We all want those beautiful open Montessori toy shelves in our living room, but sometimes we can’t afford to spend a lot of money on a shelf for toys. I want to share with you how you can get Montessori toy shelves that are within your budget, ranging from free to somewhat pricer but lovely options! I will also share with you some of the reasons why the Montessori philosophy encourages the use of open shelves and natural materials.
Considerations When Finding the Best Montessori Toy Shelf
What Size Shelf?
When deciding what size shelf to get you want to look for the best shelving unit that meets your child’s needs. Montessori shelves are ideally low shelves, at a level that the child can reach. This allows for easy access. There are many different size shelves, however, you can always accommodate the youngest child by setting up their toys on the lowest shelf available.
How to Set Up a Montessori Shelf with Toys?
When setting up a Montessori toy shelf we want things to be orderly, organized, and accessible for the child. As a Montessori-trained guide, I spent so many years preparing Montessori shelves in my classroom. So here are a few suggestions I have when it comes time to set up your Montessori toy shelf, probably one of my favorite aspects of being a Montessori teacher!
Leave visual space between objects
You don’t need to fill all the space on the shelf. I actually recommend not doing this for a few reasons. One, it won’t look very beautiful if there are so many objects shoved onto an open shelf. Two, the visual space between objects is purposeful. It is a great way to help the child see the separation of materials and see what toys are available. Lastly, it allows for the opportunity to sequence the materials/toys from easier to more challenging. You can order the toys in this way from left (easier) to right (more challenging).
Don’t have all Your Child’s Toys Out at Once
Implement a toy rotation in your home. Toy rotation is simply having toy storage separate from the play space. The good news about doing toy rotations is it actually can help keep your child more engaged with their toys. Have you ever had that feeling when there are too many options and none of them look appealing so you find yourself unable to do anything? That is how our children can feel when they see too many things dumped into storage bins. Nobody wants to go digging for something to play with. Instead, choose 4-8 toys and place them out on the shelf. You can observe to see what toys your child is using and which they are not. Rotate when needed. You don’t have to rotate all the toys at once, you can just swap out one or two things when you notice they aren’t being used.
Leave toys undone
To support more independent play in our homes, the way we prepare the environment can make a difference. One simple thing you can do is leave toys undone. For example, if you have a puzzle, you could have a small basket of all of the pieces and then the puzzle frame sitting next to it. Both of these things could be placed on a light tray that the child could independently grab, ideally with handles. Just by having it prepared in this way, it almost calls out to the child and says, “Come put my pieces together”.
Use trays and baskets
The perfect way to house toys is by using small trays and baskets. This is helpful when it comes time to clean up and make sure everything has a place. By using small baskets and trays, the child will still be able to see the toys available on their shelves, so use them as a way to create more order, not baskets that would create more clutter and disorder in the environment.
Shelves for a $0 Budget
If you want to start implementing Montessori in your home but simply have no money to invest, then I have a few solutions that will work wonderfully for you!
Utilize A Window Ledge or the Floor
If you have a window sill you can use that as a makeshift shelf for toys. Especially if you display them beautifully, it will look natural and inviting in your space. If you don’t have something like that in your home environment you can line toys beautifully on the floor. You could use a rug to delineate that this is a toy storage area not just the play area.
Use the Bottom Shelf of Pre-Existing Bookshelves or Coffee Table
Using the bottom of a shelf or other furniture I have in my home is something I do all throughout my home. I find that this is a natural way to accommodate the child’s needs in Montessori homes. I will use the bottom shelf of bookshelves or even cabinets in our kitchen to have Montessori toys. This is a great option for small spaces becuase it doesn’t require purchasing extra pieces of furniture and uses what is already available. Sometimes coffee tables will have a bottom shelf which can be another great storage space for some baskets or trays of toys.
Facebook Market Place
People are always getting rid of shelving units. Check on Facebook Marketplace to see if you can find a low shelf or handmade pieces for your environment. If you are looking for shelves for school Montessori environments, sometimes other Montessori schools will sell their shelves if they get new ones, this is a great option if you are trying to build up a collection of Montessori shelves without spending an arm and a leg.
Buy Nothing City Facebook Groups
If you are on Facebook you can join these Buy Nothing groups. Simply people will post when they are getting rid of things for free and you can also post if you are in search of an item. I have gotten some great things for free from these groups. The groups are typically formed based on the city or town you live in.
Garage Sales or Second-Hand Stores
A very popular option would be going to garage sales or second-hand stores. You often can find great deals at garage sales. I find that sourcing furniture second-hand is a great way to find unique and vintage treasures to bring into your home! Not to mention all of the amazing baskets and trays you can add to your space by getting them second-hand.
Montessori Shelves for a Mid-Range Budget ($100-$300)
Here are six great Montessori shelves for a budget between $100 and $300.
This Montessori bookshelf from ECR4Kids is 12.5″D x 36″ W x 24″H. A height of 24 inches makes it great for ages 3 to 5, but could also be a great option for an infant, just using the bottom shelf. It is a birch plywood shelf.
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If you are looking for a simple and affordable option, Ikea’s Kallax collection can be a great option! We have used these shelves in our home. They are not the highest quality of material, but they typically are something our wallets can handle! You can get different arrangements of the shelves to make it work for your space. You can also get inserts to customize further. We used a Kallax shelf for our DIY Montessori wardrobe.
This 5-compartment shelf is a great height for babies and toddlers. The compartments offer even a little more structure to how you set up a shelf like this which could help in the independence of the child putting their toys away at a certain point becuase you can get things that fit into the compartments well.
The Sprout Kids shelves are some of the best Montessori shelves that you can purchase. They are made in the United States from baltic birch and made to last. They don’t have sharp edges which is exactly what you want when purchasing a kid’s shelf.
If you have an older child and a younger child or just want to plan for the future this would be a great option as it has room for 8 materials and then a few beautiful things on top as well. This shelf is made of thick plywood that is wipeable and durable.
What I love about the Sprout Kids Montessori shelving is that it has a variety of different sizes. The different height options are wonderful as you are looking for shelves that will be fitting for years to come.
The style of this shelf is nice because it has a combination of whole shelves open as well as some compartment separation.
Montessori Shelves for a Higher Price Point
The Lovevery toy shelf is a modern toy shelf with built-in toy storage. This would be the perfect choice for a kid’s shelf in a Montessori playroom if you have a larger budget and want a super easy way to rotate toys without needing to come up with a different toy storage solution.
Things to note about this shelf:
- 100% FSC-certified Baltic birch
- Comes with two two wooden trays and two storage bins for the storage on the backside of the shelf.
- Stores up to 6 of the Lovevery Play Kits.
The Luce Shelf from Sprout Kids is able to be assembled into different configurations. There are differnet size legs. This shelf is made from Baltic Birch Plywood and maple legs. This is a beautiful modern Montessori shelf.