Setting up a Toddler-friendly Home

By Whitney Kimbro

Toddlers crave independence and are in a sensitive period for language.  They sometimes have a hard time communicating what is needed, especially if they are tired, hungry, ill or something is just off.  There are usually power struggles in these delicate years.  To help minimize these power struggles, and encourage independence, we want to allow children to do for themselves whenever possible.  Setting up a toddler-friendly home can help create calmness.  It will also help build self-confidence, encourage taking part in daily life, aid independence, and show them how to be responsible for their things.  The environment, permitting time and modeling are all important factors in allowing a toddler to do for himself.

Here are eight tips for setting up your home from “The Montessori Toddler” by Simone Davies:

  1. Child-sized. Find furniture that the child can manage without help.  Look for chairs and tables that are the right height to allow their feet to sit flat on the floor; cut the legs of the furniture a bit if necessary
  2. Beauty in the space. Display art and plants at the child’s height for them to enjoy.
  3. Have activities and materials set up in trays and baskets so they have everything they need at the ready; look for ways to make it easy for the child to help themselves.
  4. Attractive activities. Have age-appropriate activities beautifully arranged on shelves – rather than in toy boxes – that are inviting to them
  5. Less is more. Displaying only a few activities helps the child’s concentration, display only the ones they are working to master, so they don’t feel overwhelmed.
  6. A place for everything and everything in its place. Toddlers have a particularly strong sense of order.  When we have a place for everything and everything is in its place, it helps them learn where things belong (and where to put them away).
  7. See the space through their eyes. Get down to the child’s height in each space to see what it looks like from their perspective.  We may see some tempting wires or some clutter under the shelves, or it may feel overwhelming.
  8. Store and rotate. Create storage that ideally is out of children’s sight and easy on the eye – think floor-to-ceiling cupboards that blend into the wall color, an attic space, or containers that can be stacked in a storage area or behind a couch.  Store most of the child’s activities and rotate the activities on their shelves when they are looking for new challenges. 

“If teaching is to be effective with young children, it must assist them to advance on the way to independence. It must initiate them into those kinds of activities which they can perform themselves and which keep them from being a burden to others because of their inabilities. We must help them to learn how to walk without assistance, to run, to go up and downstairs, to pick up fallen objects, to dress and undress, to wash themselves, to express their needs in a way that is clearly understood, and to attempt to satisfy their desires through their own efforts. All this is part of an education for independence.” (Maria Montessori)

In our Montessori toddler classrooms, we aim to emulate these suggestions.  Bringing these ideas into your own homes can create a bridge from home to school and give your child a springboard for the development of coordination, concentration, confidence, independence, and order.


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