Montessori – ish Baby Play Area and Treasure Basket

Since we reached the end of the Blankenship Euro Trip, and the beginning of the Jamison trip, I thought it might be a good time to take a break from the travel talk and switch to my other favorite subject at the moment…baby stuff!

I’ve tried to incorporate a few Montessori ideas into Aubrey’s playtime. I don’t know much more than a few things I’ve googled about the Montessori concepts, but some of the easier ones we’ve adopted that are applicable to her at this age include the treasure basket, and an organized and simple play area.

Our play area, although a bit scarce in my mind compared to some others we’ve visited (we have added quite a few more toys than when I started typing this blog, so scarce is not exactly how I would describe it these days, but anyway…), is still quite a bit more cluttered that Montessori calls for. I find that I have to compromise with myself when it comes to determining just how strict I want to be. I’m all about Aubrey using her mind and learning to entertain herself, and I do believe your imagination is stimulated much more when you have to actually use it instead of having a machine do it for you. I’ll never forget my Granny bringing home bags of old prom dresses she found at a yard sale, and how my cousin and I wore those “princess dresses” every day for months while we played pretend the entire day. I can only hope I can give Aubrey the same opportunity to lose herself in all the fantastical worlds her beautiful little mind can come up with. However, I also know the joy and excitement that is being a little kid and seeing a room full of toys to play with to your heart’s content. So we’re trying to find that balance.

We’ve ended up with a few of the recommended wooden play toys and blocks, a few light up musical toys, a couple of stuffed animals she is just starting to pay attention to, lots of rattling and clanging toys (I’ve never seen a child that like to bang things together so much!), and a small collection of books. I had two crocheted owl baskets made to keep the mess contained, and currently everything is stored in some old apple crates. *Side note – I was worried once she started pulling up on things I would have to find other storage arrangements due to some rusty metal on one of the crates, but so far it hasn’t been an issue, and she pulls up on it constantly. I scored a body length mirror off the base yard sale page, which I laid on it’s side so A can watch herself play. Because our house is completely floored in hard white tile, and because I can only tolerate so many rainbow colored things in the house at a time, I bought some wood grain foam tiles to provide a soft floored play area. Then I finished it with a wooden fence. I know everyone has differing opinions about limiting your child’s exploration in the house, but for us, for now, I like the idea of having a place I can put A and know she is safe if I need to step away for a minute. She has full reign of the first floor while we are with her, and often a satellite set of toys in the kitchen for entertainment while I cook. However, she often crawls her way back to her play area anyway.

I had these alphabet blocks made on Etsy for her Christmas presents, along with a wooden owl rattle. You can find them here.

The treasure basket was great when Aubrey was around 6 months and could start sitting on her own and playing. It is meant to be a collection of random items for your baby to explore at her leisure. The items can be anything you’ve got laying around the house, just make sure they aren’t too small or sharp so they are safe for your baby to play with and chew on. It’s a good idea to aim for a variety of textures, shapes, and materials. Montessori recommends natural materials, but I basically just tried to go for some plastic, metal, wood, cloth types of things.

These are butterflies made from Aubrey’s footprints by Will’s Mom. I put them in some frames and hope to rotate her artwork through them later on. 

A is at the age now where I’m finding she gets bored pretty quickly with her toys, so I’m trying to start rotating them through her play area weekly; this included the treasure basket items when that was one of her main sources of entertainment. I either tried to switch in a few new items, or totally replace the whole basket.

And because I am always looking for new ideas for things to put in the basket I thought I would share some of what we have used.

Treasure Basket Items

  • Ribbon – I tied some knots in ours to add more interest
  • Wooden Spoon (Aubrey’s most favorite toy still to this day!)
  • Metal Jar Lid
  • Mini Metal Whisk
  • Plastic Measuring Cup
  • Glass Jar with Beans/Rice/Beads
  • Nail Brush
  • Small Hair Brush
  • Spoon (I read letting them play with their food spoons help them start learning how to hold them to eventually feed themselves)
  • Wooden/Bead Bracelet
  • Metal/Plastic Bangles 
  • Thin Pieces of Cloth
  • Yarn Pom Poms
  • Clothespins 
  • Small Cup
  • Koozie (#1 parents right there haha!)
  • Balls – golf balls, small tennis balls, dryer balls
We’ve had the play area set up since Aubrey was about five months old (just prior to rolling/crawling/being mobile – to help her learn her boundaries before that came into play), and Will and I agree it’s one of the best investments we’ve made. It’s not a terrible eye sore, even though it occupies prime real estate in our house. It’s safe, inviting, and so far seems to be very enjoyable for Aubrey (and me, as I end up sitting in there quite often while she plays because she is in a stage where I must be within a few feet at all times).

A few trinkets we picked up on our trip, Hettie the Highland Cow and Nessie. We also got books about these guys, so it’s super fun to read them while she is playing with the toys.
The foam mats are awesome. So awesome I would consider buying more to cover her room floor once that becomes her main play area, or use it for a personal gym/yoga floor. The fence has proven to be very sturdy. We were worried about its stability once she started pulling up since we don’t have it mounted to the wall, but surprisingly it hardly budges when she pulls up. Of course this may change as she gets bigger, but so far so good! We can also use it when the kid(s?) outgrow it to separate the dogs when we have company over. 
And finally, one of the things I try very hard to do every day (although of course there are plenty of days this just doesn’t happen), is to put everything away before bed. If I can I try to have Aubrey in there with me and sing a clean up song. I know I may be pulling at straws here, but I’m hoping to start her early in learning to pick up at the end of the day. I’ve also noticed that a lot of the joy she has in using the play area is pulling everything out and making a big mess…which she obviously can’t do if everything is already a mess. 
So, that’s what we’ve got going on! We would love to hear about your play areas! What ideas have you implemented that have worked? And please send all activity ideas you have our way, little miss is constantly on the go these days and toys get boring fast 🙂
You can find our fence here, and the foam mats here

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