Wondering how do you set up a Montessori playroom at home? I'm sharing tips, ideas, and decor for a toddler playroom that will solve SO many mom's headaches! No need to spend a ton of money or stress yourself out!
I'll also share how we transitioned our space to a Montessori inspired playroom for a baby, then a1 year old, and to our current toddler playroom set up for our 2 year old using Dr. Maria Montessori's philosophy.
- Watch our Montessori Playroom Tour For Our 2 Year Old:
- What is The Montessori Method?
- What Is a Montessori Playroom?
- How To Set Up A Montessori Playroom At Home for a 1 year old or 2 year old:
- What should I include in my montessori playroom?
- A note on setting up a Montessori playroom for babies and toddlers:
- Personally the furniture in our playroom consists of:
- Before buying a toy or bringing it into your playroom, ask yourself:
- Montessori Playroom Toys We Have:
- Areas/stations to keep in mind when setting up your Montessori Playroom:
- How do I organize my Montessori playroom?
- Why do Montessori Playrooms use wood toys?
- How can I make my playroom Montessori Friendly?
- Montessori Playroom Decor:
- Key takeaways:
Watch our Montessori Playroom Tour For Our 2 Year Old:
What is The Montessori Method?
Maria Montessori was a child educator and physician who really wanted children to develop a life-long love of learning. Her teachings focus on encouraging independence and responsibility in children through self-directed activities, hands-on learning, and “collaborative play.”
What Is a Montessori Playroom?
A montessori playroom is an age-appropriate space based on Maria Montessori's teachings and include 3 main characteristics:
- Child sized furniture and decor – creates less frustration and more engagement!
- Decluttered and orderly – promotes calmness and positivity!
- Fosters freedom, independence, and responsibility – increases their self esteem!
Keep those in mind while walking through your current playroom set up and asking yourself, “How Can I Make My Playroom Montessori Friendly?”
Typically a Montessori Playroom will be clean and simple, with a carefully curated selection of toys and items to meet the child where he/she is at developmentally.
Technically the Montessori Method was developed solely as an educational model in the classroom; but since the term “Montessori” was never trademarked it's evolved into playrooms and “Montessori at home” for parents who love the overall philosophy!
I started setting up our Montessori playroom when my daughter was still a baby, but about to turn 1 years old. She's currently 2 years old and LOVES our at home Montessori inspired playroom. We have a baby on the way too so stay tuned as I share how we have montessori baby spaces in our home over the next year!
How To Set Up A Montessori Playroom At Home for a 1 year old or 2 year old:
Depending on the age of your child, this may vary, in the video above you can see how our space evolved from when my daughter was a baby to a toddler.
Below are some tips, ideas, and decor to get you started!
What should I include in my montessori playroom?
When it comes to setting up a Montessori playroom, I'd focus on making sure everything is accessible and comfortable for the child. It's basically their space to evolve and explore afterall! So this means child size tables, chairs, and probably most notable is a “montessori shelf.”
What is Montessori shelf work?
It honestly sounds fancier than it is… it's really just about having either a shelf or a series of shelves that are accessible to the child, and create some sort of order.
Again, the whole point of a montessori playroom is a simple, clean space and ultimately that means it'll be the child's responsibility to clean and organize it too (age appropriately).
For many parents, this means starting out with a single simple shelf. I've seen a lot of parents use a large shoe rack to get this started! We initially used a bench when my daughter was a baby. Since you really only begin displaying about 5-7 toys for babies and 1 year olds, you don't need a huge space.
NOTE: While everything is about choices in a montessori playroom:
It's about not overwhelming the senses too. Hence why I said it's a clean and simple approach. Clutter/too many choices can lead to a sensory overload for kids where they end up not engaging with items around them, or switching between them frequently. Having a limited selection that's displayed clean/simple encourages a deeper play/engagement.
Another frequently seen montessori shelf system to begin with is a cubby shelf (or something similar). Parents love this because they put one toy or activity per cube, and it keeps things orderly as Montessori suggests.
Montessori Book Shelf:
The most “traditional” Montessori bookshelf displayed the books forward facing, so the child can see everything. Not stacking a ton of books/spines together.
Keep it at the child's height so they can take books/things without needing your help.
A note on setting up a Montessori playroom for babies and toddlers:
Things we already owned. Other than a 1 item, I never went out and bought furniture for our Montessori playroom for these baby and toddler years!
Instead I repurposed items we already had. Ever since we started buying furniture for our home (pre-kids), I've worked off a sort of “mood board” process so things can easily be transferred between rooms. Learn How To Create A Mood Board For Your Entire Home here!
My rationale is that as my daughter turns 3 and we move into preschool, and then eventual homeschooling, we'll probably invest quite a bit into storage solutions and redesigning the space. These baby and toddler years are so short, that I didn't want to waste the money before I really understood what we'd need down the road. I hope that saves you some stress and you don't feel like you need to buy all the things!
Personally the furniture in our playroom consists of:
Large shelving unit:
This is actually our old entertainment center from Ikea. The doors are really light weight and open very easily for a 1 year old.
The “glass” makes it easy for my daughter to see what she has in her playroom. In a Montessori playroom you want everything on display for the child.
There are two open shelves too, again easy access for before she turned 1 and could do it on her own.
The drawer is the only part that's hidden. It's a little tougher to open (which she can do now at 2 years old) but we use it for storage of loose materials like construction paper, bubble wrap, etc. so she doesn't typically go into that/have an interest in it.
I love this “sensory table” from Ikea! It's the only piece of “furniture” I bought for the playroom.
I wanted a child size table my daughter could work at, and loved that the top of this table came off to expose bins. These can work for so many things from toy storage, to water play, to sensory experiences.
We use it most often currently for our kinetic sand. But if you saw my holiday toddler activities video you see me set up a little sensory bin for her there.
I already had this open hutch, that happens to be a little taller than I'd like – since it doesn't line up right with the couch – but it works SO WELL for the baby and toddler years so we like it for now!
The area on the floor we have two organization/activity bins essentially. The first is a wooden chest with all her dress up clothes (which isn't technically Montessori, but more Waldorf) and the second is a bin of books (not displayed in the “montessori” way). She is able to access items on the middle section easily (she even went and put her sticker box back on the shelf before going to bed the other night!).
The top shelf we use for changing/loose supplies (diapers, wipes, lotions, etc.). My daughter is able to climb on top of the couch and access this now that she's 2 years old. However she couldn't at 1 years old, which is that age appropriate piece. At 2 she gets her own lotions or diaper, so it fostered more responsibility intuitively as she was ready for it.
Cozy lounge spots:
We already had this couch in my old office and it works well for this space at the moment. While I don't love it, it's a good height that she can easily get on/off by herself since 1 years old. We also have a couple of floor pillows which she uses when we let her watch the iPad on the fireplace hearth – otherwise she's happy on the floor and I mostly use the floor pillow when sitting with her.
NOTE: We do not have a “calming corner” that you see in a lot of Montessori playrooms today. Honestly, while the space is big, it just didn't make sense. Secondly, our daughter ONLY uses her bedroom for sleep, and she has a “calming corner” in there. Lastly, I think the most calming space for anyone, child or adult, is nature, and the room opens right up to our backyard with a daybed. I've never found a need for anything more than that.
Playmat + Rug:
I get asked about our playmat SO much. It's this one. Non toxic, a little pricey, but looks clean. You can adjust the size with more packs as needed.
It comes in a few designs that are meant to look more like a rug at a glance. We love how easy it is to clean, and it's super durable.
Our rug under the couch is this one.
The key with “toys,” or items in general, in a montessori playroom is to focus on things that emphasize engagement over entertainment.
In the early years (baby, 1 year old, 2 year old) these are items that refine gross and fine motor skills. As your child gets older, you'll focus less on “toys” and more on areas/stations with activities that encourage engagement over entertainment (more on this in the next section).
Before buying a toy or bringing it into your playroom, ask yourself:
- What skill is this helping my child develop?
- Is this teaching my child how to interact with it to simply entertain? Or is it something my child can engage with, explore, and learn from?
- Is this beautiful and calming?
For me personally, it just comes down to those questions I just mentioned. Particularly on the “beautiful and calming” aspect. If you are feeling anxious around loud musical push button toys, then that's the energy your child is absorbing in the home. While a Montessori playroom should absolutely be designed with the child in mind, it's also for parents too! Children are absorbing EVERYTHING at this age, so your comfort and sanity matters too!
Montessori Playroom Toys We Have:
This pikler triangle – obviously works great for climbing and gross motor skills.
This balance board – gross motor skills
Other toys we have and love:
You can find some of my favorites in my Montessori Friendly Gift Guide For 1 Year Old to 2 Year Olds!
Here are the one's featured in the video though:
- Magna Tiles
- Sticker Book
- Chicken figurines
- Butterfly toys
- Cleaning Set
- Kinetic Sand
- Play-dough Tools for sand
- Counting Board
- Music Instrument Pack
Areas/stations to keep in mind when setting up your Montessori Playroom:
In a montessori classroom there are typically 5 areas you'll find in my experience:
- language- with books, phonics or writing activities, etc.
- sensorial – all things that engage a child's senses from colors, shapes, textures, smells, sounds, etc.
- math – early patterns/quantitative concepts etc.
- cultural studies – history, geography, art, science, music, peace/tolerance, botany, zoology, etc.
- practical life – every day life, so things that focus on fine and gross motor skills, practical things rooting the child in reality like a kitchen (more on that in a minute), cleaning supplies, etc.
Of course within the five areas there's a ton of ways to present them and there's obviously some overlap. For example, we have a basket of music supplies which engages the sensorial experience of sound, but also introduces cultural studies concepts of art/music.
Many at home montessori playrooms have some sort of nature element like a little house plant, which engages the “botany” aspect of cultural studies, but also the practical life aspect of gardening/caring for things, and sensorial experience of working with the hands.
So my suggestion, would be to just look at your space and make sure it's open ended enough to incorporate these things. Whether it's one “areas” per item on your Montessori Shelf or an actual zone in the room.
For kids, playing IS learning so we just want to make sure that we offer a variety of experiences and don't just focus on reading, writing, and math.
How these areas are currently represented in our space:
This is going to evolve, obviously as my child evolves. Right now, this looks like always having certain items out/accessible for her to work on certain things that may not be as “evenly represented” in our toys.
For instance, a basket for music instruments and an easel and crayon station for art or “cultural studies.”
We are right off the kitchen which we just let her use for practical life. And a friend just got us this cleaning set toy which my daughter has been loving.
Match concepts are so much more than numbers. I think it's easy to forget that identifying patterns/differences and categorizing/sequencing items are all early math concepts. So we have these Lovevery balls that one is heavy one is light (but they look the exact same). We use these bead/threading kits for making a pattern.
Our Lovevery Block Set is always accessible in my daughter playroom because they teach so much about early physics (gravity), cause/effect sequencing, height, and the block set we have has a color gradient. Which is AWESOME (shop it here!) – It has square blocks and rectangular pieces, both the same number of pieces and each representing the same color gradient. When my daughter plays, I always just randomly line the blocks up in the proper color gradient. Well one day, my daughter took the rectangle pieces and started lining them up alongside mine to match the pattern! That type of sequencing/pattern finding is how a 2 year old incorporates math.
The “toys” I set and rotate out cover the rest. For instance, these squishy shapes from KiwiCo we use for sensory learning. They're textured for babies, teach visual shape differences for toddlers, and of course can be used for color sorting (engaging the eyes again) and gross motor (hop to the square!).
How do I organize my Montessori playroom?
There are so many ways to organize a space! I think the biggest thing is to just think of organization for kids as two-fold: for the child and for you.
When I say “for you” what I mean is:
What items do you want to store away and only provide your child with limited access too? For example, you probably don't want to give your 2 year old free reign to paint inside the house versus a 6 year old.
You also want to limit toys to about 5-10 (depending on age), so where will you keep the rest? We are in the process of re-organizing our toy rotation/toy storage area – which isn't in our playroom at all right now. Let me know if you guys want to see how we store items not currently in rotation!
As the kids get older and we move towards homeschooling, I'll probably install some cabinets or a shelving system on the upper portion of the wall to provide more storage in this space. But for right now, I'm just trying to keep things SIMPLE and work with what we have.
When I say organize “for the child” what I mean is:
Keeping things organized in the room so that the child can easily access everything without you to encourage independence. You also want them to know where things go so they can clean up after themselves without you. To encourage this, we utilize the open shelving, lots of baskets (Ikea) and bins (typically Dollar Tree).
Since our playroom is kind of in the heart of the house, we also keep a basket on the fireplace hearth that has “floating clothes” these are partially dirty items. This is our interpretation of a “Montessori Wardrobe.” Which basically is when the child can access their own clothes.
How our montessori wardrobe works for us:
We take her PJs off from the night before, toss them in the basket, get her dressed for the morning. We lay out two options on the couch she can choose from… I wasn't kidding when I said her bedroom is JUST for sleep!
Before naptime, we take off her morning clothes, put her back in PJs from the basket, and put the morning clothes in the basket so she can go back into them in the afternoon. It's just easier / more practical for us this way. I always know what clothes are a little dirty, and can be worn again or need to go in the wash. It keeps things off the floor and fosters independence.
Why do Montessori Playrooms use wood toys?
Wooden toys provide a sensory experience that plastic toys just don't. Typically they encourage more engagement over entertainment too.
For instance, almost all battery powered push button toys are plastic… very few wooden ones are. Moreover, Maria Montessori (the founder of Montessori herself) preferred natural materials like wood because they're healthy, safe, and inspiring for children.
Many parents also love them because they are more aesthetically pleasing and durable (e.g. our dog bit one of R's balls and destroyed it in 1 minute, but has never ruined one of her wood balls). There's also research on the benefits of wooden toys here.
How can I make my playroom Montessori Friendly?
Get at eye level of your child and see what they see! Is this a space that you want to hang out in and explore? Does it feel overwhelming/chaotic and cluttered or easy to navigate, interesting, and inspiring? Can the child access things on their own or do they always need you there?
From there make any swaps or additions you feel are right!
One other thing I want to note with independence and setting up a playroom for a baby or toddler:
If your child puts everything in their mouth, then it's not “age appropriate” for them and shouldn't be out/available to them in the space. Just because your friend's 1 year old or 2 year old has 24/7 access to crayons or playdough doesn't mean your child is ready.
My daughter put EVERYTHING in her mouth as a baby. As a result, she didn't play with paint until after 18 months (possibly closer to 2 years old!). When I did introduce paint, it was at the kitchen counter, while she stood in her toddler learning tower and I cooked. This way I could supervise. If your child isn't engaging with an item in the room appropriately, don't be afraid to remove it and reintroduce it later. Just because others have it doesn't mean you need it.
I find creating a space where you feel comfortable and unstressed is key to foster independence in your child, sanity in yourself, and positivity all around.
Montessori Playroom Decor:
Any artwork in the playroom should be placed so the child can see it. Here are some parents favorite montessori playroom decor and art:
A montessori playroom for toddlers should be functional and positive for the whole family. Keep things decluttered and orderly. While also fostering independence and responsibility in your child. Ideally it's a space that feels cozy and comfortable for everyone.
Too often, I see people making it JUST for kids or JUST for adults. It's a collaboration that doesn't need to break the bank.
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