Monday, 23 October 2017

On Our Shelves This Week

I have been hesitant to do a post on our shelf work, but have been asked to share some of the work we do, so I decided to put a post together for this Montessori Monday.

My biggest reasoning behind not wanting to put a lot of focus on shelf work on the blog is that I feel the true value of Montessori parenting is often lost with people thinking it is all about the work and the trays and what we put on shelves for our children so as to accelerate learning, as opposed to the beautiful philosophy of it. In my opinion, my young children are better served with a lot of freedom to explore our home and to seek the motives their minds and bodies need in the environment. This means a lot of running down the hall, stacking the couch cushions, and free play. Benedict finds himself neat little activities such as transferring all the extra mason jar lids and rings from one container to another, and testing how a stick he found fits into the handles of the pots and pans stored in our island, and I will often develop work for him based on how I see these motives being met.

Generally, we have two shelves in our home for the boys. The one big one in their playroom is devoted mostly to imaginative play, where the bins of trains and tracks, cars, animals, and a few other toys are always available to them. This is what is used the most from day-to-day. Along with this shelf, they also have a shelf with various musical instruments, of which, the harmonica and little guitars get used daily.

My second focus is on practical life and authentic ways to involve the boys in the life of the home. This does not require a lot of setup, pre-planning, and I feel it is one of the most positive ways Montessori affects the flow of our home. Eventually, I plan on putting a post together on practical life activities we have appreciated in our home. Lately, some of the ones I have loved are having Jerome rip cilantro leaves from the stem, fill up his water bottle and screw the lid back on, mop up a spill with the mop, and having Benedict choose his own clothing, and bring things to the counter, garbage, or laundry.

I have also been really focussing on making sure the boys complete the entire work-cycle of an activity, from gathering components for an activity, such as the cutting board, any other necessary implements, and the banana, to the very end, placing everything next to the sink, composting the peelings, and setting all the chairs back to their proper places. This also means I emphasize that the boys set all work back on the shelf when they are done with it, and I will have to post a video of Benedict carrying one of his trays, as it is one of the cutest things to witness.

The second shelf in our house is devoted to more work-type activities. There are always different puzzles available here and developmentally appropriate works for each boy. They are more likely to use the materials on this shelf when I am present, although they are free to use anything I have out for them whenever they would like. Recently I have also been making sure I always have at least one or two art trays available for Jerome to freely choose, and will always adapt what he chooses to involve Benedict if he is not napping. This week I organized a few more than usual, as I have noticed Jerome has been more attracted to art-works than the others I have had available to him - we are definitely out of the puzzle phase he was in for a good chunk of time.

The crafts I put together are some foam bugs (he worked with these materials today and it was a phenomenal activity from start to finish), a bingo dabber fine motor craft, playdough and letter stamps to match the phonic sounds we are working on with the sandpaper letters, and some hole-punches with shiny paper which will be really good for hand strengthening.

{The sweetest little spiders hanging in our playroom window. This art tray had so many components: opening a plastic baggie, sticking, placing, gluing, cutting paper and string, hole-punching, and threading, I really enjoyed watching him so independently do each part.}

On the work shelves for Jerome, I have a few matches for a memory game, which we have been enjoying together. As he gets older, I am trying to play more games that involve taking turns, learning different rules, and spending that quality time with me. He also has the Beleduc Body Puzzle, which has been a really good opportunity for learning new vocabulary and talking about his body, as he has been showing more interest in this lately. Lastly, a pegging work with clothespins and a tray to develop hand strength, the Perfection Game, and the spelling bird puzzles I have mentioned before. On a separate shelf, I have the sandpaper letters we are currently working on, a sequencing activity, and a mammal picture matching game which is too easy but he still asks for all the time.

For Benedict, I still have out the diy coin box  I made him, as well as the posting game he continues to love and use every day. New this week, I set out some animals from the Safari American Wildlife Toob, which he will explore and we will talk about together. Likely I will pull out the Discovery Kids Animal Kingdom book and read about the specific animals to the boys, and then I may allow them to watch clips of the animals and their sounds on Youtube (my solution to Jerome asking me what sounds animals like otters and foxes make which I really cannot duplicate with any accuracy). I put together a toothpick posting work, as he is still really drawn to posting, and is looking for more complicated applications.

Also, as he has been showing more interest in handling tiny objects, I put together a simple color sorting work which I will assess over the week to see if he is ready, as well as an object-to-picture matching work. I had made this for Jerome a while back and Benedict has been so attracted to the jar of tiny objects, so I decided to simplify it and assess his readiness for this type of work as well.

Other than that, we will devote time each day to reading, and will probably use playdough once or twice. I hope to go for a walk with the boys at some point this week to gather leaves which I then want to have them paint. I plan on then offering Jerome the materials for threading the leaves together to make a garland which we will hang in the dining room.

As always, thank you so much for reading. If you have any questions about Montessori or our family, please feel free to contact me either through the blog, Instagram, or Bloglovin' (all of which are linked in the About Me tab) and I will do my best to answer your questions, or will point you in the direction of another Montessorian I know will be able to assist you.

God bless,


  1. I loved this post :) So inspiring. Thanks Olivia!

    1. Thank you for your feedback! You are most welcome!

  2. I totally agree with what you said about the most important part of the philosophy being much bigger than just shelf work (especially at home), but I still love seeing what other people have on their shelves :) Lots of great inspiration here!

    1. Haha, I have to admit, I look at shelf work a lot as well! But I try to balance it out with lots of reading on the philosophy... It's always a balance.

  3. I appreciate your blog and your work with your sweet boys. Great ideas for the art trays for Jerome thank you ! All do able and not too messy.
    I'll try these with my 3 year old too!
    I'll check up on your DIY coinbox asap.
    Thanks for your time!