montessori baby shelves

when i was pregnant with frankie rose, i was obsessed with getting her nursery just right and was tweaking things through my first contractions. we needed a place to feed, change diapers, sleep, read, get dressed, and play — a tall order for 50 square feet. for toys and stuffies, i designated a single wood crate and that has worked really well for us through the first seven months of her life. when frankie was born, the crate was practically empty. it contained a few rattles that i made and one or two gifts from friends. not surprisingly, the crate has filled up. it’s not overflowing (having a designated container for toys is a great way to control how much you buy/accept), but now that frankie is sitting really well on her own and clearly interested in the colourful crate, i’ve started to rethink how i’ve organized her toys.


for starters, the crate is no longer this neat. it is also on castors, which has meant i can wheel it out to the hallway or living room as needed, but frankie is on the brink of mobility and she pulls on the crate a lot, expecting it to be sturdy, i think, and then it, of course, doesn’t support her at all and she face plants. next, while she doesn’t have many toys, the crate can’t help but be a little jumbled. pierre and i can easily dig to the bottom to choose a specific toy for her, but, at seven months old, she can’t do that. just like i need to be able to see all my clothes if i’m going to wear them, frankie needs to be able to see her toys if she’s going to play with them.

i’m very interested in a few branches of alternative education, waldorf and montessori education in particular. frankie rose will be starting at a montessori daycare next september and much has been written about creating a montessori environment at home (the book montessori from the start is excellent and contains a whole chapter about setting up a montessori nursery). i didn’t go in for the whole floor bed thing for frankie because there wasn’t space in her room for the double-sized mattress that’s recommended, but i incorporated some montessori design into her room from the get-go. side note: i love that there is an actual field that combines education and design. not only are these two of my biggest passions, but being able to play the “for her development” card every time i ask pierre to help me change something in frankie’s room is clutch.


a major element of a montessori home or nursery is the low toy shelf, meant to display a rotating selection of toys that the child can access independently. the child can see what’s on offer and make their selection. the shelf is also supposed to be very sturdy because the child will be drawn to the play space and will likely use the shelf as he or she is learning how to pull themselves to standing. so one of my projects this week was to put up and curate a low toy shelf for frankie rose.

we have these two beautiful shelves hanging in our basement — rescued from a neighbour’s wood pile and sanded down and oiled by pierre several years ago. they were hidden under laundry supplies and a well-loved cd player downstairs and i’ve always wanted to use them in a more public place in the house. i only needed one for frankie’s room for now, since she wouldn’t be able to reach the toys on a second shelf for a number of years, so i had pierre repurpose the one in the laundry area.


the shelf is 48″ x 12″, fitting on this wall behind her door perfectly, but, in hanging the shelf behind the door, we wouldn’t actually be able to open the door to enter her room. (saying “but it’s for her development” wasn’t going to convince pierre to squeeze through a sliver of doorway.) so i came up with the idea to turn the shelf into a corner shelf, shortening the length on the wall behind the door and utilizing this short (24″) wall, which is the side wall of her bedroom cupboard.

of course, i wanted this done yesterday, and pierre was good enough to oblige me, heading out to home depot to buy a square, cutting the board on a 45° angle, screwing both pieces into the wall, and then macgyver-ing the boards together because glue takes way too long to dry in my mind.


now, the fun part! let’s look at what’s on frankie’s montessori toy shelf.

french letter/animal blocks these were a gift from my brother and his girlfriend and knocking them around is one of frankie’s favourite activities. the set contains a lot of blocks for a seven-month-old, so half the set is upstairs and the other half is downstairs. (i moved the wooden crate to her downstairs play area and it holds a few surplus toys for when we are in the basement.)

soft alphabet letters in a haze of nesting, i made these by hand last winter. about half the letters are downstairs, too.


stuffies the steiff bear was a gift from my parents (i had a similar one that i was very attached to — it was so well loved that it’s not even recognizable as a steiff, or as a bear for that matter.) the jellycat bunny was a gift from my oldest friend. the orange wool cat was made in montréal and purchased at the one of a kind show last december. we bought the peppa lovie from the gorgeous baby store aniel in copenhagen last summer.


soft rattle friends haze of nesting, as above. sophie the giraffe and some kitchen spoons, which she likes to shake around.

grimm’s tower also purchased at aniel in copenhagen. pierre and i are both working hard to help frankie master this toy right now. pierre’s teaching her to take the rings off and i’m teaching her to put the rings on. she gets so focused that she topples over, which has resulted in some tears.


miscellaneous wooden toys, rattles, beads the wooden porcupine grasper, string of beads (officially a stroller chain, but we use it for all kinds of purposes), and the molecule-type toy are all grimm’s. the wooden barbell was a merrily, merrily find and the rattle was a gift from my aunt and uncle, made by painted turtle, local to them in muskoka.

nesting boxes this was a gift from our german neighbour, made in “west germany,” so obviously a vintage toy. frankie’s not too interested in this yet, but maybe in a few weeks.


baby books on the opposite wall, frankie has two long picture ledges and another wooden crate full of books (plus a stack downstairs), but i am going to rotate a selection of books for her in this basket, too. right now the basket contains our go-to board books. in the future, maybe this basket can contain library books; the three week loan period is the perfect amount of time for objects to remain on her shelves.

bead maze i found this at the thrift store today, where i picked up two of the baskets, too. she has the larger ikea one downstairs, which is a bit sturdier, but it’s pretty much the size of her right now, so i think she’ll like this smaller one for a while.

i’m really happy with the new set-up and so excited to see frankie rose grow more independent over the next few weeks and months. i’m really interested to see which toys she’ll play with most and how she will engage with them. i also know how sad it will make me to retire some of her “baby toys” like her rattles and graspers eventually; i’m a little bit stuck between wanting her to stay exactly as she is and wanting her to crawl already!

also, this is it for toys, besides the few extra things i’ve mentioned (like keeping half her wooden blocks downstairs). does this look like enough for a seven month old? too much? should i take some things away so that there are things to rotate in or will switching up the books every few weeks be enough of a change?