Montessori wrote of children needing only a few toys (as opposed to materials) and blocks (along with a special doll or bear) was what she suggested.
Most educators support the use of blocks by children. Montessori went further and developed blocks as materials for her schools (I'm thinking pink tower, brown stairs).
As I watch my children play with blocks they balance different shapes on top of each other, each with varying levels of success. I am reminded of Montessori's words on movement.The child has an instinct to co-ordinate his movements and to bring them under control. Yes, in trying to balance blocks not only are they learning which blocks will balance and how to stack them they are also bringing their own movements under control.
Polk Lillard and Lillard Jessen refer to wooden blocks as a time-honored toy we can use both to extend the child's knowledge and to encourage him to make discoveries on his own.
On a practical note we have sorted our blocks into three buckets. It makes it easier for the child to find the block they are looking for. We have blocks in our spare room - with the large blocks children need a lot of space. Blocks (in particular the large ones) promote movement and active concentrated play. I feel they would be a good option for children who struggle to sit still.
Block play is an activity that works for various age groups. I see Otis sitting and observing Caspar (for his powers are not that far removed from his own!). The imitation is obvious and wonderful to watch. For my two children working with blocks leads to sharing, collaboration and all round fun.
Honestly, I know you were thinking the room really needed a rug. Somewhere nice and comfy for the boys to sit while reading a book. A circular one would work well (just like in Jackie's room).
I had been looking for the perfect rug for a long time. So much to consider; are there any out-gases (always a concern of mine with rugs), is it ethically made and of course the cost (oh the cost of rugs these days, this one is on my wish list).
Friday night while at the Eco-Elves Night Market we found the most beautiful colourful rugs. I knew straight away that we were going to take one home. It took us (I mean it took Caspar) ages to pick out the right, very perfect one.
This rug was made by a mother in Cambodia, she has nine children to support. I was given her photograph and her story when I purchased the rug. Her story brought me to tears (I'm an emotional kind of person).
The rug has great texture, is really soft, thick and is machine washable (we washed ours straight away and it came out great). From Carpets for Communities. It's the kind of buy you tell your friends about so naturally I wanted to share it with you here. Otis approves too - he has been rolling around on it all day.
There are many elements which make up a Montessori bedroom. Here are my five tips if you are planning from the start or wanting to make changes to an existing room.
Tip 2. Consider the listed elements individually and how they apply to you.
Order and Independence
Safety is so important as the idea is the child (whatever their age - from birth) can be left alone to sleep and play independently in their room.
Tip 3. Look at examples for inspiration. Setting up a bedroom by reading about Montessori is so, so difficult. You need to see real life examples. Keep in mind that no one room is perfect and everyone has their own reality of a Montessori environment. Every family and every child is different so what works for one family might not work for the next.
Tip 4. Consider and follow your child. Think about your child's tastes and needs especially as their personality and likes become more obvious. It's a good idea to discuss ideas with them (depending on their age) and allow them to lead the decorating/arrangement/changes as much as possible. I personally like to display children's artwork and photographs. I have my older child choose his own artwork, bedding and furnishings.
Tip 5. Lie, sit, crawl around the room. Try to see things from the child's perspective. What can you see, what can you reach? How does it look? Re-assess the elements from tip 2 from the child's perspective.
Pictures say so much more than words. There are many examples of bedrooms under the Australian Montessori Families and International Montessori Families sections. You can read about Caspar's room (as a four year old) here. Below is a wonderful illustration from Michael Olaf's The Joyful Child.
Montessori infant rooms need particular care and attention. You can read about Otis's room as an infant here.
My final suggestion is to take it easy. Changes can be made gradually. Also there is no need to incorporate all of these ideas and concepts - I've never seen a perfect Montessori room, take what works for you.
You can see pictures and details of Otis's Montessori Nursery here. Now Caspar and Otis are in the same bedroom, the room is still Montessori but it's much more modern.
The bedroom is for sleeping, reading and quiet time. Occasionally the boys will bring in toys but with the exception of toys stored in the wardrobe and their bears, there aren't any toys kept in here.
Two beds, low front facing bookshelf, book baskets by the bed, clothes within easy reach and low artwork. It's intentionally simple.
It may look like too much temptation but Otis hasn't touched it - other than to feel the paint. I have almost finished a photo wall in the bedroom which goes right down to the floor also. Yay for cheap and easy decorating.
The eighteen month mark is a significant one in my mind. It feels like it's the change from baby to toddler. Previously I would hold Otis (have him on my hip) as he brushed his teeth, so that he could see the mirror and often I would brush my teeth at the same time. Previously his mirror was in his room, but now the two boys are in the same bedroom there is no room for it. We have recently put his mirror in the bathroom and made some additions to make teeth brushing easier.
Along with the low mirror we have used some accessories (they are temporary and movable using suction to adhere to the tiles) - a basket and towel ring. It's easier for Otis to access his toothpaste, hairbrush and hand towel.
Before Otis was born I had his floor bed in this exact location - in Caspar's room. I have always wanted my two children to sleep in the same room, to share a bedroom. Except as Otis's birth got closer I struggled to see how it could work. I couldn't completely baby proof Caspar's room. Was it safe for a baby to sleep in the same room as a pre-schooler? The baby could get stuck under Caspar's bed. So before Otis was born I put his bed in a separate room and set it up as much as I could as a Montessori nursery.
Once Otis became mobile bedtime became stressful. Otis would get out of bed and go into Caspar's room. Reading bedtime stories often resulted in me carrying one child back to their room asleep. There was a lot of running in between rooms.
A few months ago I asked Caspar if he would like to share a room with Otis. He liked the idea so much that we move the furniture straight away. Now they share a room and bedtime is much easier and simpler. Although it involves reading A LOT of bedtime stories.
I was getting a little frustrated with out kitchen set up. Otis cannot yet use Caspar's drinking station and he cannot open or close the pantry door with one hand while holding something in the other. Otis needed a little addition.
This is a small coffee table that works a bit like a snack table. His water jug and glass are kept here unless he takes them to his table for a meal. This is where he gets a drink during the day. This is where I put his tray or snacks. The idea is that he doesn't eat here but takes the food from here (rather than me holding it and waiting for him and passing it to him or leaving it on the floor) to his table. It's also the perfect place for him to put his dishes when he's finished. The placemat is there permanently because it gets wet.
If I'm busy in the kitchen it's easy for me to put his food/snack/tray here and he can come and get it when he's ready. The jug is little as he spills a lot and it needs to be refilled frequently, but the benefit is there - he can independently get his own drink. It's also great practice for him to carry his own food and set his own table.
Otis' toys and materials at 17 months. Most of these I have written about before. We don't frequently buy toys but rather rotate them. 17 months feels like a good time to make an inventory. It's time for me to take stock of the materials Otis has and plan for the future. Eighteen months feels like a turning point and I want to be prepared.
1., 2. and 3. All stackers featured here. Yes, he's still using all of them!
4. Ball tracker. A range of tracking toys are featured here.
5. Imbucare box.
7. Peg hammering toy shown here.
8. Car tracker.
9. and 10. Threading activities with matchsticks. Usually there is only one of these activities out at a time.
12. Finger puppets as shown with our range of discovery baskets.
13. Basket containing three Australian animals, a variation of the animals basket we use for language development.
14. Toy worm that rotates at the joints.
15. Small bucket of trains. This is a recent addition. Caspar has a larger train set which has been out of rotation for a while. There is no track in Otis' bucket, just a few carriages the connect with magnets for him to assemble and play with.
16. Rainbow Stacker.
17. Shape puzzle seen here. This post illustrates how long some of these materials last. In the original post Otis was just starting to put the circle in and now Otis is putting in all of the shapes.
18. Shape sorter.
19. Jack in the box.
20. Sensory basket of brushes.
21. Small bucket of Duplo. This us a recent addition. Caspar and Otis usually use this together and Caspar shows Otis how to connect the blocks.
22. Scooping. This activity is on Otis' shelves but he needs to bring it to me to set up. I fill the bowl with water, get a towel and supervise.
Although there is no photograph there is often an open and close activity on his shelves, sometime I change the containers but the principle remains the same.
These materials are stored in three different shelves.
1. A hidden cupboard near our dining area.
Most of the materials out of rotation are stored in our storage cupboard although we also use a cupboard in our spare room for the larger items. We don't have a strict schedule for rotating the materials. About once a week I have a look at the materials and I might put away a couple of things that Otis hasn't been interested in and bring out a couple of new things. If Otis is frequently using an item I will keep it out for him.
Otis has a couple of soft toys in his room. He also plays with a lot of Caspar's toys. We have a basket of instruments and a basket of our blocks including our planks in our living area. Next to these baskets we also have a barn with a basket of farm animals, the barn is usually kept out and not rotated because it is such a favourite.