Toddler Room Redesign: Making it Montessori

I’ve mentioned on here a few times that Eva’s large number of toys has been a problem in our house. Over the last twenty months, the kid has accumulated enough toys to fill a few daycare centers and we’ve battled the chaos by buying shelving, tubs, baskets, wagons, etc. However, no matter how hard we worked at containing the chaos, her room always looked a lot like this:




There just isn’t enough space in her room to hold all of her items. Eventually, the floor would be covered and her toys would be creeping out into the living room. We also found that she was developing a habit of only playing with any given thing for a few minutes before dropping it wherever she happened to be standing. Not cute.


After I posted my most recent S.O.S. about Eva’s toy situation, a friend recommended a book called How to Raise an Amazing Child the Montessori Way. Despite having one of the most obnoxious parenting titles I’ve ever heard, the book turned out to be wonderful – easy to follow and full of advice that made sense. It stressed that toddlers need order, calm, and limited choices so they don’t become overwhelmed and frustrated. It also highlights the importance of having a set place for everything within reach of the child so they can learn to take things out and put them back themselves. Finally, it had pretty clear guidelines about choosing toys – you want to keep a few toys out that are at the right skill level for your toddler and then rotate them so there’s always something interesting to play with but not enough to clutter up her room.


Quite smart.



As you can see, we dramatically cut back on the number of toys in her room. When we sat down to sort through them, we found that a ton of them were either below her skill range (leftover teething toys) or above her skill range (Megablock and Barbies). We boxed most of her toys up and put them in storage, giving a couple of healthy-sized bags to charity, and weeded out about half of the stuffed animals in her room so that most of the ones she has left are really hers (versus hand-me-downs from Kyle and me).



We went from having five toy baskets in her room to having one basket for toys and one basket for blankets. The toy basket is a catch-all for random toys that either only do one thing or do something electronic. Most of Eva’s toys fit into this category and they all just blended together for her, so we’ll be rotating these often from now on to keep her interested. Since we pared it down, it’s amazing how much more she’s been playing with these things!



Her library continues to be her favorite part of the room and it doubles as a nap space for her cousin when she comes over. Eva still wakes up from nap, goes over to the closet, and pulls 50 books down at once every now and then, but she’s learning that she needs to pick them up and put them back on the shelves herself. Next step – getting her to take them out one at a time.



Most of the puzzles in Eva’s room were beyond her range, so we cut the stack down to the ones that just have pegs and simple shapes (rather than requiring her to match the pieces to make a picture). We also left out her cube puzzle because she loves to dump it out and play with the pieces. The drum set next to the puzzles holds all of her musical instruments, including a few leftover rattles and some hand bells we found at the thrift store. She loves making music and I love that the instruments are contained so I don’t have to hear them when she’s supposed to be napping.



The tin Curious George toys from last Christmas were a surprise hit, considering they were an impulse buy from Totsy. We randomly stored them on top of her Christmas piano after she opened them and now she knows that she always needs to put them back in that same spot. I’m clinging to this as proof that she will one day be able to clean her own room without putting blocks in her t-shirt drawer.



Eva had a ton of toys that require sorting, stacking, and identifying shapes (all of the things that she loves to do right now). We’re keeping one of each out and rotating them so she stays interested. Major bonus: now that most of these toys are in storage, we don’t have to sit around and ask each other which play set the blue triangle belongs to.



The fabric bins in the shelves hold specific kinds of toys and I tried to keep them different enough that it would be obvious to Eva which bin those toys belong to. Right now they’re holding cars, play food, ABC blocks, and ABC foam letters but I have other collections waiting to be rotated in and out. The play food probably has too much stuff in it even now but she’s been really into it lately and I have a hard time narrowing it down. It’s too damn adorable when she pops out of her room with a plate of bacon, peas, and sushi just for me.





Eva has four Little People sets and loves them. They’re also a fun thing that Kyle and I can play with her because she’s just starting to “get” the concept of moving little plastic objects around and pretending they’re alive. We decided that four was too many, though, so right now she just has the zoo and the princess carriage in her room. We’re planning on switching them out whenever she loses interest or gets a new one. She’s still pretty focused on taking them out of the bin and then putting them right back, so it could be a while…



Eva’s toy box used to hold her play food because it was the only space big enough in her room, but once I cut that collection down to one bin, I was able to use the toy box for dress up and other pretend play. One of the skills we’re working on is Eva learning to dress herself, so I glued a mirror to the inside of the lid and she likes to stand in front of it and try on hats and glasses. The chance that we’re headed toward extreme narcissism is pretty high, I have to admit.



One of the biggest changes in her room is that I dragged my old college papasan out of my parents’ basement and cleared a space for it by Eva’s dresser. It takes up a bunch of room, but Eva’s been having a hard time going down for a nap unless I’m sitting with her and I got tired of being stuck on the floor waiting for her to go to sleep. It’s actually quite pleasant now to sit in there with a magazine or my laptop (although it’s really hard not to fall asleep myself with the coziness and the sleep sounds going). It also has the advantage of being a good place to snuggle in for story time.



Eva’s dresser used to be our changing table, but she’s too squirmy and heavy to haul up and down every day, so we cleared the top off and now it’s just a normal dresser. Eva got frustrated because she’s too short to see herself in the mirror, so I glued a mirror to the side of the dresser and added some hooks for accessories. She spends a lot of time over there in the morning. Like I said, narcissist.



The diaper stuff and clean sheets all moved under the bed, so we’re doing diaper changes over there now. Theoretically we’ll be entering the world of potty training soon and then she’ll be able to get to pull ups or underwear more easily. I also snuck some oversized toys like her pop-up tunnel under the bed because I can hide them with the bed skirt.



BTW – the bed skirt and quilt are part of a crib set I bought at a thrift store for $5 and the blanket is a little too small for her to sleep with, but it’s just the right size for teaching her how to make the bed. We just move it aside and put her comforter on at night since it’s gotten colder.


So that’s the updates for Eva’s room. It’s going to be a bit of a pain to rotate her toys out, but not as much of a pain as it’s been to be moving toys out of the way every time we turn around. The Montessori book had some other ideas about making areas for her in the rest of the house, so I’ll probably be sharing a few more updates. I admit that I’m really drawn to how orderly these ideas are. Quite pleasing to my OCD.

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1 Comment

  • Reply Hope

    Eva’s room looks great! I like how everything is organized and functional now. I wish I had the energy to clean up my toy mess. One day at a time I guess. 🙂

    November 16, 2012 at 5:58 pm
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