If you’re looking to furnish your child’s playroom in accordance with its principles, you’re probably already familiar with Montessori.
As an educational system that prioritizes learning through play, it also involves creating a kid friendly environment.
Trying to stay as simplistic as possible, Montessori shelves are those that work well for keeping all of their toys tidied away nicely and organized in sections that are easy for children to navigate. The aim here is to minimize potential distractions!
Don’t worry if you’re not sure what to look for - we’ve compiled a list featuring five of our favorite shelves available to purchase right now. Each is appropriately child sized and able to achieve the less is more approach required for practicing Montessori.
Want to learn more about the reasoning behind using such approaches at your home - or in a classroom, for any teachers reading - how exactly to do so, and the features you should be considering? Simply consult our handy Buyer’s Guide.
Finally, for those not quite convinced or with questions unanswered, you might find the information you’re after in the set of FAQs provided at the end.
We’ve responded to the most common queries from other customers, so yours may be there too.
Seeking Shelves ASAP? Here’s Our Top Pick:
You may recognize these from your child’s classroom or local library - putting books right within their reach, ECR4Kids offer this single sided bookcase.
It works great in any bedroom or playroom at only fifteen inches tall - that’s why it’s our number one!
As it’s forward-facing, kids will be able to see each book’s cover, encouraging them to select one that piques their interest, rather than having to read the tiny font on the spines. This is a super way to encourage early reading or reluctant readers.
Each unit has been constructed from environmentally friendly, sustainably harvested birch plywood. Tough, scratch resistant and easy to maintain, the natural lacquer finish is neutral and makes a lovely addition to any room.
With rounded corners for added peace of mind, there’s no chance of any accidents involving sharp edges. The wood can withstand some serious rough and tumble, so it should be a long lasting purchase you can pass on through the family.
Having been made with non-toxic, BPA and lead free materials, these shelves are Greenguard Certified for healthier indoor air, as well as Prop 65 and CPSIA compliant. They’re totally child friendly, so you’ve got nothing to worry about.
- Encourages reading by presenting books in a more visually appealing way
- Sturdy construction from dependable hardwood
- Sourced from eco-friendly harvesting
- Completely safe and non-toxic materials used
- Pricier than your average shelving unit
Incredibly easy to assemble and with six distinctive cubes for easy organization, the Wire Storage Organizer from C&A Home is a clear contender for the best Montessori shelves. It’s also considerably cheaper than some of our other options!
Available in black or white, the simplistic and contemporary aesthetic matches any room decor, constructed from high quality wire panels that have been coated in order to present wear and tear or rusting.
Utilizing a seamless concave design, a tight connection between each cube is easily achieved, for a stable and compact design that won’t easily topple.
Each cube has a maximum weight capacity of 22lb, which is more than enough for this simplistic style.
It’s also possible to purchase more connectors and cubes, should you ever wish to expand the units or move away from Montessori child rearing. This is a thoughtful addition that gives these shelves an even longer life span!
Though some assembly is required, it’s easily put together in less than half an hour. This also means that if you ever decide to change up your living space, breaking it down and moving things around requires minimal effort.
- Naturally separates and organizes into cubes
- Sturdy and more than capable of withstanding rougher kids
- Can be extended in the future
- All tools for assembly provided in box
- Not as strong or natural looking as the wooden shelves we’ve listed
Another option from the folks at ECR4Kids, this spacious shelving unit is targeted at classroom use but would be more than fitting for a child’s bedroom or play space.
It probably costs more than your average furniture purchases, though!
At only 24 inches tall, it’s the perfect height for preschool children, beautifully constructed from sustainably sourced birch plywood.
Solid, sturdy and resistant to scratching, it’s finished with an easily cleaned and attractive wood lacquer.
Featuring four casters, allowing you to easily relocate your shelving whenever you’d like, moving the unit doesn’t require the Herculean effort you might imagine. It would make an excellent partition in any room, whether permanent or temporary.
Offering open-front, 12 inch deep storage compartments, there’s plenty of space for neatly organizing your child’s toys.
You could even fit in some tubs or pull out trays if you’d like to turn the bottom cubbies into drawers, though this is optional of course.
Designed with children in mind, the corners have been rounded for their safety; every shelf is also BPA free, crafted from entirely non toxic materials, and Greenguard Gold certified for complete peace of mind.
- Four built in heavy duty casters (wheels) for easy mobility
- Natural, attractive wood lacquer finish
- Sustainably sourced, environmentally friendly materials
- Rounded corners as an additional safety measure
- Some assembly required - Phillips screwdriver not included
Looking to offer your child a quiet space to play, and also encourage reading?
Consider this dual purpose shelving and cozy seat hybrid from KidKraft, giving them their own little nook to settle down in with a good book.
Made from beautiful composite wood and available in seven different colors, there’s sure to be one that matches your space.
Soft and comfortable, the cushioned seat is adhered using velcro for a secure sitting area that won’t slide around.
Not just strictly for books, there are six different sections for storage, offering adequate space for a well organized shelf, free of clutter.
It’s only fifteen inches tall, too, so children won’t struggle with accessing their stuff or clambering onto the seat.
Far from being merely a place for storage, it’s also an opportunity for your child to sit and read independently, which is one of the most important parts of Montessori practice. It’s like their own little library, right from the comfort of home.
Though it requires complete assembly, taking around an hour, the instructions provided are detailed and easy to follow.
You’ll also find everything you need to put the shelf together right out of the box, including extra bonus pieces just in case.
- Bookshelf, storage and seating, all in one
- Available in multiple colors to suit various settings
- Cushions adhered using strips to prevent sliding
- Detailed instructions with diagrams provided
- Requires total assembly, approximately one hour if not longer!
Last but not least is one final offering from ECR4Kids. It’s beautifully made from, you guessed it, sustainably sourced birch hardwood, and more than ready to withstand regular use for years to come.
Perfectly pint sized at 30 inches in height, there are two open backed shelves with plenty of room for neatly storing and organizing your Montessori inspired toy collection. You could add baskets on the bottom for hidden storage, too.
Having been designed to save as much space as possible, this streamlined version of their normal shelving is also more affordable than other offerings.
However, there’s still more than enough room, and it certainly doesn’t lack that ECR4Kids standard.
Thanks to its classic but stylish design, this shelf would look great in any space, no matter the color scheme.
The only difference between the Streamline and other shelves available from ECR4Kids are the slightly smaller proportions.
Crafted using only non-toxic, lead and phthalate free materials, as well as being Greenguard GOLD certified, you can be sure this shelf is entirely child friendly.
Corners are also rounded to prevent bumps and bruises!
- Less expensive than other ECR4Kids shelving with the same great quality
- Enough space to neatly store toys and books without overcrowding
- Natural wood finish, made from eco-friendly birchwood
- Only safe, non-toxic materials used in production
- Smaller than the other units on our list
Best Montessori Shelves Buying Guide
What Is A Montessori Room?
Organized in such a way that a child can independently explore and interact with all of the objects, Montessori style spaces solely use furniture that is appropriate for the children using it, with nothing being positioned out of their reach.
Similarly, there should be a strategic order to each shelf and the individual sections that make it up, allowing the child(ren) to easily see all of their belongings and understand the logic by which the items are organized.
Trying to only utilize furniture that has been crafted from natural materials is advised, but not completely necessary. Don’t beat yourself up too much if you can’t afford a brand new set of wooden shelves, just try to aim for the simplest design available.
Clutter is forbidden in practicing Montessori, which when young children are involved is easier said than done!
Providing labels and explaining to your child which toys and other items belong where and encouraging them to follow this system is imperative.
Access to nature is important, whether that’s plant life placed around the room, or open windows that allow a view of the outdoor surroundings. Bright, natural light and plenty of room to move around is also recommended, if possible.
Vivid, brightly colored and interesting artwork, amongst other visual stimuli, should be scattered around the room. Don’t go overboard - simplicity is still key, but there’s nothing sadder than sparse, bare walls, either!
Features To Consider:
If your child is not yet walking, they should be able to see the top shelf from a crawling position.
Otherwise, the shelves should be at a height the child can easily access from a standing position, without needing to stretch or strain to reach.
When there’s a need for more shelving space, or you’re struggling to find some height appropriate shelving for older children, invest in a small step or ladder.
Do bear in mind that the child should be able to use this safely and unsupervised.
To allow your child complete independence when navigating the shelf, it is important that they are stable and sturdy enough to hold their full body weight.
This is especially imperative when children are learning to pull themselves up!
Preferably, the shelves should be made from wood or another natural material, as Montessori prefers to avoid synthetic materials, particularly plastics.
It is less important to meet these criteria when choosing shelving than it is toys, however.
Size and Space
A huge pile of toys, even stuffed into a chest, is not the way forward. You need shelves that are big enough to spread out belongings with a clear division between each toy.
Overwhelming choice is antithetical to the principles of Montessori.
In particular, ‘block’ or ‘cube’ shelves that offer several different distinctive sections are a really great idea.
These naturally separate toys into categories, and you can even get slide out trays to hold smaller items that won’t fit neatly on a shelf.
This should go without saying, but always remember to make sure the materials used are child-safe.
Whilst you might not think about biting down on a bookshelf, your one year old might at least consider doing it!
Double checking that the shelves are crafted using only resources that are non-toxic, with manufacturers avoiding BPA and phthalates, is imperative. You’d be surprised how many brands will still try and get away with it.
Frequently Asked Questions
What age is best to start Montessori?
As with teaching your child any skill, the earlier you begin putting things into practice, the better.
That said, a newborn child isn’t going to be able to gain very much independence, so it’s probably best to wait until they’re at least crawling!
Once your little one is able to move around and support themselves without your help, you’ll be able to adjust your living space to allow for and encourage more exploration. However, it’s never too early to buy Montessori style toys to try.
By gently ‘drip-feeding’ their brain with toys that naturally encourage the development of fine motor skills, as opposed to loud and flashy distractions, even the youngest of children can be engaging with Montessori.
You yourself can curate their bedroom in a way that is reflective of the Montessori practice as early as you’d like to. Just don’t expect them to start tidying up after themselves and staying orderly without being told by you first for a few years!
What is Montessori shelf work?
Organizing shelves in accordance with Montessori has several purposes. Primarily, you’re trying to create an ordered space that won’t overstimulate the child, as this naturally reiterates their internal sense of order and control.
As such, with designated spots for every toy, your child will always be able to find what they are looking for. You’ll need to teach younger children about how to keep things tidy, which probably means doing it yourself for a while until they pick it up.
Sticking to your less is more approach will also clearly demonstrate which toys your child is interested in and those that have become boring. Therefore, you’ll be able to switch them out for new ones when they’re no longer providing stimulation.
You may need to have a clearout if your child already has an abundance of toys. By reducing the number of items they have to choose from, and making sure you choose only educational, real-life stimuli, you can encourage skill development.
Are Melissa and Doug toys Montessori?
Not every single toy that Melissa and Doug manufacture will be rigorously adhering to the values of Montessori, but they may well take inspiration from the practice. For starters, each of their toys is beautifully and carefully constructed from wood.
Likewise, many also appear to have a clear purpose or outcome that involves real world understanding, for instance learning to tell the time or how to work out and correctly name numbers, shapes and colors.
By avoiding synthetics and plastic and sticking to more traditional, interactive toys with purpose, Melissa and Doug have curated an excellent range that kids will genuinely enjoy using. We would definitely encourage you to try them out!
You can clearly make the argument that a lot of the toys they make fit in nicely with practicing Montessori, and many have been recommended on sites run by those who do. As long as they follow those basic principles, you’re good to go!