Our Montessori Life: Materials at Two


Quentin’s second birthday is fast approaching. It was time to sit back and evaluate our spaces in the home. Here’s what I found.

Our “Space” (above) is where the boys spend the majority of their time. It is big enough for Quentin to hop/roll/tumble but also to work quietly. His small table and mirror are our greatest assets in this space. He uses them every day. His blue work mat is rolled up and sits to the right of his table. He is able to get it out, unroll it and roll it up independently. Not all Montessori homes have work mats but for us it has worked well to help define his work area. He knows when he takes something off the shelves that it goes to his table or mat. It also helps him recognize that he already has a material out and needs to clean it up before getting another one. The ellipse on the floor is also not a “must have” in Montessori homes, but it was easy to do, and we play lots of movement games such as “Walking on the Line”. It is just green painters tape, and I like that it gives us opportunities to do some controlled gross motor movement. We also sit on the line to do finger plays and nursery rhymes.
On top of his shelves is the light box Anthony and I made. Quentin loves it and when he uses it on his table next to the mirror it opens up a whole new world of perspective for him. There are many good light panels/boxes out there but I suppose I should add the disclaimer that whether homemade or store bought, make sure all components are safe for indoor use (don’t get hot), aren’t too bright and aren’t used for an extended period of time especially in a dark room.
His shelves (which I will do a separate, specific post on tomorrow) house all this materials used in this space. At almost 2 we have a really good mix of all 5 areas of the Montessori classroom without looking to match it exactly. There are spaces for lots of language activities like matching cards and model animals, and spaces for sensorial activities like nesting dolls, puzzles and building blocks. There are a few early Maths spaces and some Practical Life such as pouring and transferring activities. There is also a space for art materials. A brand new addition to the top of the shelves (not pictured) is our Montessori Continents globe. Quentin knows where the water is and names it as “the Ocean” and sometimes even “the Pacific Ocean” but that is very abstract and we never really focus on it.
Our cosy reading corner and basket of books gets used frequently. We keep “research books” (as Anthony calls them) here. Non fiction books with real image pictures. Usually with animals for Quentin.
Our gross motor area with the slide and rocker are a favourite and get used every day. The rocker is light enough for Quentin to move independently. He usually moves it so that he can see himself in his work mirror when he rocks. We also keep homemade bean bags and a little container of bubble solution ready to use here.

At two years old what are our must haves for this space?
– Baskets with handles
– Wooden trays with handles
– Real image books
– Vocabulary cards
– Puzzles
– Art
– A range of activities that vary from gross motor to fine motor


If he wishes to work, we must provide him with things on which he can exercise an intelligent activity. – Maria Montessori

Our Practical Life Areas. I didn’t include a picture of our weaning table which still sits beside Quentin’s Kitchen. The kitchen and pantry have evolved over time, but have never been more important in Quentin’s day than they are now. Having a place to store his things that he can access independently is of the utmost importance in any Montessori space. I love that we can keep them all together. He clears his dishes and tools from his table after every meal without us having to prompt him now. We keep a little glass pitcher of water on his weaning table for when he wants a drink.
The laundry line was a homemade Christmas gift from my father. It is kept in our laundry area and Quentin uses it frequently there and on the rugs in our “Space”. All of these items allow Quentin to actually contribute to our family’s day to day life. He bakes, sweeps, dusts, cleans, and does the laundry along side us. He is not in the way, he is actually helping.

Our Care of Self area in the bathroom remains the same. Our little sink and Toileting Area has not changed much since I set them up when we first started really getting into Toilet Learning with Quentin. The only thing not shown above is the little container of soaps and creams that Quentin can access in our bathroom vanity cupboard. Our bathroom is tiny but this little area has worked really well for us. Like everywhere else we keep it tidy and well stocked and Quentin does the rest.

So that’s it really. Could we do with less? Absolutely. Do I want to add more? Of course I do. We have enough to have a good rotation of different materials that offer him a range of experiences. Many of which are homemade, second hand or come from our small community’s fantastic toy lending library. When I’m looking for something specific and well made I shop here.
Nothing really needs changing and nothing monumental is happening. Except for the fact that unbelievably, and against all odds we will very soon have a two year old.



Toilet Learning. It’s a hot topic. I have written of our lead up to toileting here. I feel this post will be my last on the matter as it looks as though we have come to the final stages of Quentin’s journey.
Although Montessori children generally master toileting earlier rather than later, it’s important to remember that every child is different. I think the most important thing to keep in mind is that this is one of the most difficult things a child will ever do. They are mastering conscious control over their body’s impulses. They demand the utmost respect and support.

I was witness to something this week that has made me really think about this whole process and how we portray it to our children.
I arrived at a house to pick up Quentin. One child there who was much older than Quentin had just had a large accident in their diaper. I stood there dumbly and watched as the whole room was told how big and disgusting the mess was: in front of the child who stood naked in the bathroom doorway waiting for their change of clothes. Their eyes lowered. Completely humiliated. I gathered Quentin as fast as I could and left, fighting back tears.
Now, I know that the person changing the child loves and cares for children. I know that they said what they said jovially, and would never consciously hurt a child. But what about unconsciously.

What language do we use when speaking about toileting? What’s important? The words used or that they are said in a playful tone. Even if a parent is diaper changing an infant/child not ready for using the potty what do they comment on? I’m not sure about anyone else, but I have heard lots of comments on how “stinky” a diaper is, or what a “big mess” has been made.

Would it matter to you if a person you loved and trusted humiliated you while smiling or singing?

It would matter to me.

Toilet Learning the Montessori way…was not what we did…

I have been putting this post off. It seemed it would be one of those “do as I say, not as I do” scenarios. I have also received the full brunt of people’s opinions on the matter and I guess I’m dreading adding to that by posting this.

Perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself. I should start at the beginning, or to be precise, August of last year. That was when Quentin was out of the NICU, home from further hospital stays and things were finally settling in at home (4 months after he was born). With regards to toilet learning, Montessori homes/Nidos use cloth so as to give the child the opportunity to feel wetness, right from the beginning. Boy, did I ever have high hopes. My baby would never know the horribleness that is the disposable diaper. The waste, the chemicals. That was before he was born. After 4 months of being put in disposables by nurses, he was hooked. And to be truthful so were we. Please understand. We had beautiful, soft, natural, expensive cloth diapers given to us, and we did use them. Sort of. Every time we put him in them, this happened:


And then this


If they make cloth diapers for preemies, we certainly couldn’t find them around here. The beautiful soft cloth diapers were bulky, hot and hard to move around in. He got frustrated and so did we.

If at this point you’re rolling your eyes, stick with me. There is a light at the end of this tunnel.

Desperately wanting to bring Quentin’s diapering more in line with our Montessori values, we got a potty for him, and placed it in the bathroom when he was 8 months. This was only to have him see it. The Montessori pedagogy states that a child passes through the Sensitive Period for Toileting between 12 & 18 months old. We wanted to have him used to seeing the potty by then. We made no reference to it other than to casually say “Potty. That’s Quentin’s potty.” whenever we were in the bathroom with him for baths or while we brushed our teeth.

At 9 months we began Quentin sitting on the potty. Again it was not to do anything. Just to sit while we were in the bathroom. Following the child, we helped him off as soon as he did not want to be there, and we never left him there for an extended period of time. He would occasionally pee. It was more of a coincidence than anything.

At 10 months we set up his “Care of Self” area in the bathroom.


I made the small shelf out of 1/2 metre of trim, some pretty scrapbook paper and a cereal box back. I ordered some pretty laminated fabric with a red that matched the potty (because yes, I’m that person) and made a little waterproof pad. We have the worlds smallest bathroom. We needed something that worked without getting in the way. The shelf holds Quentin’s tooth brush, comb and soap with dish nicely.

We started really observing Quentin’s toileting routine. We started taking him to sit on the potty after every meal, before leaving the house, coming back to the house and before bed. Each time, we asked him “would you like to pee?” and only kept him there until he wanted to go. If he protested, we would not take him then and try later.

He caught on immediately.

At 12 months we decided that we were far enough along to progress to underwear at home. We searched everywhere for something that would fit him. I had wanted to try “Under the Nile” since I had read good reviews from other Montessori families. I ordered their smallest size (12 month) but Quentin is in (still!) 3-6 month clothes. They were just too big and not going to work.

I scoured the web and came across these.


I sent off Quentin’s measurements and she made them for me. They are perfect.

At 14 months (12 1/2 corrected age) Quentin has been successful in staying dry all day (including naps) for the past 3 days. We continue to take him, and he lets us know by yelling if we’ve left it too long. We’re trying to add the ASL sign for toilet to his repertoire of signs. He takes pride in “going,” saying “I did it” and flushing the toilet after I empty the potty. We (here comes my disclaimer) have never used rewards of any kind, nor punishments for Quentin. When he has an accident, we will ask “Did you pee in your underwear?” He will usually answer with his noise for yes. Then we walk him to the bathroom and help him get into clean clothes and wipe up any mess. We never shame or scold him. Just carry on with our day.

I’ve ordered this to complete his “Care of Self” area.


I had no idea these existed until I saw it Pinned. It attaches to the bathtub. The perfect height.

I never expected the backlash on the topic. From complete strangers but also sadly from family.
“Really cracking the whip” is a mild example. “Oh! Well! You do Montessori (accompanied by an eye roll) is more hurtful. The list goes on.
We are not completely delusional. We know there will be accidents, and we have chosen to wait a little before trying “diaper less nights”. Montessori’s definition of Toilet Learning is that the child learns to recognize and control his/her elimination. Not just dry pants. There is not so much a start, although maybe at birth, and not so much an end as there is a progressing in aptitude.

It may not be the right way for everyone, and I know that it definitely is not a strictly Montessori way, but it is the way our family has done it. We just “Followed the Child”. Hey, maybe not so far off the Montessori path after all.