Learning and Play Spaces

I have spent the past week re-organizing my children’s play/learning spaces (2 years and 4 years old) with my children’s help, tidying up any clutter. A great way to start the new year. The next step is to work on the rest of our house.

Our Learning Space;

Shelf for 2 year old

This is a shelf for my 2 year old. The shelf was made by his Grandpa. The pictures on the top shelf come from National Geographic Magazines and are put in photo frames that his Nan made up to be used for this shelf.

Items on the shelf include;

  • Number counting coloured wooden rings on pegs.
  • Sound puzzle
  • Narrow to wide green puzzle
  • Short to tall blue puzzle
  • Lock/latch box
  • Ikea shape box
  • Tactile shape sorting blocks
  • Occupation puzzle

Shelf for 4 Year Old

A shelf for my 4 year old. The top shelf has some number books, sandpaper numbers, a magnetic number puzzle and a wooden teach the time clock with printable clock cards. On the bottom shelf are wooden pattern blocks with pattern boards and some lacing cards. On the right of the shelf you can see yoga cards and mats which are used daily.

Letter Writing

Letter writing little letterbox and small sized paper.

Language Shelf 4 year old

A language shelf for my 4 year old. On the top shelf is a black board on one side and a white board on the other side. On the middle shelf is a Montessori Letter book, some alphabet cards and alphabet wallet cards and some wooden magnetic lower case letters. On the bottom shelf is sandpaper letters and a sand writing tray.

Moveable Alphabet 4 year old

A space on the floor for our moveable alphabet.

Puzzle Map for 4 year old

An Australia wooden puzzle map, globe and Montessori map book. There is a world continent map sitting behind this shelf. I am looking for a better display alternative.

Nature Collection

Our nature table contains a large magnifying sheet for beginners and a small magnifying glass and bug catcher/viewer and child-sized binoculars.

Books and Felt Play

Some books that I rotate according to interest at the time. On the bottom shelf is a felt board and felt pieces/shapes for play.

Our Play Space;

Blocks and Cooking

A shelf for creative play and block building. The basket under the white table has wooden bits and pieces which my 4 year old pretends is food. She often plays shops or picnics and likes to make food for other people.

Playing Shops

An old computer that doesn’t work and a cash tin with replica Australian money in it for shop play.

Block Shelf

Our block space contains wooden cars and trucks, wooden train tracks, wooden small blocks, Lego Duplo and in the round basket large wooden blocks that Grandpa made for my children. The other blocks that are not out on the shelf is small sized lego which is for my 4 year old and is kept on a higher shelf.

Puppet Theatre

Puppet Theatre we were give as a gift two Christmas’ ago and still very popular.

Instruments and Scarves

Play scarves and musical instruments.

Cushions and Dress Ups

Play cushions and dress ups. The cushions were made by Nan and the Shelf made by my children’s Grandpa. Most of the dress ups are hats, scarves, mittens etc.

Doll House and Barn

Doll house made by Grandpa and Melissa and Doug barn.

I haven’t included photos of our art space but you can see my recent post on Art ideas toddler to preschool which shows what at materials we have used in our home.

Post Edited 10th February 2016;

Current art shelf for a 4 year old and 2 year old.

Art Shelf

I set this space up yesterday. This shelf is off our kitchen near our dining table.

Top shelf; tracing and leaf template rubbing work with a wooden bowl that contains crayons and oil pastels as well as a couple of pencils, some stamps (stamp a scene Melissa and Doug brand) and some tempera paints that my 4 year old uses. My toddler tends to use the art easel to paint outside whereas my 4 year old will often paint at the table inside.

*This shelf I will rotate the most often and I will aim to leave the other two shelves as is.

Middle shelf; Drawing caddy that contains coloured pencils, paste in a jar with a paint brush, scissors, and some items used for collage (shape cutters etc), sticky tape and a glue stick. Sorry you can’t really see them in the picture but they are at the back of the caddy. There is also an A4 sized paper tray with white paper. I will sometimes add coloured paper. In regards to the drawing caddy, we have two of these. As of this past week, I am keeping one on the art shelf with basic triangular shaped pencils and the other one on a desk in our learning room which contains items that only my 4 year old uses (includes permanent markers and lead pencils etc).

Bottom shelf; Wooden boards, a caddy for holding sculpting/modelling materials, a small wooden bowl with items in it which I rotate. My toddler likes to use these with play dough. Also in this picture is  a small container of play dough with an easy to open lid. I alternate between play dough, clay and plasticine. My toddler only uses the play dough at the moment. I used beetroot juice to make the pink colour.

My children choose to work using these art materials at the dining table, outside or at a small child-sized table that is located next to this shelf. Normally with a 2 year old you may not want to ‘over stimulate’ them by having too many items out at the one time, but I found that my children often do art together, so they use the materials mostly together. Also it is good if you can have items placed on a low shelf that your child can reach. I just had to work with what we had at home. Sometimes I may set up ‘an invitation to play/work’ by placing an art material on the low child-sized table ready for use as opposed to leaving it on the shelf all the time.

My 4 year old likes to paint, draw and using the modelling materials the most. My 2 year old likes to use crayons, stamps and stickers the most. He loves anything to do with collage (gluing and pasting). For his age he uses liquid paste whereas my 4 year old prefers to use a glue stick or sticky tape. I have some other art supplies in a cupboard (charcoal, chalk pastels, liquid watercolours) etc.




8 thoughts on “Learning and Play Spaces

  1. Hello Olivia,

    I’ve just discovered your blog as I’m researching on Montessori at home ideas for my one year old. It all started when my toddler’s music teacher commented on the floor bed, which I introduced recently with great success. Since then I’m trying to adapt and create montessori spaces at home (with some limitations as its a temporary rented place).
    I love all the different spaces you have created, are they all in the same room or is the play space in one room and the learning in another?
    And regarding the art space I’ve seen in your other post you keep art caddys on the dining room table. Do you leave them always out? Just with pencils or everything (playdough, sticks, pipecleaners)? If you don’t leave it all out how do you introduce the art activities? And this last question extends to all prepared montessori actvities (water, discovery etc.) do you introduce them to the children or display them so they can choose when to play with them?

    Thanks sooo much for all the lovely ideas and photos!

    Ana from Spain

    1. Hi Ana, nice to hear from you. I have just edited this post to show you a picture of our current art space.
      I’m glad you had great success using the floor bed. We used one as well and we love it, great for independence.
      Currently our art space is in the dining area of the kitchen, our learning space or study is in a separate room to the play room. I used to have the play and learning space in the same room but now that my children are sharing a bedroom i was able to separate the spaces. What I have tried to do is put all the materials/toys etc that you need space for or creates noise (such as blocks, musical instruments) in the one space and all the shelf materials that one may work at a table or on a floor mat and needs quiet and concentration (moveable alphabet, sandpaper letters, puzzle work, books, sewing) in a separate room/space if that makes sense. I will admit that I am in the process of simplifying the spaces so there is not too many items out at the one time, therefore clean up is much easier. I am also wanting to do this now that my eldest is going to a Montessori school most days during the week and would get enough stimulation there that I don’t want her to come home to an over stimulating environment if that makes sense. It’s really easy to put too many items out at the one time. I am guilty of doing this.

      With the art caddy, as seen now in the picture above, as of yesterday I am now keeping one art caddy on the art shelf and the other (yes we have 2) on the desk in the learning space/study. Most of my 4 year old’s materials such as permanent markers, lead pencils etc are kept in the study. Yes I introduced all art materials to my children slowly at first and then left them on the shelf as they became more independent in using them. I do rotate art materials on the shelf. I keep out favourites and rotate what isn’t really being used, or maybe I will display it differently.
      I was reminded last night at a Montessori information night, that children under 3 years of age cannot handle too many choices at the one time (no more than 2). So for a 1 year old, maybe start out really slowly introducing art materials. I introduced edible paint when my children were that age and some large block crayons. Liquid watercolours are great for young children.

      I hope I am answering the last part of your question correctly. I have some outdoor activities out all the time, such as our art easel for painting, a sand pit, side walk chalk and a container that has some outdoor sport equipment in it. We do water play at home sometimes but not all the time. I didn’t do many sensory tubs. Everything in our play room (blocks, dress ups etc) stays in that room, I don’t really change anything in there. I do however change things in the study/learning space. I will introduce a new material by giving a lesson if needs be and then keep it on the shelf for a period of time whilst in use. You can see my post on infant materials to see what I had on my children’s shelves when they were around 1 year of age. Also have a look at my post on care of self spaces in the home to see how we have set up areas to support independence in our home.

      Care of Self Spaces (Independence)

      Infant Materials

      Shelf Activities 18months- 2 years

      Hope this all helps. Under the age of 3 years, the focus is usually on aiding independence and Practical Life activities in the home.

      1. Hello Olivia,

        Thanks so much for taking the time to answer all the questions. I don’t have that much space but I have toys in Olivia’s room (yes, she’s also called Olivia) and the living room and I kind of followed instinctively this separation between learning or calm objects in her room and building or nosiy objects in the living room too, so its good to see it at a more developed and thought out stage.

        Regarding display of activities, yes its what I meant. Maybe I still have doubts with more specific activities more than toys, such as for example, a discovery basket with shakers, would you present the object and once the child has used it, put it on the shelf for a while or once the activity has finished put it away/discard it? I’m having trouble lately when I give her an activity because she’s at a very phisical stage and doesn’t really concentrate.

        The self care spaces I’m also thinking out, many thanks. I’m fighting with changing clothes, she’d been months fighting when I changed her lying down so I started doing it standing up against some mirrors of a cupboard, she prefers it but escapes, so I’m thinking about a chair? don’t know… How did you change them at one?

        Many,many thanks for all.

      2. Hi Ana,
        I think at this stage and age keep things really simple and focus mostly on gross (large muscle) motor skills. Freedom of movement is so important. Not sure if Olivia is walking yet, so maybe she just wants to focus on developing those skills at the moment? You can just slowly introduce some simple activities that focus on fine motor skills as time goes by. You will be amazed at what skills children pick up just from playing in their environment. She will also pick up on lots of fine motor skills just from learning to feed herself and pouring her own drink. Both of my children also learnt a lot of scooping, pouring skills by just playing with water or sand. Also painting is something that my children did very early on and it was an activity that they were able to focus on for long periods of time.

        Do you read with Olivia each day? I have a very active 2 year old but I found that reading was one of those things that helped him to build up his concentration and he can now sit with me for a long time and look at books. Books before bed is something both of my children love. Follow your child (observation) and see what interests them. Maybe it will give you ideas on activities to set up or try together if your not sure what to set up. Art almost always seems popular with young children.

        The child’s play is work. Whatever they are doing, may not seem like much to us, but it is important work to them.

        With discovery baskets, maybe just try to use items found around your home. Just put a few in a basket and leave it maybe on a shelf for her to discover herself. If your child is not yet crawling or walking but sitting up, you may place the basket in front of them. You can leave the basket out for further discovery if they are movers. Early on, I always left out a sensory basket. The most popular basket was one I left out that had play balls that varied in texture. Also the basket that had play scarves in it was much loved. I had a basket with shakers in it that was left on the shelf for a long time as they were also used during some song time/music time at home. Montessori Practical Life work is the main area of focus for under 3’s and in the Montessori Children’s House (3-6 years), Practical Life and sensorial work (work with the 5 senses using tactile materials) is the focus when children start in that classroom just to give you some ideas or areas to focus on.

        Regards to changing clothes. It’s not easy, and its something that takes time and a lot of patience. its one of those areas that can be a bit tricky and does take time. Your child is an individual and will do this when they are ready, just be there to support them on this journey. I had a care of self ‘dressing space’ set up from around this age. Things are easier with my second child as he wants to be just like his older sister, so if he sees her dressing herself he wants to dress himself as well. The only advice I can really offer is try to be patient, allow them time that is not rushed to try to do it for themselves. A little frustration is normal, but don’t allow them to get distressed over it. I tried to offer minimal help and only stepped in when I felt it was needed. If you push or get frustrated with your child they may feel like they can’t do it and give up trying. Also have a look at her clothes and make sure that the clothing are not too tight, shoes included. I went a size up for shirts and used shorts that had good stretch in them. One is still very young so don’t worry too much. Maybe just choose one thing at a time clothes wise to work on (maybe socks). Usually taking off clothes comes first as it’s often a bit easier. Break everything down into simple steps and always do things the same way each time. As soon as my children were able to stand confidently I swapped out cloth nappies to cloth underpants so it was one of the first items of clothing that they learnt to take off and put back on.

        Other dressing tips;
        Set up a child sized laundry basket
        Set out a choice of only 2 outfits to choose from when its time to get dressed. Too many choices is too overwhelming for this age.
        I also from early on allowed my children to help with the laundry in some way. It may be putting the dirty cloths in the washing machine or taking out clean clothes and putting them in a basket. We have a small child sized washing line that both of my children have used to help hang small items such as a face cloth, eventually learning how to use pegs.

        I am definitely no expert but I will help in any way I can regarding questions. I found talking to other mums really helpful.

  2. Hello Olivia,
    Sorry I haven’t been able to answer before, but Olivia has a cold and is teething so these have been exhausting days.
    She’s just about to walk, so yes as you say I think that’s her main focus, more than concentration activities, but she does enjoy reading before bed.
    I’m thinking out self care spaces too, such as the changing area where I don’t know if I’ll put a chair now as you have, as standing is probably too difficult for her to help mpre. I’ll try leaving an area with clothes she can reach too, but she just wants to muddle them up, so maybe she’s too young. I suppose I should also simplify her outfits taking advantage of the spring here as wearing a body, tights, a shirt, cardigan, shorts etc. is probably too complicated to understand. I realise now lots of her clothes are still very ‘baby-like’ too and don’t promote independance, such as onesy pijamas or bodysuits. She also doesn’t seem to grasp why we have to get dressed as she just crawls away naked, even if its winter here:)
    I’ve created an area in the bathroom too, taking advantage of the bidet, I think we only have those in Mediterranean countries, so she can wash her hands with a little mirror too for brushing her hair.

    I also love your idea of the mini clothes line as she is starting to help in household chores.

    Anyway, thank you soo much for your suggestions and help.

    I look forward to reading more of your older posts I haven’t able to look up such as toilet training (although I must admit I’m going to leave that until the warm weather even if she could start now) and the new ones that will come.

    1. Hi Ana, I hope Olivia is feeling a bit better now.
      In regards to clothing, maybe just give your daughter a choice between 2 outfits, that you have hand picked to start with. You could do this each morning as part of a routine. A chair or low stool might be beneficial if she finds standing for too long uncomfortable. Both of my children found a chair helpful in learning to dress themselves.
      I love how you have set up a personal care bathroom space using the bidet. I have seen some families use them here in Australia but I don’t think they are that common here.
      We love our little clothes line, it’s really come in handy.
      Regarding toilet learning. I was asked a few questions by another mum recently and I will be answering them over the next few days. I might then add the answers to Part 2 of my Toilet Learning post soon. Yes toilet learning in warmer weather makes things a whole lot easier.

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