Our Montessori Life: Our workspace at 5 years old. 

Every year, as Quentin’s birthday draws near, we pause to take stock of our space. Specifically our Montessori work space. This year as we observed him, it became quickly clear that Quentin is passing into the Second Plane of Development. It also became clear that his space is quickly becoming obsolete. 

It’s hard to believe we have come this far. 


This is how our space started. There is a post about it here that was written less than a week before his first birthday. It was a space that Quentin, an infant on the movement mat with his bell and ring mobile, and his big 12 year old brother needed to share. Over that first 18 months it worked extremely well. 


A year later we did a major overhaul of the space a year when Quentin turned two. You can read about it here. Just like in any toddler Montessori environment, movement needed to be at the forefront of our focus. He needed a large floor area and items that called to his need to move his body. He also needed more shelf space as he was showing a capacity to sit with table work for longer and longer periods. The space for materials was important because he had not yet started school but was very eager to do tray type activities. Anthony had also grown out of the need to have his things stored in the boxes shown in the first picture. The overhaul worked beautifully and the space continued to be used by both boys. 



A year later a minor overhaul was done again as Quentin turned three. We removed his book basket and installed a book rail so he could display and easily access more titles. Anthony no longer required the space preferring his work table be moved to his bedroom and the space became solely Quentin’s. We also got a new work table set that better fit him and took up less space since he was better at containing his tray work. You can read about that change here


As Quentin turned four only the smallest of changes happened. You can see what our entire house looked like here. We changed the artwork and really started to make use of the new designated art area (shown behind the open backed shelves with second desk and upright cube storage). 

The space still worked but we could see changes would need to be made.

And so, as we sit with Five less than 24 hours away, we have decided we must change the space. 

Here’s what still works in this space:

  • Light and airy
  • Clean lines and clutter free
  • Open space to move around in and lay out a work mat
  • Clearly designated area for art
  • Reading corner still comfortable and a good fit size wise

Here’s what doesn’t work in this space:

  • Cube shelves are no longer required. He knows where his work goes instead of needing an empty cube reminding him
  • Too many cubes. He actually needs less shelving for work materials 
  • Limited display space means collectibles and non work material aren’t always displayed well
  • Work table is too small for some larger works
  • No upright long storage for his Waseca Biomes mats meaning we now lean them against his shelves with his work mat

This and the accompanying shelves shown here from Restoration Hardware seem perfect for us. Some big storage baskets like the large rope one shown above are also appealing but I’m not sure if my inner minimalist will love them in real life. 
We will be sure to post pictures of the reno process and of course you will hopefully be seeing the finished space soon. 

It’s amazing what can happen when you stand back and evaluate a place in your home through the needs of a child. 

Our Montessori Shelves: 5 years old

Unbelievably another year has passed and so once again we are examining Quentin’s Montessori space. 

We have noticed some big changes in the last few months and because of that we have decide to completely revamp his space in preparation for him entering into what Montessori described as the Second Plane of Development. 

I’ll write a post on that in the upcoming days but I want to give you a sneak peek at some of the things on his shelves as he heads into 5 years old. 


These were his shelves at this time last year, as he was about to turn 4. You can read about the details here


These are some of the things on his shelves now. 

It’s really fascinating to me to see the evolution of the materials, especially this last year. Many of the materials have remained the same but have evolved in difficulty. As a Montessori child gets older this is the norm. In infancy, materials are mastered quickly and new materials must be rotated in often. As the child develops, the materials remain longer and longer on the shelves and it is simply the way in which the child works with them that changes. 

Top Row left-right: 

  • Nature Study materials (you can find all our Nature Study posts here)
  • Flags of the World puzzle & geography work (purchased here)
  • Landforms Geography Mat (purchased here)

Middle Row left-right:

  • Time telling clock cards (purchased here)
  • Our Nature Table with some of this month’s materials (purchased here)
  • DIY Stamp Game (he’s now doing dynamic addition)

Last Row left-right

  • Montessori Green Series Language cards (purchased here)
  • Montessori paper Moveable Alphabet (purchased here)
  • Primary writing journal (purchased here)

These are only a few of the things that hold Quentin’s interest. He has many open ended items as well, some of which can be seen in this post about our home. He also loves spending time outside. 

As we prepare for him to take his fifth walk around the sun we are mindful of how this space has stayed the same over all these years and now, how it must change for a boy who is growing and it would seem is entering the Second Plane. 

Our Montessori Shelves: 4.5 years old


Freshly cleaned shelves and rotated materials. Such an inviting space and a great way to start the weekend.
Top left – right:

  • Children of the World atlas
  • Heartfelt Emotional Intelligence doll (later placed on shelves)
  • Little Passports suitcase and Big Ben 
  • Montessori Continents Globe

Middle left – right:

  • Musical instruments figures & cards
  • Montessori Blue Series Language cards
  • Moveable Alphabet 
  • Composition book


Bottom left – right:

  • Diatonic Bells & felt notes with mat
  • Montessori clock work (hours & half hours)
  • Montessori Large Number Cards
  • DIY Montessori Stamp Game


Top left – right:

  • DIY light box 
  • Walking the line bell
  • Nature Tray
  • Nature Study samples 

Middle left – right:

  • Seasons puzzle
  • Parts of a Pumpkin puzzle
  • Animals of the world tokens
  • Heartfelt Emotional Intelligence doll

Bottom left – right:

  • Knitting fork & wool
  • Parts of a Pumpkin 3 Part Cards
  • World Landmarks figures & cards 
  • Orchestra toy

They are ready and waiting for a small boy. Enjoy your weekend. 

Our Montessori Shelves at 4 

This time next week Quentin will be four. It was time to examine his shelves. 

As many of you know Quentin attends Montessori school Monday thru Friday. We don’t homeschool in any formal way. Now at 4, his materials are often ones that he has requested. He will sometimes say “I’d like to work with some new words”, or show an interest in a particular topic. We then make an effort to stock his shelves with those items. This isn’t to say that we rush out and purchase everything. But making time to really observe him and engage him in meaningful conversations will usually narrow down some ideas. Then we look for good quality. Also, the majority of his materials are homemade.

Here are Quentin’s shelves at 4.

  
Top row: sewing basket with current sewing project, Pink Series Language cards found here & DIY Stamp Game

Middle row: knitting basket with French knitting fork, nature exploring kit for the monthly          subscription program we are enrolled in & moveable alphabet found here

Bottom row: Rhythm bells with DIY felt notes & music staff, chalkboard and chalk for writing & telling time cards found here

These are his favourites at four. Looking back at previous posts about his shelves makes me reminiscent. He has used this space for such a long time now and it is the same, but it is also constantly evolving. It follows the child like we do. 

These are simply some of the things found on his shelves. I will post again early next week on his other materials and spaces around the house. Have a great weekend!

Montessori Birthday Gift Ideas



Montessori Birthdays hold a special place in my heart. A “Celebration of Life”. 

It couldn’t have a more fitting title. 

I’m often asked what my recommendations are for gifts that fit with Montessori values. There are many fantastic options out there, so I thought I would offer a unique perspective on gift ideas for the 3 year old. Or rather, Quentin would. 

Being a “Montessori from Birth” child, coupled with the fact that he attends an extended day Montessori school 5 days a week, I thought it would be interesting to sit with him in his Montessori Space and see what he could come up with for gift ideas. 

Me: “Quentin, what would you give a friend for their Birthday?”

Quentin: “Candy.”

Me: “Yes, but what about something to play with. What are your favourite toys?”

Quentin: “I like my animals and buildings and you have to have a tractor for a farm. Oh! And I like my picture cards and alphabet cuz you can make all the sounds and match them and I know all the sounds and the words and that’s gonna make me read soon.” 

Me: “Ok. What about things to play with outside. What do you like to do outside?” 

Quentin: “I like to ride my bike cuz it’s fast. I got a new wheelbarrow and my working things for outside and I have real working gloves cuz, yah, sometimes your fingers get dirty and I don’t like that. And you know what Mama? I got rhythm bells too and those are for big boys cuz you have to ring gently or it’s a bad sound but I like them.” 

He sort of wandered off after that, but I thought his answers were sufficient. 

He came back later and helped me find the images to make the above picture. 

Starting at the top left: Bruder TractorBruder Recycling Truck (his upcoming Birthday gift), Rhythm BellsEarly Rider LiteSchleich animals,  Wheelbarrow & Tools

Despite the “toddler-esk” nature of his answers, some interesting things stood out. He likes to play with beautiful, reality based, good quality things. These qualities all fit within Montessori values. 

The animals and buildings he’s referring to are his Schleich animals and his Safari Toob Landmarks seen here. Both offer detailed replicas of real world things. Bruder vehicles are built to scale and have moveable parts but, (and here’s the best part) have no sounds, flashing lights or batteries. It’s all the child’s imagination. His bike, wheelbarrow and garden tools (“working things”) allow him to be out and exploring the world, but in a real way. Unlike typical toddler musical instruments, his rhythm bells offer a true to tone sound, allow him creativity with the musical scale and help him practice gentleness. 

When I’m looking for a Montessori friendly gift, I look for something well made, reality based and ultimately something that could grow with the child. I also try to “Follow the Child” as best I can. If the child likes art, some good paints and brushes with a nice art pad is always appreciated. There are endless real child sized tools for a budding chef or carpenter at Montessori Services. Most importantly, the gift of something homemade and from the heart can often be the best gift of all.

I came to find him when I had the picture ready to see what he thought. 

“But Mama, you forgot to do the candy.” 

Our Montessori Life: Materials at 3

How has this year passed so quickly? No matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to slow time. To bring it to a standstill. Even just for a short while. And so, because if this, we find ourselves once again reevaluating Quentin’s space. 

Not much has changed in the physical space you see here. We have moved his garden to sit beside the slide. I’ve also added a dedicated art space, but that’s it. So, really it’s more of looking at the house as a whole. His shelves have had an update too.

Quentin attends a beautiful, peaceful 3-6 class in a traditional Montessori school Mon-Fri. There is no need for us to have traditional Montessori classroom materials in the home. Instead the materials here are similar to and compliment his school experience.

 When I get asked if Quentin has toys I always manage to fumble my answer. “Yes. Well, no. Well sort of.” Instead what I really mean is that we have things that envoke joy in him. His day is spent doing things he finds enjoyable. Things that he is passionate about. 

Here are some of the materials on his shelves:



Top Row: Rhythm Hand bells & felt notes, Nature observation kit from my beautiful friend Deb, DIY cinnamon scented playdough & basket of loose parts including cookie presses from my good friend  Kylie

Middle Row: Safari Toob Landmarks & cards, Safari Toob Instruments & cards, DIY Moveable alphabet & CVC word cards with storage box

Bottom Row: DIY Salt tray & tracing cards, Montessori Letterwork/Numberwork books, Number/Quantity Recognition (up to 10 in the box)

These materials are chosen freely by Quentin. We don’t teach or instruct him, and there isn’t “school time” here. We simply answer any questions he may have such as “What is the Statue of Liberty made out of?” and “Why is the clarinet black?” Mostly he loves teaching us. “Ok Mama, you will watch & I will show you how to make a “fuh” for fan.”



Quentin also has “open-ended” things such as his garden and his barn, both made by my parents. 



What has changed on his shelves is that there is very little Practical Life on them anymore. 







This is what Practical Life now looks like. All the baking, cleaning, laundry etc. of our family, he is invited to assist with. Most of it he can do himself. He continues to love his kitchen (sold here). I get a lot of questions about his kitchen set up. “Real or play kitchen? What about play food?” My answer is always the same. The things in this space are all real. Real food prep, real consuming, real mess, real clean up. His kitchen continues to store his dishes, and silverware on the left (real porcelain seen here & real glasses) and his food prep tools (mixing bowl, egg slicer, cutting board & knife etc.) on the right. He stores his cleaning supplies and tools as well as his overflow baking supplies in the closet we have renovated for him beside his sink (inside seen here).



He sets up his dish washing independently, completes the job, then goes and gets his mop to clean up the drips. He usually does this all while singing. 



The only thing we will change for him in his room is a new bed. It’s time for a twin size bed even though he has lots of space left in his cot. A “Big Boy Bed” at his own request. Above all his room will remain peaceful, uncluttered and made for resting. The only toy he keeps in here is his farm my Father made for him. The reading corner teepee I made him still houses a cosy sheepskin and custom pillow. In the morning the sun fills it’s white canvas with soft light, and it’s the perfect spot to curl up with a book. 



I will do a separate post surrounding the unveiling of his dedicated art space. It was something that was really lacking for him. He had art trays on his shelves but this is much different and has resulted in a huge difference in his willingness and want for the artistic world. 



I will also do a separate post on his outdoor activities, because those are the ones that have changed the most, and I promised myself that this post was only going to be so long. 

So, after all that what are our must haves going into 3?

  • Figurine and matching cards (everything from Life Cycles to Landmarks)
  • Trays and baskets that he can easily organize work into (small trays are no longer helpful) 
  • Lots of language activities, tailored exactly to his level (he loses interest if it’s too easy)
  • Lots of different, accessible Art mediums from paint to chalk to pasting
  • Lots of activities that offer movement (he’s 3 he must move)
  • Lots of access to the day to day chores of the house
  • Information about how everything in the world works and PATIENCE from us while he has to try it all out himself.                                    

That little tiny baby we once spent weeks watching through an incubator is unbelievably almost 3. 

“A child is both a hope and a promise for mankind” -Dr. Maria Montessori



Yes he most certainly is.  

Our Montessori Shelves 14 Months

A bit of a flashback, but for those of you who are curious:

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Our Montessori Shelves 14 Months
Top shelf: basket of plastic Schleich animals for matching mother to baby, a pouring activity, shape puzzle and homemade imbucare box

Bottom shelf: wooden acorn colour matching, homemade ring stacker, clothes pin pincer grasp activity and Pom Pom fine moter push activity