Welcome to 'A Montessori Home'.
With so many of our friends and family living in far-off lands, I hope that this blog might help our loved-ones get to know our gorgeous Finlay as he grows up. I also hope that these posts may provide inspiration, provoke thought and conversation about creating beautiful Montessori environments for infants and toddlers at home. I'm always happy to hear your comments, thoughts and suggestions. Feel free to pop in now and then to see what we're up to!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Let there be light

Didn't I promise a tour of our new house when we first moved in....? Well, that was back in November - three months ago! I've been putting it off, waiting to 'finish' arranging the furniture and Montessori materials into their 'perfect' places, but that's never really going to happen, is it? The entire house will always be a work in progress and I will have to continue adjusting the layout and content as the children's needs change. It never ends!

So here it is, our (not so new) light-filled house we were dreaming of way back when...

This is our lounge area. The daybed serves as our sofa (guests just have to get comfy and put their feet up!) and I find that the children love climbing up here to read books or throw themselves on the cushions. Finlay has a passion for opening and closing the windows and a few days ago he nearly climbed out (I literally had to catch him and pull him back in... heart-attack material!), so it's time for some safety latches that only allow them to open a safe distance.

We have materials on low shelves which I have been rotating from a full set in storage. Our speakers sit on top of the shelf and I usually play music through my iPod, though i would love to have a full stereo in here so the children would see actual CDs and LPs (remember those?!) going into the machine to be played. Whenever the music goes on, Finlay usually heads straight for the tray of instruments (on the bottom shelf, next to the chair) to play along :)

The mirror which used to be attached to the wall by Fin's bed is now in the lounge. I figured that he spends much less time in his bed now, and it is being used by all the children out in this space. The step-up is actually a toilet step, and is a new addition to this room since Finlay became obsessed with it last week. I would find him in the bathroom stepping up and down on it, and decided to move it out here where I could keep an eye on him without having to spend my entire day in the bathroom. Unwittingly, I placed it next to the mirror which has proved to be the best fun ever, since he gets to see his face appearing and disappearing each time he steps up or down. He has even started saying "Uppah" whenever he steps up!

Next to the mirror is the book shelf, where we keep just three or four books at a time. This makes it really easy for the children to return the books carefully to their place when they're finished. I have a big collection of books on a higher shelf close-by and we rotate them regularly.

The picture hanging above the books has proven to be troublesome because Finlay delights in pulling it off the wall at every opportunity. I'm sure that he will grow out of this phase eventually, but in the meantime I am finding it exhausting to constantly model 'looking' without touching, and rescuing the frame from the floor. Perhaps I should replace it with a laminated picture in the meantime? I would be very happy to hear advice on safely attaching pictures to the wall without making lots of holes (we're renting).

Opposite the mirror is our fireplace, ball tracker, balls and soft toys. These will all have to be relocated come winter time and replaced with a fire-guard. A few days ago I took away the soft toys because they were never being used. Perhaps they will be of more use when Finlay gets a bit older? The ball tracker, on the other hand, is a constant hit with all the children and I still find Fin repeating the activity over and over. He calls it "I did it". He'll point at it from across the room and say, "I did it", crawl over, put the ball in the hole and again cry out "I did it!". I find that amazing - I don't remember ever saying "You did it" or even "I did it" with this material, but somehow he has made the connection between those words and what he is doing. Incredible.

Looking from the lounge across to the kitchen, you can see why we chose this house. The space allows such great visibility from the kitchen, through the dining area and into the lounge. This allows me to cook, clean and supervise all at once. From the kitchen, a door leads out to the enclosed deck and a wonderful view of the garden. I'm still working on our outdoor environment, but for now the children are enjoying watering the plants and drawing on our black-board table.

Moving on to the dining area (I'm calling it this because I suppose we would have a dining table here if it weren't set up as a Montessori environment)... Off to the side I have put Fin's change table and potty station. I did this so that I would be able to remain in the room when changing nappies, and so that the potty would be visually connected to the change table. All his nappies, wet cloths and training pants are easily accessible and in the little cupboard we keep old thick pre-folds for mopping up accidents. I should also put a bucket here for Fin's wet pants so that when he is walking he will be able to participate in cleaning up his accidents. Ideally, we'll have this set up for each child (though space might be an issue...).

This is where the majority of our traditional Montessori toddler materials are kept. I should point out that I am not 0-3 trained (though I would love to be!) so I'm not sure if the layout would be considered 'correct'. I have tried to place the materials in groups according to their purpose, and also according to the space we have. Some things, like the cylinder blocks, just fit perfectly on that little shelf, so I placed them there. Other things, like the puzzles on the top shelf, have been arranged in order of difficulty. I then rotate materials as needed to maintain interest and according to their stages of development. The children eat at the little table and I am intending to set up the longer table (under the painting) as a food-preparation area. Our plates, glasses and cutlery are set up in the kitchen (a post for another day), and Miss. I is loving setting the table each time she is hungry. I must make some place-mats for her...

This painting was by my dad, by the way! At the moment, we have been using the long table for art but I'm hoping to dedicate a different table to art... where, I don't know. And the hand-washing table is waiting patiently for me to set it up beautifully. Maybe I'll wait until Finlay is walking properly...

Here is where we also have our fish tank (Fin's Christmas present) and some lovely shelves which were built into the old fireplace. Unfortunately the middle shelf is not adjustable and is
a bit high for toddlers but they're coping just fine with it.

Finally, this lovely space also has a shelf for my precious Montessori albums and our children's book collection.

So there you have it, our home as it stands today. It will probably be a bit different tomorrow. And different again next week. There are so many materials to make and activities to set up. I haven't even started on language materials and practical life is looking a bit sad and sorry in the kitchen, but these are all on my mental to-do list. I'll be sure to document my creations as they happen :)

A happy weekend to all! This ought to put a smile on any face...


  1. What a beautiful space you have created for your family! I love all the light and the uncluttered feeling. Thanks for posting!

  2. This is lovely. It is very useful to see how you have set up your common areas. I have seen enough bedrooms on the internet to set up my sons in a Montessori style (I am new to Montessori) but not so many living areas.

    Re fixing pictures to the wall, if the frame is suitably flat at the rear you could use Command strips directly against the frame to stick the frame to the wall. I have used command strips for everything in my rental houses and this is what I plan to do for my son's room once I find some suitable art.

    Which Montessori Albums do you have? Do you recommend them as the best available? I'm interested in at least looking at some and perhaps purchasing some for my own education even though I don't think I am suited to training as a teacher/guide.

  3. Oh, I just did some research and realised you might have made your own albums :)

  4. Leslie - thank you, what kind words. It is a constant challenge to keep it un-cluttered, though it does help not to have too many things out at one time. :)

    Louise - thank you, it's nice to know this might be useful for others who are trying to set up their own homes with Montessori ideas in mind.
    I did try hanging some Christmas decorations with Command hooks but found they came off after a week or so, perhaps due to the high humidity in Auckland, or the paint finish we have on the walls. Maybe the strips would work if I used four of them per frame? I'll certainly give it a try!
    As for the albums, yes, I did make my own during my Montessori training (one of the most challenging, yet rewarding experiences of my life!). I haven't looked through any of the online options available but I do think that most of them let you take a look at page samples before buying. You might be able to look through these and get an idea of whether the layout and information might be helpful for you. Otherwise, I have found the book 'Montessori From the Start' to be excellent for the 0-3 age group. 'How to raise an amazing child, the Montessori way' is another good one for ideas on how to set up your home.
    Best of luck!

  5. cathy,
    i lucked into your blog when i was googling "bumbo montessori." your post about using the bumbo to keep fin on the counter so he could be part of the family life in the kitchen really helped me to center my own priorities.
    i am also a montessori teacher, and my baby is due in july, so i am giving lots of thought to this question: how do i act in accordance with the philosophy while at the same time adhering to the needs of real life?

    your blog is such an inspiration to me as i grapple with this question (and the many more specific questions that come with it).

    thank you!

  6. Thank you so much Jessi. You're right, it is a huge challenge to incorporate the best of the philosophy into our homes when in reality we're human and live our lives in our own unstructured, chaotic ways. It's much easier to create a 'perfect' classroom and then go home to our real homes at the end of the day! You'll find your own balance and when you observe your child you'll see what's important :)
    Best of luck with your new baby - what an amazing, joyful year you have ahead of you!

  7. This is a beautiful space - I'm so glad you've shared it! It is truly an inspiration!

    On the command strips, etc. - the velcro strips work well for us here, and we're on Guam where it's also very humid :) If you just do laminated photos without frames, maybe sticky tack would work? It's "non-toxic."

  8. Wow, just found your site. This space is beautiful, bright, and calm -- I can picture a lot of concentration taking place. I'm trying to catch up on your archives. In short, I'm a fellow AMI mama, elementary trained, although am currently staying at home with my toddler. I think your site is going to serve as a great inspiration and resource along our journey! Thank you for your time and dedication.

  9. Oh, hi there again. Can you go in depth about what is in the baskets and on the trays in the old fireplace and also what is laid out along the low table next to the mirror? I recognize the Montessori toddler items elsewhere in the room.
    Much appreciated.

  10. Hi Allison,

    Sorry, I replied to you when I first saw your comment but it seems to have disappeared... Here it is again:

    I'm so pleased that you found us! I'd love to hear about your experiences being an AMI mama at home with your toddler :)

    These pictures were taken 8 months ago now, so many aspects of our home environment have had an overhaul since then. Those shelves in the old fireplace now hold all our table-setting supplies (placemats, napkins, cutlery, glasses, bibs, face cloths and table wiping supplies), but what you see in the picture are:
    Middle shelf - tray of paper, basket of pencils, basket of crayons, basket of playdough supplies.
    Bottom shelf - basket of building blocks, basket of wooden threading beads, stacking cups.

    Finlay was almost 12 months when I wrote this post, so most of the materials I had out were manipulative or movement-based. Now he is almost 20 months (my goodness, time is flying!), so I have more language art, music and practical life supplies out, along with manipulatives and puzzles. The nappy-changing station has moved to the bathroom, our furniture has been rearranged in the lounge.... in fact it really is time for a proper update!

    Thanks for stopping by :)

  11. I second the motion for an update :) Where did you get your ball tracker? I have been looking them up & reading reviews & too many are reviewed as being unstable. What's yours like?

  12. Hi Louise,

    Our ball tracker is made by TAG, I think you can get these through Michael Olaf as well as Amazon. Luckily, I found ours second-hand here in New Zealand... I couldn't believe my luck! It has been a wonderful addition to our home environment since it is appealing to a broad range of ages. Fin started showing interest when he was still an infant, watching the balls roll down... and now at 20 mths he continues to enjoy it.

    I have found it to be quite stable and Fin was able to use it to pull himself up on when learning to stand. I did keep it pushed up against a wall while this was happening, and stayed nearby in case of toppling.

    Hope that helps!

    And yes, I will get back to posting one of these days... it's been months now! :)

  13. Thanks for coming back and telling me about the ball tracker :) I found it online between now and then. I was planning on getting Roo either this one or the Haba Roll N Roll N Roll, however they both seem to be hard to get in Australia. I'm sure there are Aussie made versions, but they aren't highly visible on the internet and I don't have the means or inclination to travel around visiting toy stores. I'm off to try my luck on eBay (it worked for the Radio Flyer Walker Wagon - my jaw dropped when after six months one finally turned up for a fraction of retail price).

  14. I know this is a bit (18 months!) late to reply but, having just read your post on baking with your 21 month old, and being on the verge of reading your floor bed success story (finally, a real story for me to read about this), I have to comment. My toddler sounds like he could be Fin's twin --all of our laminate art has been quite enthusiastically torn from the wall. In short, laminate is not a solution -the backing gets too damaged to put it back on the wall. HOpefully you found that Fin moved on from this stage...We're still waiting... :) My 33 month old also loves to pull out the musical instruments whenever I play a CD. Must be 'built in' to the way a toddler works. Anyway, enjoying your blog. All the best.