Montessori Basics Principle #3 Part 2 – The Preparation of the Environment

Principle #3 Part 2

Let’s Get a Space Ready

Today we are listing a few easy steps to getting your children’s work and play spaces ready. Based on observations of your child and his/her needs, start creating a space or maybe a few spaces that will help maximize your child’s Montessori learning experiences.

  • Designate a space for your child’s toys or specific learning materials such as a shelf or low counter space where you can keep your child’s materials. 


  • Clear out the clutter to make room for organizing! We use this beautiful shelf found on our website.


  • Add a few simple trays and baskets to create an open and clean look where you can keep each work or activity.  See our recommendations here about baskets, trays and containers that we love.  


  • Pick 4 to 6 of your child’s toys that have a learning purpose to display on your shelf. You may want to head over to our website and look for a few printables that you can add to your child’s work as well.  We have several free ones and many thematic units for purchase.


  • Add some artwork or photos of animals or maybe something that your child has expressed interest in to study.


  • You can easily print off a few pictures of famous artwork, animals, sealife, etc. from the internet and put them in an inexpensive ($Tree) frame and place them on your child’s workshelf.


  • A handwashing area would be optimal but if you don’t have room you can easily have a tall step stool or a tower (we love the one from Sproutkids)  near the bathroom or kitchen sink so your child can easily access soap and water.  Remember, independence is the goal!

    Handwashing Station


  • Prepare a little Practical Life area in your kitchen where your child can get snacks and even pour a glass of water for himself/herself!

Pouring Setup

  • Add a few objects next to the pictures and some books both on the shelf and in a basket for reading time.  You could even include a little reading chair or a bean bag if you wanted.  Anything that says, “Reading Corner”!


  • Don’t forget a plant or a few objects from nature!


  • Finally, you might want to consider creating an outdoor space. If you’re able, have a mini garden or an outside work shelf so your child can work outside, which is especially great for messy play.

Gather Your Materials

Practical Life

This is the fun part! Once you know where you will have your child’s work spaces, it’s time to find things to display the work in. I’ll bet you have several things at home already that you can use for this.

In your Practical life area, you will want to have some of the following child sized things:
•Maybe some napkins (we like to use cloth ones)
•A few cooking utensils
•An apron to use when preparing food
•Pitcher for pouring water or another source for water
•Cutting board and a vegetable cutter
•Few cleaning supplies (broom, duster, towels and sponges for cleaning up)

Remember to just keep a few of each thing in your cupboard or display space. This makes it simple for remembering where things go as well as helps your child to not feel overwhelmed with a lot of stuff. Think Simplicity!

Displaying Work For All Areas

  • A few small lightweight trays that are easy for your child to carry
  • A few sizes of baskets
  • Small containers for little parts and pieces
  • A few small jars for pencils/markers or crayons

You can go here to see some of the things that we use in our studio, in our homes and in our school in California. Don’t forget to shop for bargains at Target, Homegoods and $Tree.  Finding things at thrift stores and garage sales are a favorite too!

We found that we don’t need a lot of things because we just rotate them out  each month. So if you have a few basic trays and baskets you can reuse them each time you trade out the work so you don’t have to have a lot of expense involved.  If you do purchase things, we do really encourage good quality and things that you really like. Creating a work space for your child can be a lot like decorating your home.  And as your children get older, it’s really fun to allow them to help you with this part. 

Maria Montessori loved to use mostly basic colors when setting up learning spaces.  Things like natural wood and white wall space, allowing for the color to come mainly from pieces of artwork and from materials on the shelves.  She felt that the materials should speak to the child and draw them in, but if we have too many colors around the room, the materials may get overlooked.  We’ve tried to follow this theory in our studio as well as in our school because we see the value of bringing color in a natural way and using as many natural materials as we can.  

Of course, everybody’s homes are going to be different so that might not be possible, but if you can, find a white shelf and more wood colored trays and maybe splashes of color for containers.  We think by doing this that the simplicity of your space will shine through.  If you are local and live in Utah County, you can check out our “Poppy Shelf” which we love!  These are handmade with lots of love by our Poppy (E, E, and L’s Grandpa).  And they are super cool!  They are great to use for displaying your children’s work and fit right in with the Montessori philosophy of using natural colors.

iML Montessori Shelf

Once you have your shelf, containers, trays and baskets, you can start to arrange some of the work for your children.  Remember to keep this simple.  I have a habit of over planning and over preparing which can be great since I never run out of materials for my classes or grandchildren but honestly, you just need to stick with the basics.

Toddler Shelves: (18 months-3years) The younger your child is, the less he/she needs on their shelf.  Most toddlers are mainly interested in learning about their environment through play so just a few activities on the shelf such as:

  • Picture and vocabulary cards
  • Books 
  • Building objects
  • Animal figurines or things that go
  • Sensorial materials
  • Colors and shapes 

Any of the above mentioned materials would be perfect for a Toddler’s developmental needs.

Toddlers also love to spend time in the kitchen with you and doing all the things that you are doing in your daily practical living, so set them up to help as much as you can.

Primary Shelves: (3 – 6 years) This is a large age span, but for the most part children are beginning to be more aware of other more detailed fine motor skill activities and interested in moving towards more academic learning.  So for these shelves, we will have more of a variety of activities.  Because this is such a broad and large scope to cover, we will need to have many more writings about the specific kinds of activities you can put on these shelves and we encourage you to follow our postings as well as go through our blog for more detailed examples, but we have compiled a very general list below:

Concrete and Hands on activities based in academic areas of learning:

  • Language/Literacy Work
    • Matching work
    • Object/picture and vocabulary cards
    • 3 part learning cards
    • Story and learning books
    • Pre-literacy and literacy activities
    • Pre-writing and writing practice activities
  • Math/Numeracy Work
    • Number recognition
    • Number to object correspondence
    • Sorting & counting objects
    • Colors and shapes
  • Cultural Subjects (science, geography, botany, zoology, art and music)
    • Science
    • Geography
    • Botony
    • Zoology
    • Art
    • Music
  • Practical Life Activities
    • Individual and family cooking projects
    • Setting the table, cleaning up or restoring work to its place
    • Chores or work that contributes to the family

There are so many other things to share but we will stop here and let you begin to absorb all of the ideas and possibilities for your homes and classrooms.  We are here for your questions and would love to give you our thoughts about your own personal situations so feel free to reach out and DM us.  

Don’t forget to check out our guide of a few basic items that will get you started in preparing practical life areas for toddlers and primary children.

Happy Prepping!! 

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