A friend came over to my place and loved my Montessori-inspired display shelf for learning.
Upon sharing with her some tips on displaying learning materials, I thought maybe it may be useful to share it here at Playhood!
All the learning materials are displayed in open shelves where your child can see or reach them. Accessibility is key if you want your child to exercise choice in picking up the learning materials on her own. Children are naturally more inclined to be engaged in learning when their choice is involved.
Avoid tossing learning materials in toy boxes, buckets or drawers. They actually create disorganisation, parts get misplaced and damaged, and your child loses respect for the contents. Learning time is also wasted assembling the missing parts for each learning activity. For organisation, each learning activity is stored in containers that children can easily carry by themselves (e.g. baskets, trays or open boxes). Sometimes you can colour code the contents to show they belong to the same set. In this way, each set is regarded as special and has its assigned place on the shelf.
3. Handling the materials
Teach your child how to handle the learning sets with care and respect. They learn how to carry the containers to a workplace (on a mat or table), and when they finished, to return the material to the shelf for future use.
4. Real, authentic materials
My inclination is to use authentic materials such as drinking cups, glaases, plates and bowls that are made of glass, china and wood. Although it means they are breakable, it encourages the children to handle them with extra caution. Once, Rae broke the glass jug for a transferring activity, and it broke into many pieces. She saw how dangerous and fragile glass is, and from then on, she is extra careful whenever she handles any material made of glass. She will even chant this everytime she handles glass materials ” Be careful ah, it’s glass.” I think for a two-year old to internalise that, I couldn’t be happier.
5. Limit number of items
Avoid cluttering the shelf with too many activities. Leave a little space between each learning set and keep its own special spot on the shelf. Too many activities can be too distracting and there will be more packing up as well!
6. Change the activities according to interest and learning needs of the child.
Choose 4-6 activities according to the needs and interest of your child. Observe how many times your child likes to repeat a learning material, which will likely be of interest to her and you can leave it on the shelf for her to revisit it again. (Note how toddlers and preschoolers learn through repetition). You can also have a mix of familiar learning sets and new ones which stretch your child’s abilities. Avoid displaying the same items on the shelf for too long. Your child will lose interest after a while. You can change the set one at a time, to entice and hook your child’s interest in learning something new.
Hope this helps! Investing and designing this learning space will definitely pay off! 🙂