Montessori in small spaces.
Updated: Feb 13, 2021
I know a lot of people who feel like they don't have the space to practice Montessori at home. Which I totally get, it'd be great if we all had the big kitchen with an island and space for a learning tower to permanently be there, or the separate playroom complete with a pikler triangle, but fact is, we don't all have that.
If you do that's amazing, but you do not need to let a small living space stop you from bringing Montessori into your home. I do not have all those things, I currently live in a 2 bed with a toddler, my husband, a dog and a cat. It doesn't make my home, or yours, any less Montessori than those who do have the space for all of those things. Here are some alternatives.
Play room/ Living room
Lets start with the play room. Or in my case and many other small spaces case, the living/play room that is shared. This is exactly how we do it at home. The room is basically split and here's a few ways we save space and make room for all of us in one fairly small living room.
A focal point for all Montessori Instagram accounts, and whilst it is important, there is cheaper and smaller alternatives to the more popular kallax unit you see everywhere.
A similar but smaller unit like this one is just fine. It's similar to what we have in our living space it has the separate cubes for displaying activities, they are slightly smaller but honestly I've yet to find much that doesn't fit on them that would fit on the normal kallax unit.
A coffee table with a magazine shelf like this one from Ikea can provide the same aesthetic and organised space for activities without the restraints of the cubes,
The floor, If you really can't make room for new furniture or afford to get it, spacing things out in an organised way on the floor is perfectly acceptable. It's providing your child the same benefits and principles of a shelf.
Bookshelf: Ideally you would have a large front facing bookcase similar to this one but there is other options.
Personally we have an ottoman that we put Jax's books on in a basket, and the ones that are too big for the basket just lean against the wall behind it. He can flip through them and see the fronts just fine.
Another option I have seen online is an easy DIY front facing bookcase out of cardboard like this one from MOM DOES DIY.
Most Montessori kitchens you see have a learning tower with a permanent space, their own cupboard of plates and bowls, separate draws for cutlery etc. Here's some space saving alternatives.
Learning tower: In our living space Jax has this high chair/table and chair. We actually use the table for him to stand on as he's closely supervised but also he's pretty well balanced now so I don't feel he's very likely to fall anyway.
There are also folding learning towers available if you can afford them, which are ideal for smaller spaces as you can put them away.
Another alternative is simply a dining chair. This is what we always used to stand on as kids and I don't have any memory of falling off or wanting a learning tower instead. As long as you are supervising, It's perfectly safe.
Plates/cutlery/glasses: This kind of ties in most of the other kitchen elements I mentioned by simply giving your child ONE cupboard, or even just one shelf of a cupboard. It doesn't need to be separate, just organised.
Use a draining board to organise their kitchen items. It's a perfect way of keeping it organised in a confined area.
Instead of putting all of their items out at once, just put out one of everything they might need that day for their snacks and activities and replenish it each day.
Drink/snack station: I've seen a lot of those IKEA play kitchens being turned into functional kitchens and I think they're beautiful and purposeful, but we don't have the space for that!
What we do is Jax has a snack basket that gets refilled everyday and it goes in the same cupboard as his utensils and plates etc.
Using a drink dispenser is also a good idea if you want your child to be able to get their drinks completely independently.
Jax uses a perfect little glass jug with a lid to pour his drinks everyday and it works just fine! Before he was able to stop himself pouring we used to just put a glass full in a smaller glass jug each time he wanted a drink.
I've seen quite a few beautiful houses where there is a separate bathroom for the children and so it can be easily organised just for their use, but we share one bathroom and we don't really lose much space.
Potty station: Instead of having a whole potty station, you can just make the main toilet accessible with a step stool and a toilet insert. It works just fine!
You could also have just the potty and leave the clean/dry pant baskets where they normally would be in the home, like the family laundry basket and their wardrobe, trust me they wont care.
Separate towel rails: We do not have the layout to have low down hooks for hanging towels and things that jax can reach, so we put a hand towel over the bath and his bath towel hangs on the radiator.
You could also just have a little waterproof basket for the towels to sit in as long as you change them regularly
Command hooks are a cheap, low space alternative and we did try this but they just would not stay on our wall! but they weren't the branded command hooks.
This section only really has one item and that's the child sized wardrobe, because in a Childs bedroom in Montessori, it should be purely for sleep and not have toys and all the rest of it.
You could use just low draws from an existing full size wardrobe with a few outfits and accessories.
Jax's bedroom has a built in wardrobe and we use canvas boxes from the Kallax unit for his clothes, they are on a low shelf in his built in wardrobe.
Another thing I tend to do is to just put out 2 outfits on hangers for him to choose from each day, although if you follow me on instagram you'll know he doesn't actually get dressed every day.
The overall storage to keep places uncluttered and simple i think is a challenge regardless of home size, its just magnified in a small space so here's some storage solutions.
Ottoman beds are amazing for storage. My husband and I have an ottoman bed and we have so much stuff under it. You wouldn't even know it was there. Just under a normal bed is good too, yours or the childs bed.
Canvas boxes, the ones that are supposed to be in the Kallax unit are good too. This is one of the ways i've stored and categorised Jaxs things inside his wardrobe, he can't see inside them or reach them.
Also clear plastic storage boxes with lids are useful because you can see inside each one to see what you're looking for without taking everything out and you can get them in all shapes and sizes depending on where you can keep them.
Extreme, but a valid option is storage outside of the home. In our case, this is my mums house. We keep a few big things were not going to need for a while there in my old bedroom as it's not being used. But you could also get a storage unit on rental, or even a garage, if your budget allows.
These were some alternatives to the more popular and conventional Montessori things around the home. But every home, budget and lifestyle is different, so just get creative and do what you can to make it as purposeful as possible. Most kids don't get the independence and care taken of their environment that us Montessori parents are providing, even if it's in a small space so cut yourself some slack!
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I believe Montessori is for everyone, I want to help everyone bring a little more Montessori into their homes and lives.
Montessoraus mama. x