational.
2. Limit the clutter.  Children are constantly taking note of their surroundings.  It does not serve their developing brains to be surrounded by piles of paperwork, laundry, or the many other things adults are able to ignore.
3. Allow freedom of movement and choice.  When your children have access to activities such as art materials, building supplies, and books and are not told what to do and when, they are able to follow their own instincts and teach themselves.  It is through this auto-education that they learn to challenge themselves, fail and repeat in order to succeed, and develop self-reliance.
4. A corner in every room.  Reserve the bedrooms for sleeping and dressing and make a space in every community room in the house to invite and educate your child.
The kitchen: child sized tools and low cabinets with their dishes.
The bathroom: a basket with tooth brush and hairbrush
Family room: a small comfy chair and a basket of books Living room: toys on shelves
Don’t forget the outdoors.  An often overlooked focus in Montessori education is a connection with nature…gardens, walking paths, feeding the birds, daydreaming…it’s all important and very much a part of their day.
Preparing your home this way does not mean your child will learn calculus by just being at home.  Of course, as the parent, should you choose to home school, the activities you have in different areas of the home will be very carefully selected in order to make sure the right presentations are happening at the right time.  For those of you not looking to homeschool, but wanting to create an educational home, you have less pressure on the particular lessons your children learn.  None the less, it is important to keep you home tidy, organized, and rich in opportunity.
 This week to celebrate the launch of Family Friendly home, we have partnered with Little Partners to offer a Giveaway not to be missed.  This week we will give away their Tri-Side Learn & Play Art Center!
 And next week….wait for it…a Learning Tower!
You have many chances to win, just follow the Rafflecopter link below and register.  Then check back next week and and register again!  Good Luck!

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Gearing up to Pack Lunches

I love to cook, bake, eat…but when it comes to packing lunches for school, I feel like I’m always at a loss.  I don’t know if it’s the pressure of creating a balanced, tasty, yet convenient lunch that will travel well and not need too much refrigeration or if its the little part of me that hurts inside when I use a prepackaged food item because I was just not prepared enough or creative enough?

I’m sure some of you can relate.  Now, it’s not that I spend my days fretting about this, these are just some of the feelings that have come up when I walk to the kitchen and open the lunch boxes after the children have gone to bed.
This year we have created a system for the children to pack their own lunches!  Yay!
How did we do it?  The past two years we have asked the children to pack their lunches on Sunday nights and occasionally other nights when we knew the morning routine would be tight.  This year, before school started, we had a family dinner, discussed our goals for the upcoming year, and during that time I laid out a new nightly routine.  After dinner the children would take care of their evening responsibilities (sweeping the dining room floor, clearing and wiping the table), pack lunches, shower, brush teeth and go to bed.  We continued with conversation about what makes a healthy meal.  Two weeks in…it seems we have adopted a new routine!
My hopes and dreams for a packed lunch:
1. I want lunch to be healthy and tasty.  When I make dinner, I make two!  The second one cools while we eat, and then once the kids start packing, its ready to be put into lunch containers.  I recently did this with bean, rice and cheese burritos and even individual pizzas.  I just double the pizza crust recipe and pretend I am cooking for a family of ten! 😉
2. I want to limit prepackaged items (a. to reduce waste, b. to limit processed foods, c. to cut down on costs) – I have invested in SmartBaby containers since the children were toddlers.  I love the snapping lid, the leak-proof gasket, and the stainless interior.  We continue to use these for everything from sandwiches to yogurt.

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3. I want my children to enjoy the lunch that is packed.  Every day can’t be a favorite, but I try to include some of their favorites every week.  We have a grocery list posted in our family message center. The children can add a favorite food to the list so that I remember to pick it up while at the store.

Now that the children are packing their own lunches, I take the time to add a little note after they have gone to bed. Sometimes I write a little something on a post-it note. Recently the kids prefer a joke or fun fact so  I use these from Lunchbox love (promo code LBLNOTES for  20% off).  We enjoy them so much, we gave them out as Valentines last year!
We have partnered with Lunchbox Love to bring you a set of notes to get you started!  Register below!

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Ready to get your Lunch-Packing game in gear?

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