Thanks to Nicole Cole from Polished Playhouse for sharing her methods for toy organizing with us in this guest post.
A hallmark of the Montessori environment is having a limited amount of materials displayed and accessible to young children. This is particularly true for babies. With this method comes the need to store and rotate through unused items. To do this effectively, it is important to use appropriate storage and have a well-designed system for rotations. I am sharing five tips to support organizing and rotating through toys for babies.
Ensure visibility (for parents!) of baby toys
Unlike toy storage/rotations for older children, it is helpful to have the items in a somewhat visible location. Out of sight, out of mind is not ideal.
Babies develop rapidly during their first year of life. They hit new milestones monthly, weekly, and sometimes daily. Having rotated toys in an area where they are visible, will ensure that you stay on top of rotating them at the appropriate time.
We store our items in a built-in between our kitchen and family room. They are organized neatly in wicker baskets. The proximity to the kitchen serves as a daily reminder of what items we have and encourages me to stay on top of the rotations. If you do not have access to a similar storage location, a bedroom closet or laundry room could work as well. Just choose a location where you will see them often.
Use accessible storage
In our play space, we use storage solutions that you can see through. Baskets made of wire or shallow rope baskets are some of our favorites. For our rotation area, we use deep wicker baskets that you can still see inside but have a distinctly different shape than the ones we use on our work/toy shelves.
These baskets are easy to grab and transport to our play area when it is time for rotating. As time progresses, and we add additional items, these baskets can be stacked and are large enough to hold smaller containers for grouping like items within one bin.
Organize toys by type or timeline
Within each bin, be sure to group like items. You can group the materials by type or developmental timeline. When grouping items by type, you may consider putting all of the grasping toys together or all of the balls in one bin. Another idea is to group items by timeline. Within each basket, try grouping toys that are appropriate at three months, six months, nine months, and so on.
We are currently working through Monti Kids Level 2. We have all of the items we will need in the coming weeks grouped in one basket. To take it a step further, you can also use individual bags within each basket to organize down to the week.
Create a tracking system
To serve as a visual reminder, I placed the Monti Kids start guide in a sheet protector and use it as a tracker. Having the sheet protector allows me to write dates and notes directly on the tracker. This is another way to easily see and manage rotations. In addition to the guide, I made an additional tracker for myself. The table I created includes the date, material, purpose, and space for any notes.
Follow the child
Finally, I think it goes without saying to follow the child. Milestones and interests vary from baby to baby. Use your child’s natural interests to support your decisions on when to rotate out toys. Use guides as just that; a guide. Make adjustments as you see fit.
Implementing the other tips shared here will set you up for success, no matter what materials you decide work best for your family.