Montessori Shelf

Cinco de Mayo Shelf

Who’s ready for some Cinco de Mayo learning fun? We visited Mexico with the whole family last month and collected some fun items to make a shelf. Along with a festive freebie for you! So take a look at this and enjoy!

Here’s the line up…




My Child isn’t Interested in Shelf Work

Shelf Work

Shelf work is important…’s a part of a Montessori environment for sure, but understanding how to draw a child into being interested in shelf work is part of understanding the Montessori Method. 

Sometimes shelf work isn’t interesting to a child because he/she just might not be INTERESTED in it. This is where observation plays an important role. 


Step back and watch what your child gravitates to during your normal day. Where do his/her interests lie at the moment? This will help you determine whether the work you prepared is appropriate. Are they collecting rocks, showing interest in counting, wanting to be with you in the kitchen, singing a lot, and the list could go on and on. But pay attention so you can begin to formulate ideas of what might be of interest to them on their shelf.

What do you Notice?

Sometimes the work is too difficult or too easy or maybe your child still needs to work on larger gross motor skills in order to develop more concentration. 

But a lot of times, a child doesn’t show interest in something because he/she needs help honing in on what is prepared. It is so important to make sure they see what is on their shelves. So here are 3 things that you will want to consider when you want to bring your child’s attention to what you have prepared.

Try This!


01. Give a Lesson! Have you shown your child how to use the materials that you have prepared? If not, go back and do it. Show them how something works, how to lay it out and key things that might be important to share with them. You might bring their attention to the color, the shape, the texture, etc. Remember to show more than talk and allow them to draw any conclusions from the material themselves.  You can find more about “The Lesson” in an upcoming post.

02. Invite your child to the Work! Invite your child to have a lesson on the work. “Can I show something on the shelf?” or “Would you like to learn more about this?” You can also give a silent invitation.  Simply pull a work off the shelf and put it on a floor mat or on a low table where they will see it when they walk in.  There is no need to point it out when you do this just watch and see if that draws them to the work.

03. Work with the material yourself? When we work with the material ourselves while your child is watching, it will show your interest in what you have prepared.  Again, no need to say anything to your child. This isn’t a lesson per se. It is more of an attention grabber. Choose a work and bring it to the floor or table and begin working with it yourself. When or if your child draws himself or herself closer, gently ask if they would like a turn. At this point you can stay next to your child or slowly back away allowing space for your child if that is what is needed. Or maybe they want you to stay near because they want to do it with you. Either and both are perfectly OK!


Try these things and let us know if any of the ideas worked. And if not, we can help you sort that out as well!


9 Practical Ways to Start Creating a Montessori Home Learning Environment Today

Setting up Montessori inspired spaces in your home is easier than you might think!

In just 9 practical ways, this post will tell you how to do it today! And you can do it without spending a lot of money, if any at all! You can most likely use what you already have. 

Even if you are still learning about the Montessori Method, setting up a Montessori Learning environment now is very doable. It will allow you to practice Montessori philosophies as you go along. 

This is truly how teachers learn to lead and guide……….. by practicing in real time.

Start Here!

01. Declutter

Clean up all the clutter in the areas that you want to set up as Montessori friendly areas for your child.  One of the biggest things we can do to follow the Montessori Method is to create order in our environment. Children thrive in order. Cleaning up and organizing their spaces is the first step to prepare them for their work.

02. Use Hooks

Hang command hooks in your child’s spaces to help create order.  Hang the hooks at their eye level to make it easy for them to access. Here are some suggestions.

  • The Kitchen: a place where they can hang an apron or a child sized broom, mop or dustpan
  • Your Child’s Bedroom: a place for them to hang their clothes, a sweater, a hat etc.
  • The Entryway or Mudroom: a place for your child to hang clothes that they need for going outside. Depending on the weather, a jacket, mittens, raincoat, hat, etc.
  • The Bathroom: a place to hang a hand towel
  • Outside Play Space: a place to hang shovels, rakes or buckets

03. Hang Realistic Art

You can find pictures of animals and real art on the internet. Print it on cardstock and laminate if you can.

Choose photos of things that are interesting to your child. Do they like tractors? Are they interested in pets? Hang pictures at their eye level. You can use a inexpensive $tree frame or just use masking tape on the back. Either works and looks great!

04. Prepare a Space for Shelf Work and Toys

This can be in the living room, playroom or bedroom. Clear space on a lower shelf to organize your child’s toys and work. You don’t need to buy a child sized shelf if you don’t want to, you can use what you have. Make sure the area is easily accessible to your child. The space will need to have room to house trays and baskets for their work.  If you don’t have a shelf for this, get creative. Use a coffee table or set up a small area in the corner of the room. Just create a place where your child can have a few toys and books.

05. Prepare a Kitchen Space

No need to have a fancy child sized functional kitchen, you can use what you already have. Clean out a large bottom drawer or cupboard to house your child’s kitchen items. Place things like child sized plates, cups, utensils, bowls, pouring pitcher, cleaning towels, child sized spray bottle etc. Or if you have a low bookcase you aren’t using that would work as well. I’ve had the same small shelving unit for over 25 years that I use in the Studio to keep our kitchen supplies. Get creative!


06. Gather Trays or Baskets

Use these to house work for shelves. You can use anything for a tray. Lightweight and sturdy trays or baskets will work best. They should fit the work or toys you want to place on it. It needs to be comfortably carried by your child independently. We have seen people use plastic dinner plates, small baking sheets or plastic containers. If you want to look for some really inexpensive trays, try $tree or the $ section in Walmart and Target. Having a place to store each individual activity will create a more organized space. You can find some we love at Amazon here.

07. Add Some Plants

Choose a few hardy plants for your child to care for. Provide a little spray bottle or mini watering can that fits your child’s hand well. Help your child use this to care for a few plants in your home environment daily.

08. Consider Adding Music to your Day

You can just listen to good music as you and your child work through your day or you can schedule a time to sit and listen to music and talk about what they hear. Listening to different kinds of music leads to great conversation and creates interest. Explore any genre of music and begin to naturally create interest in different kinds of music.  

09. Create a Story or Quiet Area

This would be a place where your child can find books that are more realistic with photos of real animals, art and people. Start steering clear of books with more fantasy pictures and story lines or books that light up and have loud sounds.

 To define the space, add a large pillow, rug or mat.

Keep in mind that not everything will work for everyone. Survey your home. Decide where and what might work. Start preparing your Montessori home learning environment today!


The Importance of the Lesson


The Lesson

A large part of a Montessori environment revolves around “The Lesson”. Giving lessons whether verbally or silently becomes the foundation for hands-on independent learning in a Montessori home or school environment.  You truly cannot have success in your Montessori home without it.

Maria Montessori said, “We must help the child to act for himself, will for himself, think for himself; this is the art of those who aspire to serve the spirit.”

But how do we help with this?

Allowing for Independence

Montessori’s whole purpose in developing her method of education was to help each individual child discover a joy of learning. This joy comes through independence. Independent learning is best facilitated through lesson presentations which concludes with opportunities for child led exploration.

By presenting lessons, we help to facilitate independence in young children allowing for opportunities that spark curiosity and development in their academic and social learning. This becomes the joyful work of the child. 

Why are Lessons Important?

Many times we give lessons for safety reasons. Sometimes we give lessons so children know how to perform a routine, some lessons are about our place here on the earth and others might be more academic in nature. 

All lessons begin with an invitation and are delivered with enthusiasm, attention to detail and respect. By following this pattern, we hope to draw a child in so that they may begin to look for the parts of the lesson that resonate with them.

Formal and informal lessons are given in a Montessori home or school to guide a child in foundational learning. They are designed to arouse excitement. The enthusiasm that we have for new lessons often leads to curiosity, as a child works with a material, idea or routine over and over again.

We know children will gain their own knowledge drawing their own conclusions from materials and works we or others share with them. But first, we must show them the steps for completing the work. This doesn’t mean that they cannot use the material in other creative ways, but by showing how to use a material, children are given and interest point as well as a starting point. 

Lessons for Everything

There is no end to when and where you can give lessons. Here is a brief list:

  • Practical Life Work: These include any and all things that are part of daily family life. ie, folding laundry, cooking/baking, putting toys away, yard work, table setting, self care, etc. 


  • Shelf Work: Depending on the age of your child this could look like open ended toys or more academics such as language, math, social science or thematic activities.


  • Grace and Courtesy: Manners, grace and love that we give to each other through genuinely embracing gratitude and service. This would also include any kind of daily family rules, routines and boundaries especially when related to safety. Practice Grace and Courtesy in your home daily. So much of this type of learning comes through example and are some of the most valuable lessons we can give our child.


How to Give a Lesson

In our school, we give more formal lessons but in your home a mix of formal and informal lessons works best. You can use these guidelines when preparing and giving lessons.

Lesson Guidelines:

Guide Gently

Remember to guide gently when giving lessons. Don’t force a lesson. Wait for a child to show interest. If your child seems uninterested in a particular lesson, try something else and come back to that material at a later time.

Honor Interests

Lessons generally work really well when your child has shown an interest in something but you can also create an interest point for your child by how you present something. Choosing things to prepare and present works really well when it is based on observations that you have made of your child surrounding their interests, needs and ability at the time.

Be Proactive

Giving lessons before a child explores with a material or before they have crossed a boundary is much better than trying to correct a child in the middle of what they are doing.  In other words, be proactive with lessons. When you want to teach a child how to safely walk across a street, do it before you cross the street and he/she does it unsafely. That way you can say, “Remember what we talked about before we left home? Let’s try to do it that way.” This keeps more of a neutral field for your child, especially younger children so they don’t get defensive.

Allow for Uninterrupted Practice Time

Don’t interrupt a child’s work unless of course they are doing something dangerous.

Once a lesson has been presented, allow them the time to practice and explore with the material without trying to guide them or show them something they are doing incorrectly.

If you see a child is struggling to use a material, after a substantial time of observing, you can gently ask if they would like help or you can ask if they would like another lesson. But sometimes just simply take note to show them that work again another time.

Sit Where?

When giving shelf lessons to a child, always sit on their dominant side. Ask them to watch as you present the steps of the lesson. Restore the work and invite your child to have a turn.

Complete the Cycle

Once your child has finished a work, have them return it to the shelf or clean up. We call this restoring the work.

If your child doesn’t want to clean up, remember to teach this as a boundary with consistency, love and kindness.

If your child refuses to clean up, simply say, “Would you like me to help you?” this will usually get them moving towards you as you do it together. But if they still refuse, very casually say, “I’ll do it this time and maybe next time you’ll want to do it yourself.” We like to use this technique for a few reasons but mainly it signals to a child that you are not trying to control them. It is important to allow them to make choices and to be able to stay neutral even when your child isn’t doing exactly what you would like.

These simple words and actions will take them out of fight or flight mode and will put them in a place of trust.  They begin to learn they can trust you with their big feelings and it magically makes them more cooperative.


As a final thought, keep in mind that the “Lesson” is designed to allow a parent or teacher opportunities to inspire a child so that they begin to become critical thinkers, compassionate citizens, independent learners and joyful participants. We hope you find joy in the journey as well. It truly is a beautiful thing!


New Year Goal Setting With Preschoolers

Happy New Year!!

The start of a brand new year has always been a favorite time of ours. A time for reflection, renewal and much needed self care! As adults, we tend to set big goals that usually bring big changes in our lives but where did goal setting start? We think it started naturally when we were young.

When we were little, believe it or not we had goals too! Our goals didn’t look the same as they do now and they revolved around our developing senses, but we had them. They were always based on our interests at the time. And if we were lucky, we had parents and caregivers that helped us create and cultivate some of those goals even informally!

Children are Natural Goal Setters

You might think that a preschooler is too young to set goals, but we think preschoolers are at a great age to start talking about setting goals. By reflecting on things they already enjoy doing, with your guidance they can come up with ideas of things they want to learn to do.

Children, like adults, have interests and things that they want to try. Children are curious by nature. Maria Montessori advocated that we help children to develop their curiosity. When we assist a child in his/her curious endeavors, we allow them to reach inner goals that they don’t even know they have. What child doesn’t talk about what they want to be when they grow up? They really are natural goalsetters.

Make it a Family Affair

Setting goals with young children is really simple and it can be a fun family project. Three to six year-olds have a great ability to be able to communicate what they like and don’t like😂. Just ask them.

As parents and educators of Montessori children our goals are to:

• promote joy of learning
• foster curiosity
• help develop self-confidence
• encourage positive attitudes about learning
• promote intrinsic motivation
• teach respect by example,
• help develop concentration and
• teach peace

Through these goals, we can help our young children reach their own goals.

How Do We Set Goals with Children?

We suggest holding an informal meeting and just talking to your preschooler about things that they love to do. You can ask them what are some things they love about school if they go or things they enjoy learning in their homeschool. Are there family activities they enjoy doing? Or things they have seen other people doing that look fun or interesting to them?Maybe they have seen things in books that have sparked an interest.

Make a list with your child and use the things of interest they mention as a springboard to discuss what they might like to learn about or do.

Make an Observation

We know we learn the most sometimes from just observing our children. Take some time to notice the things that are of interest to your child in their various settings. Through this observation, your child’s interests will surely be revealed. Having conversations following your observations are ideal because then your child can help explain and explore their interest further with you. This will give you even more insight. Make sure to make this conversation natural. Don’t over ask or expect too many answers just be free flowing with a few questions and then really listen.

Make a Plan

Choose one or two things from your child’s interest list to work on for the upcoming months and then set up ways for them to start reaching these goals.

Plan a trip to the beach to visit a tide pool if they are interested in sea life. Maybe there is an aquarium by your house. Does your child like cars? Is he or she interested in Science? Maybe learning about artwork and famous artists is a point of interest for your child right now. Maybe they want to learn to ride a bike. You can find a zillion resources online where you can download information and activities that you can study at home and then if you can go on a field trip. Visiting places of interest really help to bring exciting things to life. But if you can’t go somewhere, look for videos online of anything and everything that might fulfill your child’s interests.

So can you set goals with children at an early age? We say you can. It is an awesome way to get the new year off to a great start! Wishing you all the best in the New Year!




We Dig Dinos :)

We are Digging Dinosaurs this month in our Toddler Homeschool Class! Come and take a look at what we have been doing!


As you can see, our toddler shelves are full of Dinosaurs! Little E can’t get enough of “dinosaur 🥚🥚” and honestly all things DiNoSaUrS. 😂 Because of his sensitive period for this area, he is spending lots of time during the morning completing activities not only on our shelves but also outside of our shelf work. These are things that we prepare ahead of time and bring out in a more controlled setting or they are field trips to help enhance what we are learning about at homeschool. Here are some of the things we are doing:

🥚We dig for dinosaurs buried in playdough, Plaster of Paris and ice.

🦕We free dinosaurs hidden inside baking soda eggs.

🦖We visit our local Dinosaur Museum as often as we can.


While little L is having fun too, her focus has definitely been more on the shelf work. Puzzles are her jam (you can find some simple dinosaur puzzles and other dinosaur printables on our Etsy shop) She also loves object to picture matching! It is a choice she will make over and over again right now.


Aunt Holland took pictures of our large dinosaur figurines for us.  We printed them out, laminated them and made these fun matching cards. We leave these on our shelf for independent work. This is the beauty of Montessori……we can find ways to reach varied interests at any given time.

However a child desires to work and absorb information is absolutely ok!!! Whatever your child’s interests are right now, we encourage you to gather together a few works that support them as they learn new and exciting things!



It’s All About LOVE

In Montessori environments around the world, Grace and Courtesy Lessons are high priority in terms of importance. This is where we give lessons and teach about things like peace, love, kindness, service, helpfulness, respect and responsibility. These attributes truly form an important foundation for children. In honor of “Love Month,” we are sharing some of the books, printables and ideas that we use in our homes and at our school to help spread joy and happiness!

Simple Activities that spread Love!


  • Have you ever noticed how important positive words are? Don’t they just fill your soul with joy? One simple way to bring out joy is by taking a moment each day to tell yourself something good about yourself or something good you want to become. These words and phrases are called positive affirmations. I actually have positive affirmations that come to my phone several times a day.  It’s a free trial app called “I Am”. I love it!
  • You can state positive affirmations to yourself or write little sticky notes of affirmations and place them around your house or classroom. Things like,

“I am Happy, I am healthy, I am loved, I am kind, I am helpful, I am safe, I am learning everyday, I am grateful,” etc.

If you really want to take this to another level, write a list of “I Am” statements and read them everyday! See how that helps to spread love! :)

  • Do this with your children too! Help them come up with their own “I Am” statements and you can write them down for them. Or you can grab our Affirmation cards here and read one or several with your child every day! They will feel special!

Read more

Why We Love Montessori

If you are like us, you might not have grown up knowing anything about Montessori philosophy. When each of us discovered the beauty behind a Montessori mindset, we never looked back. If you are just starting your journey or you’re a long time veteran, we wanted to share why we love the Montessori way.

We love Montessori because it’s a beautiful flow of children of different ages working together in harmony. It’s philosophy emphasizes children learning skills they need in everyday life alongside their academics. Montessori is more than just learning, it’s a daily lifestyle. It establishes an environment with routines that provide opportunities for the child to explore and create. A place where they can master practical life skills and challenge their mind. Overall, it allows them to experience the beauty and wonder of this Earth through their senses.

“It’s a beautiful flow of children of different ages working together in harmony.”

A Montessori lifestyle creates a foundation of learning for these young minds to build on in their future years. Each activity and educational experience is for the individual. When a child chooses an activity to work on, they are able to pursue their interests while promoting self reliance.

In normal classroom settings, teachers are there to lecture and give out standard and formulaic worksheets and activities for the children. Meanwhile in Montessori, the teacher is there to guide the children as they navigate the learning materials, striving towards independence. As parents, this gives us a unique opportunity to follow the child. It is ok to be attentive to their needs, but it’s important to let them lead. This will allow for the most growth mentally and developmentally in our homes.

Dr. Maria Montessori believed strongly that little children had the capability of learning and absorbing information at a very early age and from what we have learned and observed with our own children, she was right. If you were to enter a Montessori classroom for the first time, prepare to be amazed. You will see children collaborating together, washing dishes, tracing letters, cleaning, using their imaginations, and so much more. They will be working in small groups or independently concentrating on tasks of interest to them. At our school in California, we love promoting independence and allowing the child to lead. This brings out the best kind of playful learning and adventures! As we have replicated this kind of learning in our homes, we have seen our children grow and develop in the best ways. It honestly has made for a happier parent and child.

These special little humans are in the most important period of development and they are eager to learn if we give them the freedom to do so. Maria Montessori said, “The most important period of life is not the age of university studies, but the first one, the period from birth to the age of six.” We believe that this doesn’t need to be a scary notion for parents. It is possible, and easier than you might think, to create a Montessori minded home. That’s a huge reason why we created iML. We want to partner with parents to make it easier for their children to find access to this type of learning. We want to help set you and your family up for success. Thank you for letting us be a part of your journey. We can’t wait to see where it takes us.

-Barbara, Rachel and Kayla