Organizing Montessori Toys: Effective Montessori Toy Storage Solutions.
I’m ashamed to admit it, but with all the birthdays, celebratory holidays and everything in between… with 3 kids… we have accumulated a lot of toys. So many toys. And although not all of our toys are Montessori, we still follow the Montessori approach in terms of play with these toys and more importantly STORAGE!
I’ve done a lot of “research” in this area, including taking inspiration from Pinterest and Instagram, as well as reading what Montessori experts have to say. And although my setup may not look as pretty as some of the setups you will see on social media…, it works for our family.
What is the Montessori approach when it comes to toys?
Montessori education is a unique approach to learning that focuses on promoting a child's independence, curiosity, and natural love of learning. One of the key aspects of Montessori education is the toys themselves, which are specially designed-learning materials that target a single skill. The idea is that when the child is ready, and demonstrating an interest in the skill that the toy targets, we present the toy to the child to support their development and growth in that area.
There are so many toys on the market these days. And as fantastic Montessori toys are for a child’s development, you don’t need to own solely Montessori toys to follow the Montessori approach. I definitely won’t judge you. We have our own collection of toys that would definitely not tick the boxes of being “Montessori” aligned, but they bring our children joy and inspire them to be creative in their pretend play, and that is also important too. But regardless of whether your toys are Montessori or not, or a mixture of both like our family, it is so important to consider how your toys are stored, in order to ensure your child can get the most out of them. Organization and accessibility are key factors in creating an effective learning environment. And so in this blog, we will explore the importance of Montessori toy storage and share some practical tips for organizing and storing toys.
Why is Montessori toy storage important?
Montessori toy storage is important for several reasons. Firstly, Montessori education is based on the idea that children learn best when they have access to materials that are carefully selected, well-organized, and appropriately challenging. When children are given unlimited access to all their toys all at once, they can easily become overwhelmed. And when they become overwhelmed, they get distracted and so rather than engaging with their toys which could provide such enriching learning opportunities, they become bored, and perhaps lean towards undesirable behaviours. Therefore, organizing and storing toys in a way that is accessible and age-appropriate is essential for promoting focused exploration and discovery.
Secondly, Montessori toy storage helps to promote a sense of order and routine. Children thrive in environments that are predictable, and they are more likely to feel comfortable and confident when they know where things belong. When toys are stored in a consistent and organized manner, children can easily find what they need, leading to increased independence and self-esteem.
Lastly, Montessori toy storage is essential for promoting good hygiene and safety. When toys are stored in a haphazard or cluttered manner, they can easily become dirty, broken, or lost. This can lead to frustration and disappointment for children and can even pose a safety risk if broken or damaged toys are not properly disposed of.
Ok, so I’ve ravelled on… you get it. Toy storage is just as important as the toys themselves. So what are some practical tips for Montessori toy storage?
Practical tips for Montessori toy storage
Here are some practical tips for organizing and storing Montessori toys in a way that promotes learning, order, and safety:
- One of the most important factors to consider when selecting Montessori toys is age appropriateness. Toys should be challenging enough to encourage exploration and experimentation but not so difficult that they lead to frustration or disengagement. Additionally, it is important to choose toys that are developmentally appropriate and align with your child's interests and abilities. So what do you do with this information? You’re going to do a toy cull, Marie Condo style…. So get out all your child’s toys and lay them out so you can see them. You’ll need some space. And what we are going to do is divide up the toys into 4 piles - Too Young, Too Old, Right Now and Bin. So one by one, you will need to determine which category the toy fits in.
- Pile 1 - Too Young - this toy is designed for a younger child than your own and your child is no longer showing interest in it. You can do 2 things with this pile - either box it up for a younger sibling in the future, or off it goes to the local charity shop if it’s still in good nick.
- Pile 2 - Too Old - these are toys that for whatever reason you’ve accumulated, maybe you were gifted them, maybe you bought them thinking your child would play with them but they don’t, or maybe you’re just ahead of the game and planning for what you child may like when they reach that stage of development. Whatever the reason, it isn’t age-appropriate right now. It’s still good. Just isn’t going to get any use right now. So away it goes. There is no need for it to be out and adding to the clutter. It isn’t going to get used in the way it was intended so let’s save it for another day. You’ll need another box for this. And this box goes up high in a cupboard, out of sight for your child, but somewhere you will remember it, to bring out those toys at a later date.
- Pile 3 - Right now. This is literally what the Montessori approach is all about. If your child is showing interest in this toy right now, it’s here to stay. For now.
- Pile 4 - Bin. Hopefully, this is a small pile, but there is no point holding onto toys that are broken and unable to be repaired. If they are not good enough for your child, they are not good enough for any child, so don’t give them to a local charity where they will just have to pay to dispose of it themselves, bin it now.
- Ok, so we’ve culled some toys and put some away for a later date. Now it’s time to deal with Pile 3 - the toys that are age appropriate right now. You’ve probably still got way too many toys in this pile for your child to play with at any one time, so we are going to set up a toy rotation system. Because let’s be real, who has time to sit and decide what toys to take out each week or 2? We’ll cover toy rotation in a future blog, but to give you a quick summary if you haven’t heard of it before, essentially this Montessori principle ensures that children only have access to a limited number of toys at any one time. So instead of having access to all their toys, these are broken down into smaller more manageable groups and then switched out on a regular basis. To do this, I bought 3 large clear storage boxes and labelled them - “Toy Rotation Box 1”, “Toy Rotation Box 2”, and “Toy Rotation Box 3”. Then simply separated the toys into these three boxes. Only 1 of these boxes should ever be out at one time. The other 2 get put away in a cupboard out of sight. You can then switch boxes every couple of weeks, or whenever your child begins to lose interest.
- Ok, so you should now just be left with a single box - Toy Box Rotation 1. (Hopefully I haven’t lost you all on this now?!). These toys are going to be displayed nicely at an easily accessible height on an open shelf. We love open shelves in Montessori. This is because open shelves make it easy for children to see and access their toys, promoting independent exploration and learning. Additionally, open shelves promote order and cleanliness by allowing air to circulate around the toys and reducing the likelihood of mould or mildew. In case you have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about, here is an example of a Montessori Open Shelf set-up
- Now some toys may have multiple parts that can easily get mixed up or lost. For these toys, we suggest using baskets or trays to contain these to a limited space so the child can still easily view the toy and is able to pick it up all together to play with. Hot Tip: do not ‘complete’ the toy that is in the basket, but rather leave it undone for the child to complete. For example, put all the pieces of a puzzle in a basket, don’t do it for them just so it looks nice - that takes away all the fun!
- And lastly, it’s time to get your child involved in the organisation process and teach them organisational skills. Part of playing with a toy is putting it back once you are done with it and setting up the activity for the next time. So for example with the puzzle, once your child has completed the puzzle and is done playing with it, explain to them it is important to undo the puzzle and put it back in the basket on the shelf for next time. Involving your child in the organization process can help promote a sense of ownership and responsibility for their toys. Additionally, involving your child can help them develop early organizational and decision-making skills
Ok, I’ve done a lot of talking and hopefully, there is, something for you to take away from this. This is just one way of organising Montessori toys that works for my family. I would love to hear what you do. Do you do any of these organising strategies sound like something you do? We would love to see so please send us a DM or tag us on Instagram.
Chrissy @ Love Little Moon