One of the major factors in our choice to leave our beloved downtown Philly digs was Daisy. Every day that passed after she learned to walk, it became more and more clear that she was stifled by our lack of space. Our 600-square foot first level served as a front entry, dining room, living room, kitchen AND playroom and this mixed-use approach wasn’t cutting it for any of us. It was hard for Nick and I to relax on the couch when Daisy’s musical instruments were scattered across the floor directly in front of us. I couldn’t make it from the kitchen to the dining room without stepping on a wooden block and feeling like I’d fractured my foot.
Needless to say, when we started looking for a new house, finding a large open living area with room for adults and kids to live comfortably was a high priority. When we moved in and got settled, we divided our living room into three sections – a space with our sectional couch, coffee table and TV, a formal sitting area in front of the fireplace with a loveseat and two club chairs and a side table and finally, a section for Daisy.
Mimicking the Montessori Approach to Organization
We wanted to keep Daisy’s area fairly minimalist in terms of decoration and layout and followed Maria Montessori’s philosophy for classroom layout. She believed natural lighting, soft natural colors and uncluttered spaces are most conducive for learning-focused and calm activity. We display a handful of toys at a time on accessible shelves and have grouped her toys into a handful of categories which fit in six white bins in a labeled shelving unit against the wall. By grouping like items, Daisy knows where to find things but also how to put them away. We plan to rotate these items as she gets older but they are currently separated into:
Cars & trucks
Purses and jewelry
When things are easy to find and thoughtfully organized, children are encouraged to play independently – not needing an adult to reach or find what they need. A sense of harmony and order helps comfort and inspire.
Defining Spaces for Activity
One of Maria Montessori’s key principles for classroom design was that there be well-defined spaces for each part of the curriculum which feature inviting materials from which children can choose. We wanted to reflect that philosophy in the way we arranged the furniture in Daisy’s play space – in part to provide some continuity from school to home. We created four distinct workspaces within her play area:
Daisy’s art space is centered around an easel where she can always find a fresh piece of paper and three baskets filled with colored pencils, crayons and stickers. We love our Blick wooden easel which was a gift from my mom and adjusts as kids grow.
We purchased this table and chairs from Ikea which are perfectly sized for a toddler and Daisy a space to sit and play with a designated toy (like her Playmobil hospital) or to work on activities like sorting objects or putting together a puzzle. The flat surface of the table helps clear distractions.
Practical Life Space
In the corner of Daisy’s play space we’ve set up her kitchen (an awesome gift from my Dad) where her pots and pans and toy food are stored. We’ve hung hooks where her cleaning supplies (gifts from Nick’s parents and us) hang for easy access. She loves to pretend sweep and vacuum and to gather boxes of faux cereal and plastic fruit in her shopping cart. These are known in the Montessori sphere as “practical life” activities and range from tasks like carrying a tray, opening bottles and folding cloths to dressing, dusting, washing surfaces, mopping and sweeping. Santa will be bringing a toolbench to this area next Christmas!
The last area in Daisy’s play space is a reading area where she can select from a limited library of books that rotates based on season. She is encouraged to make herself comfortable surrounded by pillows and read to herself, with one of us or to her animals and dolls. Maria Montessori believed there should always be a great assortment of books available for children at any given time – particularly books about people, foreign places, animals and nature, events from the past and about everyday life. Luckily, there is no shortage of books in our household!
However you choose to arrange things, having a kid-dedicated space in your home (if you have the space) is a life-saver. We have already found that it helps us feel like our house is tidier, messes are more contained and Daisy is encouraged to play more independently.
Here are some of my favorite sources of inspiration for creating kid-friendly spaces:
How to Create a Montessori at Home Environment from Carrots are Orange Blog
Kids Playroom Ideas: How to Create a Space That’s Fun and Functional from Fresh Home
How to Set Up a Montessori Space at Home from Living Montessori Now
Kid-Friendly Spaces for Work and Play from HGTV
20 Stylish and Kid-Friendly Spaces from Apartment Therapy
45 Small-Space Kids’ Playroom Design Ideas from HGTV
Where do your kids work and play? Would love to see the play spaces in your home!