Setting Up A Montessori Home

Part nine of a nine part series of Montessori Parent Education Newsletters… By Lynn Belmonte, associate principal, Hammer Montessori

Often parents observe a Montessori environment and are impressed not only by how well the children work and get along, but also by how well the children take care of the classroom.  By using some of the ideas below, you can help your child be more responsible for his or her home environment.

• Kitchen:  How much do you want your child to do independently?  Do you want them to get their own breakfast?  Do you want them to be able to make their own snack?  By placing your child’s dishes in easy access, they will be able to set their own place for meals and prepare some of their own food.  With your child, determine a place for their dishes and utensils. 

This will most likely be a low shelf with easy-to-open doors or no doors at all.  In addition to dishes place small containers of dry cereal on the shelf so your child can prepare cereal for breakfast.  Fill a small pitcher with just enough milk for a bowl of cereal and place it on a low shelf in the refrigerator so your child will be able to prepare their own meal.  If they spill the milk the amount is negligible since it is a small pitcher.  Your child is less likely to spill since it is an appropriate sized and weighted (not adult size) pitcher.

• Bedroom: Choose carefully the items you put in your child’s room.  If you place a lot of toys and activities in their sleeping quarters it is not likely to be a restful place.  Choose a dresser for clothing that is manageable for a child to open independently.  In the closet, place the hanging rod low while your child is young.  Hanging clothes low enables your child to choose and then dress themselves.  A basket or bookshelf of books is a good idea for story time.  A bedroom with fewer toys will be much easier to keep neat and orderly than a bedroom overflowing with toys.  If you have an abundance of toys, consider asking your child to choose their favorites.  Put the rest in a box and store in a basement or other out of the way place.  In a few weeks your child can choose ten different toys to have in their bedroom.

• Play Area: Whether your child’s play area is an entire room or a section of the family room, utilize these suggestions and you are likely to be happy with the outcome.  Too many toys are overwhelming for a child.  Limit the number of toys out at any one time.  For the toys selected to be out, place each toy on a low, easy to reach shelf. 

Large toy boxes are not a good idea as items tend to get thrown in carelessly.  If you have many of one item (building blocks or dolls) place the set in a basket or plastic container.  By having a limited number out at one time your child will be able to keep up with taking out and putting away their own toys.

• Outdoors:  Dr. Montessori wrote the following about physical education:

The education of the movements is very complex, as it must correspond to all the coordinated movements which the child has to establish in his physiological organism.  The child, if left without guidance, is disorderly in his movements, and these disorderly movements are the special characteristic of the little child.  In fact, he ‘never keeps still,’ and ‘touches everything.’  This is what forms the child’s so-called ‘unruliness’ and ‘naughtiness” (Dr. Montessori’s Own Handbook)

Therefore, it is important to think about preparing the outdoors for your child as well as the indoor space.  Is there space outside?  How can the space be utilized?  Can the child play and run?  Is there enough room for the child to gain coordination of movement by working in a garden?  If you do not have adequate outside space, then take your child on hikes and to parks and playgrounds where your child will have the space to run, climb, swing and frolic, thus developing coordination while you monitor their activities.


Tips From Teachers:

If you want your child to do things for themselves then you need to start early by having them do age appropriate things.  Below are some examples of things that a child can do that are age appropriate.  Once the child is old enough, the child can participate in chores or volunteer work.  Service to the community is one of the fundamental beliefs in a Montessori environment.

If a child (or adult) is feeling low, one of the best things they can do is to help someone else.  Helping someone else gives you a positive feeling, and also thinking of someone else’s needs.  It is often recommended that children and adults help at soup kitchens or do volunteer work.  These are wonderful ideas, but not feasible for everyone.  There are many things that you can find to do as a family, even daily and weekly that will improve the lives of people around you.

Volunteering, helping protect the environment, or just doing chores provides many benefits to the child, including a positive sense of self, accountability, and a sense of belonging.

Volunteer Opportunities promote the sense of community and can help a child develop a strong sense of self.


Chores/Volunteer work - What Each Age Can Do:

• 5-6 age:  Some chores a child at this age can do are to make their own bed, help sort laundry, fold laundry, clear off the table after a meal, load the dishwasher, put away the clean dishes (if they are stored at the child’s level), help care for their own pets with appropriate guidance.  Take flowers to a sick person.  Volunteer to do another family members’ chores for a day.  Weed a garden (with direction and permission).

• Lower Elementary:  All of the above chores plus putting away laundry (especially their own), helping to prepare meals, cleaning out the car, vacuum the floor, dusting.  Except for activities that would be dangerous due to fumes or toxic cleaners, a lower elementary child can do most things an adult can do.  Random Acts of Kindness-randomly do something nice for someone else.  It could be someone you know or a complete stranger. 

Have you considered taking your young child to a retirement home to visit the elderly?  Although you will want to check ahead of time, take you child when they are in good health and let the residents enjoy the youth, energy and vitality of your little one.  Read a story to a friend.  Offer to walk a dog or take care of a pet for a neighbor going on a vacation or a homebound neighbor.

• Upper elementary:  Plan and prepare meals, help grocery shop (with a list), organize events (they can keep their own events organized and keep their information on a family calendar).

Hammer Montessori Learning Magnet | San Jose Unified School District

Hammer Montessori is a Public Montessori Magnet Elementary School within the San Jose Unified School District. At Hammer Montessori, instruction is conducted with each individual child in mind.  As a child centered/directed approach to education, the Montessori classroom is developed under the philosophy that all children are able to learn, and perhaps more importantly, all children want to learn.

For more information on public Montessori education within the San Jose Unified School District, please contact the Hammer Montessori office at (408) 535-6671 or visit the schools Website at

Parts of this document were reprinted from P.E.N to Paper, Ingrid Weland