Montessori in Small Spaces: Part One
One of the things I love most about Montessori is how beautiful it is. Before I had Camden, I dreaded the idea of having toys and plastic play monstrosities everywhere. The simplicity and beauty of Montessori spaces had me hooked from the beginning, even before I knew much about the method. The more I learned, I discovered that Montessori is a lifestyle, a way of integrating your child into your daily life. The prepared environment not only helps the child succeed, it helps the parent facilitate independence and growth.
Until recently, we lived in a 1,000 square foot one bedroom loft style house on Lake Washington right outside of Seattle. With it's totally open floor plan and two rooms, we had no choice but to integrate all of Camden's spaces with our own. In such a small space, everything had to be chosen carefully so that we were able to maintain both function and beauty. For reference, Camden lived in this house from birth through 18 months. Our lake house will be part one of the two part series, with our new house following (hopefully) soon.
Our galley style kitchen did not have much in the way of counter space, so we added an island. The base of the island is an 8 cube shelf that served as Camden's primary shelves in our living room. The top of the island was custom built with a piece of wood with an aluminum sheet on top to serve as the counter top.
In the kitchen, we used this learning tower to bring Camden up to counter height so that he could help with food preparation and reach the sink. Until Camden was about a year old we used a small weaning table (detailed in this post), however as soon as he was able to climb up the stairs on his highchair we moved to eating family dinners at the table together. I love our high chair, it has stairs that are easy to climb and nice handholds keep him stable. It also is adjustable so we can lower the seat as needed.
We utilized a built-in shelf as storage for Camden's dish ware. It has been accessible to him since he was nine months old. On the shelves we keep handmade placemats, washcloths for wiping, pitchers, cups, plates and silverware. Camden is able to reach all of these items to help set the table and also helps to unload the dishwasher and put the dishes away. When Camden was 15 months we added a water station with this water dispenser (on his old weaning table)so that he can pour his own drinks. I added a circle under the water spigot so that he would know where to place his cups to prevent spills. At this point, I only keep as much water in the jug as I am willing to clean up, which is usually about a cup. I have a bucket with a sponge underneath the table that Camden can use to clean spills.
Camden's main workspace has this forward facing bookshelf, that totally alleviated his tendency to pull every book off the shelf to find the one he wanted. I also had a the Kritter work table and chairs, which I purchased from Ikea and cut down the legs to make them an appropriate height for Camden to use. I also added some low hanging artwork for Camden to enjoy.
Our fireplace had an open shelf that I used to store a few materials, including our plant dusting station. As owners of a landscaping company, having plants indoors is very important to us. We had about 60 plants in the house, so plant dusting was a routine chore and one of the first practical life activities that I introduced.
I've written more extensively about our bathroom setup in this post, but I will quickly summarize it here. The best advice I have been given about our home set up was to add this small bar for Camden to hold onto for diaper changes. It was life changing! We now have way fewer struggles over changes, since he doesn't need to lay down. He uses it to balance and is able to be a more active part in diaper or clothes changes. I loved that we had mirror behind the bar so that he could see himself as he was getting changes. To facilitate toilet learning, I had a small potty available. A small table with baskets underneath held diapers and underpants. We used this faucet extender and an IKEA Bekvam step stool, so that Camden could reach the sink. Not pictured is a small chair that he could sit on to get dressed.
When we lived in this house, Camden was all about gross motor. Our Pikler triangle, trampoline and slide were all excellent materials to meet his need for big movement. Generally, I would keep one item inside and rotate the others outside. Although, weather permitting, it was much nicer to open up the house!
Consultation and guidance provided by Lida.
Using the Montessori method to help parents feel inspired and empowered during the first years of their children's lives. Offering online consultations now.