We have moved into our new home + one of the first things I started to design was the kid's playroom. Actually prob started to before I even had kids 🙈Being an educator, I used to love designing my classroom. It needed to be aesthetically pleasing (who doesn't like things to look nice 💁🏼) but everything needed a purpose. We all learn visually + through our environment. Our playroom was going to be no different.
I decided to put the playroom in our 3rd living area which is surrounded by the boy's bedrooms and has access to outside (we live on acreage so it is important they have lots of outdoor play too). I didn't want toys in their bedrooms, as that is for rest/sleep and reading. The playroom is designed for them to be a place to learn, have fun, create, socialise, share and explore together. So I also wanted the playroom to flow with the decor of our house which was really easy to do. It is probably one of my favourite rooms.
In designing the room, I used Montessori's philology of education. Which very much directs my choice of 'toys'. The space is indicative of their age (0-2years) it will develop and change as they reach milestones and get older. It is very important that the room accommodates for both stages of learning but also provides opportunities for older children to teach/lead younger children.
So at the moment it is simple, not cluttered, not overly simulating, creative and materials which encourage their gross motor skills and imaginative play.
I could write so much about this but today I will keep it simple and as I will change things as the boys grow, I will share loads more resources and explanations on creating the most effective playroom for your children.
What is Montessori in a nut shell:
It is a view of the child that is naturally eager for knowledge and capable of initiating learning in a supportive, thoughtfully prepared learning environment. It is an approach that values the human spirit and the development of the whole child—physical, social, emotional, cognitive. In early childhood, Montessori students learn through sensory-motor activities, working with materials that develop their cognitive powers through direct experience: seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, touching, and movement.
Theme: Montessori / Wooden / Greys/White + Black
I will explain certain elements of the Montessori principals when I describe certain areas of the playroom. Wooden is based on the toy selection (see 'toys' section).
Colour: a splash of green
Just a little bit which is great for concentration.
Monochrome tones with grey are the best for 0-2years especially for babies as it sends strong visual cues to the baby's brain which helps with faster brain growth. For toddlers it is a good base colour scheme so they aren't distracted or over stimulated and can focus on the specific task at hand. It allows them to really focus on the toys or activity and allow for creative expression as it 'declutters' their brain. Especially useful for gifted children.
Physical (gross motor):
At this age, gross motor is really the focus. The centre of the playroom is our slide. The best investment piece I have ever purchased. The moment this enter the playroom, Hunter's gross motor skills sky rocketed. Hunter is a very early talker and communicator but very late walker. He is overly cautious. Babies that tend to be advanced in one area lack in another as they put all their energy into acquiring and perfecting that skill. Since having the slide Hunter's confidence has grown. His sense of adventure has sky rocketed. He started to climb very early on and the slide really assisted with his balance. It has also helped with concentration.. He will go up and down all day long. It has helped with his strength and creativity. Without any prompting he will get his pinch toys and use the slide as a race track, use pillows to slide down, or climb up it. An investment piece I highly recommend as it also promotes being active in an often sedentary environment.
This is part of the boy's Christmas present which I haven't included yet however I can't wait to blog on this. Very important for gross motor and creativity.
All the way from Belarus in Eastern Europe. These beautiful Eco friendly wooden robed toys are a must for hand eye coordination. The learning opportunities are endless.
The Cow and Car.
Great as a push and pull toy. Imaginative play and sensory stimulation with the ears. Prompts animal and creative play. Helps with balance and gross motor.
Social + Emotional:
The rug (work mat).
The main representation of this is respect. We are developing children as a whole. This is why I love Montessori, we learn academics but we also learn emotional intelligence (will do a seperate blog on this). The purpose of the floor mat/rug and tables is to define the child's workspace and to reinforce Montessori's principle of "freedom within limits". There is such an element of respect with having that defined workspace and it is something that children take very seriously. I teach Hunter how to walk around the mat, how to place his toys on the mat and eventually how to respect one another’s personal workspace. This also reinforces that it is never okay to disturb another person's work. The mat is a place, where Hunter get's direct learning from me or a place to sit and listen or to focus on a specific task. This will change as he gets older but he already knows to sit and listen to mummy when on the mat. It is 'shhhh' time. I may read him a book or show him how a new toy is used. It also is the space we clean up together. This makes children feel safe, have a sense of ownership and responsibility (yes you can do this and start teaching this from 6months). I will also place the baby's playmat on here which will teach Hunter that he can't invade or jump all over his brother. He has to learn to share the space and be gentle. The playmat is stimulating for a newborn and it is his learning time. I've started to introduce the playmat already on the rug and show Hunter it is gentle/quite time. This really helps children understand boundaries which helps with their self esteem. Also has he gets older, on the mat, we take turns and not talk over people. I used to use these in my classroom and we used to say it was the 'safe mat'. We could talk about anything and everything. It wouldn't leave the mat, the mat wasn't judging and no one could make fun of any one else on the mat (works really well with children around year 5/6 as well as younger of course). Great way to get children to express their feelings and emotions.
The reading nook.
Reading. A huge part of learning. Something very dear to my heart, as my late mother was an avid reader. Something I instil in my children. Reading encourages imagination, expression of emotions, language development, promotes learning about others and our world. I started to read to my boys in the womb and now we read everyday together. A book can be the stimuli to all learning activities. I also started every lesson with a book.
The tables in the reading nook are the size for Hunter to be able to get up and down himself to promote independence. I bought a piece of chalk sticker and put it in the centre of the table, so he can freely draw and create but knows the boundaries.
The shelf is really important and will change as he grows. At this stage, it is a place to put the books we are currently reading and learning about. It is a space to share the focus of our learning.
The family height chart.
Where we will create memories over the years, sharing how much we have grown and what we have learnt from the last time we measured ourselves.
The train track mat.
A place to share. A place for creativity and imagination. A train track is great for enforcing space and sharing as it is one way. Children must learn to cooperate when using it. At the moment it is helping Hunter with his hand eye coordination.
When I was at uni one of the first 'arrhaa' moments was wall stimuli. Children or adults, zone out. No stopping it and it is encouraged for relaxation and self esteem. In a classroom, children will zone out which is perfectly normal. Hence why the walls are covered with stimuli. Because if they are 'zoning out' they are at least absorbing information visually. When I was learning Japanese, I put words and phrases all over the house to help me remember. Even without trying, constant recognition triggers the brain into learning. As this is a playroom designed for 0-2 you don't want to over stimulate which is equally as important. So the ABC board is important for recognition of letters. We point to the sounds when we are reading. As Hunter gets older and focuses on letter recognition, phonics and word combinations, I will remove the letters to put on our focus shelf or put a piece of coloured (green) paper behind the letter we are focusing on, that is why I chose this specific piece.
This is what makes up most of the playroom. As children learn through play which evokes imagination, problem solving and creativity. It relates to the real world. This will change as the boys get older especially into dress ups, cooking stations, shops etc. However at this stage the focus is on wooden toys.
Not for looks at all (even though it is an added bonus they look great). Montessori philosophy is based on natural, realistic, creativity and simplicity. So pretty much everything is wooden expect books. So no plastic, natural products that are healthy and safe. They foster creativity exploration and imagination appose to plastic which does the 'thinking' for them ...no flashing things or bright colours which distract children and halter imagination. Also not too many is really important - too many toys is really bad for development. It confuses children. It also makes children not explore or problem solve and have a short attention span (eg if they get bored or can't work out a toy or problem, they chuck it to one side and just get another toy) rather than persisting or creatively thinking with one. Also makes them look after them and teaches them how to not over endulge (which also helps and links with healthy eating etc). The more things we have in a life (especially toys for children as it is their main focus) is promoting excess and greed which isn't healthy. There is a great article below which explains how parents can clear out / purge their playroom to make space for the right learning. The basic understanding is toys that are open ended, natural/wooden, encourage gross motor (not jolly jumpers - terrible for children under 2 or walkers) they claim to help with gross motor but they do the opposite. Often you find children walk on their tip toes, have hip problems down the track and does the exact opposite of exploring as it confines a child.
These include blocks, memory games, model animals, creative building materials, dress ups, shops and art supplies. The abacus is a great way to introduce mathematics for children to explore numbers, patterns and sorting. The little wander game board is great for gross motor and problem solving.
There is a great article below discussing birth-5 year old toy list. I have also included my favourite toys which promote all of the above.
It was important the boys have somewhere to store their toys which was neat and easily accessible (they can easily access them independently). My uncle made it for them which makes it even more special. The race track on the front is at their level and allows for another learning feature. Hunter already knows to put his toys in the toy chest after we have played. It is on wheels too so he can push it around.
A beautiful illustration to remind the boys of how little they were, when they first came into the world and remind them each time of how much they have grown. A beautiful stylish keepsake. Can't wait to get bubba number 2's done and put up when he is born. Also reinforces that this is their space.
Remember a play room is meant to be fun, but thoughtfully planned to help, support, nurture and guide your children to develop their gifts and talents and work on their weaknesses. As parents, we are their first teachers. Don't leave it solely up to educators at school.
Parents are teachers, and home is a child's first and most important classroom - Hilary Clinton
Slide: Jupiduu via Minimacko
Roped Bear: Lalka Store
The Cow: Wheely Bugs via Dreamy Kidz
The Car: David Jones
World mat/rug: Oyoy Designs via Minimacko
Play mat: Papoose_playmats
Tables + Chairs + Shelf: Kmart
Chalk board sticker: Ikea
Reading Nook sign: JiMi Official
Family height chart: Grandad Pat's Treasure Trove
Train track mat: Oyoy Designs via Minimacko
Train track: Ikea
ABC wall art: Ziink_interiors
Birth Print: Aniky
Large pillow: My little joy
Wooden toys (my favourites):
Vines of the wild (value blocks, memory discs)
Milestones and Mayhem (little wander game board, abacus)
Minimacko (Le Toy Van (real life food), Grimms stacking toys and wooden puzzles and toys, a variety of wooden toys).
Monkeynmoo (Pinch toy cars and a variety of wooden toys)
Bello Baby (Wooden shape sorter)
Jolly and Co (Wooden toy camera)
Links to articles:
Montessori - purging toys:
Toy list: birth to age 5
The parent's task is to first nourish and assist, to watch, encourage, guide, induce, rather than to interfere, prescribe, or restrict - Maria Montessori