Five years ago, we moved into a new home and were seeking a new preschool for my young daughter. I scoped out the preschools nearby and fell in love with a Montessori-based preschool right in our neighborhood. (Score!) Being a former educator myself, I recognized there were many appealing things about a Montessori education, particularly at this young age. Above all, I valued the way a Montessori education emphasized a high level of personal responsibility while also promoting creativity and authentic learning experiences.
It wasn’t until we began to struggle with our playroom’s constant clutter that I began considering applying some of the Montessori techniques in our own home. If my daughter’s teacher could implore 25 young children to responsibly put back all their belongings, I certainly could convince my two daughters to do the same in our own home.
In addition to categorizing all their toys and labeling each category with words and photos, I decided to purchase Montessori Work Mats to define their current play space and make clean-up a breeze.
What’s a Montessori Work Mat? According to the North American Montessori Center, “You could travel to a Montessori school anywhere in the world and you will see Montessori students working at floor mats… The purpose of the floor matsis to define the student’s workspace and to reinforce Montessori's principle of ‘freedom within limits’…The Montessori preschool students are shown how to walk around the mats, how to place their work on the mats and how to respect one another’s personal workspace.”
I encouraged the children to help pick-out rectangular bathtub mats from a local store to build excitement. Then, I explained the purpose of the mats and my two simple expectations for them.
1. Anytime you take out a toy, game, or puzzle, you are to choose a workspace- either your mat or the child-sized table (also in their play room).
2. When you are finished using that toy, game, or puzzle, you are to put it and the mat away before taking anything else out.
That’s right- they are expected to put away what they’re playing with EVERY time they take out a new toy. And it WORKS!
Exceptions are toys that don’t fit on the mat (such as gross motor and dress-up clothes), or when a friend is over to play. (Then, I just allow the playroom to become a disaster and offer a lot of assistance during clean-up time. It gives me a chance to reassess what items are in our playroom and purge.)
This tool has completely transformed our playroom, and it can yours too!
Do you need help getting your playroom in order? Search for a professional organizer at NAPO.net.
- Shayla Brubaker, M.Ed. NAPO Member