Arranging a Montessori Shelf at Home

Elizabeth Villalobos, Young Children’s Community Lead Teacher

At the beginning of the school year, I often find myself staring at an empty shelf in my toddler community classroom wondering where to start. Let us set up a Montessori shelf together!

Keep in mind that an organized shelf helps your child build an internal sense of order and to feel calm. Maria Montessori said, “Order is one of the needs of life which, when it is satisfied, produces a real happiness.”

Shelf with Montessori activities for a toddler

Start with the left-to-right, top-to-bottom, easiest-to-more-complex theory. This works by selecting the simplest activity and placing it at the top-left corner. Then, continue by setting the second easiest activity on the right side, or if you run out of space, go down to the next level and start on the left, just like the order in which we read or write.

illustration of a shelf

You can show your child how to choose one activity at a time and how to put it back when finished. Making decisions and choosing takes practice! Choosing an activity from the shelf helps your child practice their own will. A designated spot for each material makes it easier for your little one to know where it belongs when putting it back. Sometimes children need kind reminders.

children placing items on a shelf

The set-up changes as your child grows—rotating the toys/activities will keep your toddler engaged. When you notice your toddler is losing interest in one activity, replace it with a different one. Follow your child’s interests!

Where to find a low shelf for your child

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