Thursday, March 08, 2007

Anna's Toy Corner

I love Anna's toy corner for her two girls. Their house is too small for a playroom, so Anna stores her toys on a shelf and in baskets in the corner of their bedroom. I believe Ben made the shelf, but I'm not sure. A soft rug delineates the play area and separates it visually from the "adult" area of the bedroom. Notice how the kids are instinctively playing with their blocks within the confines of the rug - the rug is just the right size to give them a "boundary."

Maria Montessori recommended shelves for toys instead of toy bins, so that a child can pick out what he wants (without having to dig out and hurl away everything he doesn't want, which most kids tend to do). As a mom, I find shelves help reinforce (not that I always get around to enforcing, let alone reinforcing, btw) the idea that you play with one toy, you put it away, and then you choose another toy. When you take a toy off of a (neatly arranged) shelf, it leaves an empty place that the child psychologically feels a tug to fill, which they can fill by replacing the toy when they're done. (And I can say that keeping the shelves neat really does help keep the floor clean.)

What do you do when you have more toys than will fit on a shelf...? Easy: toy rotation. You put the rest of the toys in a storage bin in the attic, and periodically rotate them out as you need to. (This is the mechanism Anna and I both use for getting rid of extras, btw -- they just 'disappear' sometime during the cycle.)

Another Montessori idea Anna incorporated into her area was posting pretty art postcards at kid-eye-level around the room. I never remember to do this myself, but I love it when I see someone else doing it (she's married to an artist, so I think the idea comes more naturally to her!). A variety of baskets in the play corner helps the kids (and mom) sort them according to type, and if a toddler wants to play with wooden food in the living room, all she has to do is grab the basket and take it with her. (And mom can use the same basket to return the toys back to their place at night.) Thanks again, Anna, for letting us peer into your home!

(BTW, blog readers, if you want to share any photos of your own arrangements to give us all more ideas, please email them to me at


Raindear said...

I am curious regarding your opinion of the Montessori method. [Be forewarned, my understanding of it derives almost entirely from conversations I've had with folks who've studied it. Please forgive any gross ignorance.] I like the emphasis on hand's on education; that seems very common sense to me. However, I am wary of the idea that children need to be always choosing for themselves. This seems contrary to the Catholic understanding of human nature - since the Fall our desires tend in the wrong directions. Is the idea that you still guide their desires, but with an emphasis on more subtle guidance through environment? How does such an approach habituate the child in obedience? It would seem to foster self-will, instead of self-sacrifice. You probably disagree (obviously) with the Montessori ban on fairy tales. What is the reasoning behind giving miniature adult equipment for toys? It seems based upon a similar distrust of the imagination.
Also, are you familiar with the Waldorf method and what do you think of that?

Sorry for the barrage of questions! This has interested me for a long time.

Pax Christi

Mrs. Pickles said...

Another idea for kid-eye-level art is to cut up old calendar pictures. I just did this the other day. I had held onto a couple calendars filled with beautiful art by Da Vinci and by Bougereau. I cut the best pictures out and stuck them to the wall over the play kitchen with sticky-tack. I plan to put a couple more in my girls' bedroom. I want to expose them to beautiful and classic works of art, and this seemed an inexpensive way to do it, as long as I'm buying beautiful calendars!

MOm said...

Re: postcards at kids-eye-level


Gee, I thought I was the only Mom that did that! Years ago when the kidlets were small, I taped animal flash cards at kids-eye-level all around the kitchen. The cupboards were ugly but resilient white laminate so the tape didn't hurt them. The children were always in the kitchen with me anyway so I figured they may as well have something interesting and educational to look at...guests always looked oddly at the line of "aminals" until I explained my reasoning.

I also put the cultery in the second drawer down so that the current three and four year old could set the table "all by themselves."

Is this why they're all a bit ... um ... independent now?

Catherine Fournier.

regina doman said...

Thanks for the ideas - yes, please, send pics!

Lorraine -- I'd like to respond to your questions, but I'll need another post to do so. Thanks for asking!

bonnie: said...

I finally remembered my blogger/google password, so I can comment now!

I love your blog! I love to get a glimpse into your home and see how you are putting into practice all of these ideas I've read about.

Now, I'd *love* to hear how you handle kids books. We have so many! I have such a hard time getting rid of *any* of them (I *am*a book lover). Do you recycle like with the toys? Do you limit the number? Do you stick to the library? (very hard for us because my son [the only one who is reading on his own at this point] rereads them over and over and over.)
I check your blog every day for the next great idea, so thank you for spending your time in this way.

Also, your book, Angel in the Waters, is on it's way in the mail to my house! I am so excited to read it to my children. They will *love* it (as do I), so thanks again.

And one last thing (I've been storing all these questions in my mind until I could find my password!), do you use Nova Naturals' Beeswax stuff on your wood toys? We moved to the desert (Tucson) after deciding we'd rather stick to wooden toys, and it gets so dry here they crack!

Ok, sorry for such a long "comment" (rather another barrage of questions).
Thanks, Regina.
(p.s. I found you through 'like merchant ships')

regina doman said...

Thanks Bonnie!

Sorry it took me so long to answer your questions. I'll try to comment about kids' books in a future post. Great questions!

And I'm happy you are sharing Angel in the Waters with your kids!

RE: beeswax -- no, I've never used it, but I probably should. Here in VA (where we are on our fifth day of rain) dryness is rarely a problem :). But some of our older Nova Natural toys, like the elephant I bought Joshua for his 2nd Christmas, could really use a tune up. Thanks for the good idea -- I'll have to try it!