The Montessori Toddler’s Closet

When I first walked you through Annabelle’s nursery, she was three months old and there was nothing Montessori about her closet. We’re renters, and had plans to move out of our current house a year later, before Annabelle would really develop any interest in getting her own clothes out or dressing herself. So, I decided not to make any major modifications to the closet itself. Now she has nearly reached the ripe old age of seventeen months and we’re still here which is a topic for another post, but means that it’s time to make some changes. This week, I have finally Montessori-ized her closet and I thought I’d share with you how it was done.

The closet itself has two sides with sliding doors, and one side is dedicated to storage. The other side has a rod for hanging clothes, but it is at adult height, of course. In order to make it toddler-accessible, I purchased a tension rod – the type designed to serve as a curtain rod in your shower – and placed it at Annabelle height, toward the front of the closet for easy access. It is adjustable and doesn’t require any hardware, so I haven’t made any lasting changes to the house that I’ll need to undo before we leave, and it only cost about ten dollars. Easy!

Because Annabelle’s closet is so narrow, the stall sized shower rod worked perfectly, but there are longer rods, made for full size showers, that would work for a larger closet. If you have the type of closet that extends for the entire length of a wall, however, you may have to get creative. One idea would be to place a heavy piece of furniture, say a bookshelf or cabinet, inside the closet and set up a tension rod between one closet wall and the edge of the furniture.

Annabelle was in the room when I set everything up, so she saw me hanging the clothes and immediately came over to try her hand. She hung one thing and signed “more” until I handed her something else. This continued until all of the clothes were put away. She loved it! I made sure to put only clothes that are suitable for everyday wear so that when we’re getting ready to go someplace and Annabelle chooses an outfit, I’ll never be tempted to veto her choice, because it will always be appropriate.

I placed baskets in the bottom of the closet for items that don’t go on hangers. On the far left are waterproof trainers for when we’re going out, then there is underwear for when we’re home (side note: I have discovered that bloomers are perfect infant/toddler underwear. Why didn’t I think of this sooner!?), then there are pants, and finally socks. In our house, shoes are near the front door, so they didn’t require any consideration here.

The only thing I’m trying to figure out now is how to utilize the storage space that is above toddler height. Good spots for storage and organization are hard to come by in this house, so I hate to see any closet space going to waste! If you have any ideas, let me know!

I have been busy transitioning just about every area of the house to accommodate Annabelle’s ever developing independence, so I should have a lot to share with you in the near future. I was caught a bit off guard, since I didn’t expect to be here in this stage of toddler-hood, but I have really enjoyed the challenge of finding ways to adjust and organize things to suit Annabelle’s changing needs.

Do you have any ideas or suggestions for creating a closet or other dressing space for a toddler or young child? How have you made changes to your living space to accommodate your children at various stages? I would love to hear from you!

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I’m linking up with Montessori Monday over at One Hook Wonder and Living Montessori Now!

24 thoughts on “The Montessori Toddler’s Closet

  1. Laura Burns

    I love this idea.  My son has very little interest in dressing himself right now… I have him choose a shirt every morning, but he just doesn't care (such a man :D) But maybe if I put options down lower instead of in his drawers (which he can open) he'd like it?  I'd love to see a post about the other transitions you've done in your home.  So far, I really only have a few stools sitting around so he can climb up and get what he needs. 

    Reply
  2. Helena

    As a suggestion for how to use the new space above her clothing :
    You can put in a shelf above her clothes that will be easyish to undo when you move, by simply hammering in four nails and laying a board on top.
    Another solution would be to get some hanging fabric cubbies like the ones some people put shoes in.

    Reply
  3. Anupama Jagadeesh

    I am stopping over from montessori monday.

    Love the tension rod idea!  For the space above her clothing, you can may be get those hanging cloth shelves and use that for storage.

    Reply
  4. Elizabeth Stone

    What a perfect inexpensive solution! While I do not have children, I am a renter and completely understand the struggle to make a place work for you without creating negative consequences when it's time to move out.

    Reply
  5. MJ

    Wonderful! I am bad about doing this even for myself. I put my cooking spices in the highest cupboard and have to use a step stool every time. You'de think I would have changed it by now, but it goes to show you how often I actually cook though. As far as the kids go, I finally put the snacks down lower in the pantry for them to reach. I am urging them to start helping themselves for breakfast and lunch too, not everyday, just when they want to ;).

    Reply
  6. Melissa Kemendo

    Thanks, Laura! I will definitely be sharing about other changes we have made around the house. It sounds like you're off to a good start as well – stools are definitely helpful, too!

    Reply
  7. Melissa Kemendo

    Thanks for the idea :) I didn't want to have to purchase shelving that we'll only use for a short time, but I hadn't considered how easy it may be to create makeshift shelving myself. 

    Reply
  8. Melissa Kemendo

    It's funny, I have my spices up where I can't reach of them, too. I had never really thought about the disconnect there!

    Having snacks down low is another change we made in the recent toddler-ization of our house. Annabelle seems to love it :) I remember really enjoying the opportunity to prepare meals at your kids' age, so I imagine they're really enjoying the freedom to choose and prepare food, too! 

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  9. Melissa Kemendo

    Thank you! I am a terrible renter in that I hate to modify anything because I know I'll just have to change it back. There is not a single picture on my walls, and this has been true in every home I have rented … so for nearly a decade now. A bit pathetic when I really think about it. Anyway, if you have any easy ideas for making a rental house a home, I would be most thankful for them! 

    Reply
  10. Deb Chitwood

    What a wonderful Montessori-friendly closet! I love that it's so neatly organized and attractive – and encourages your daughter's independence! Well done! Thanks so much for linking up with Montessori Monday. I just featured your post at the Living Montessori Now Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/LivingMontessoriNow.

    Reply
  11. Kimia Kline

    you are such an amazing mom! i'm so far from having kids of my own but still am so enthralled reading all your posts (just finished your birth story). thank you so much for being so open about everything you guys are choosing to do. when the day comes that we do have kids, i feel like your blog is going to be such a huge resource for me :)

    Reply
  12. Melissa Kemendo

    Kimia, thank you so much for your kind words. I can't tell you how much I appreciate them – you made my day!

    Reply
  13. Whitney Brock

    I found you on pinterest and I love this idea! We are welcoming our first born in October and are planning on starting Montessori school in January. I love seeing ideas of how this method is translated into home-life and what we can expect in a few years!

    Can't wait to keep reading!

    Whitney @ http://www.whitneybrock.blogspot.com

    Reply
  14. Yalanda Oglesby

    I'm inspired by your closet arrangement. We're in an apt and are challenged for space. Our 6-year-old son loves to get himself dressed. He goes in the drawer, or uses a stepping stool in the closet. Our 3-year-old daughter enjoys getting herself dressed, however, we have an opportunity to better organize her clothes so they are easily accessible. Our 20-month-old is showing interest in dressing herself. I like that you mitigate having to veto your child's choices by only setting out appropriate clothing. I will incorporate this essential detail. Thank you very much for sharing!

    Reply
  15. Melissa Kemendo

    Thanks so much for your comment, Yalanda! I would love to see photos of your arrangement with the various ages and stages of your children, should you have any you're willing to share. It's somewhat easy for me, having just one child – I'm often inspired by the way families manage to accommodate their varied needs.

    Reply
  16. Kimberly

    This is fabulous! We are in the slooooooooow process of changing our "office" aka storage space, into a little room for our two-year old son. The house came with a standing closet that I will most definitely utilize for closet space. Love what you've done here. Perhaps the upper level could be for out-of-season clothes or extra bedding?

    Reply
  17. Nadya

    This was posted a long time ago, but we have 2 rods in our toddler’s cupboard. I have her clothes that she is wearing now on the bottom one, and then on the top one, the clothes that she will wear next year. We buy Erin’s clothes in increments, so that we don’t have to spend a lot of money all at once when the next season and year comes. As I buy her clothes for next year, it gets washed, dried, ironed if applicable, and then hung on top. We also hung her winter garments on the top this past season, simply because she she wasn’t using them, and the jackets did not all fit into the lower part. Once winter came round, I switched the jackets to the lower part and some of her shorts to the upper one.

    She loves dressing herself, or at least choosing her own clothes. Consequently, my child is probably the most mismatched child in history. Barring her mother, of course :)

    Reply
    1. melissa Post author

      That’s awesome! We have a rod higher up as well – just the standard one installed in the closet when the house was built. I ended up hanging some shelves from it and I have clothes that are too big, or only for very special occasions up there as well as things like extra sheets. It has worked well. Your system sounds perfect!

      Annabelle tends to be pretty seriously mismatched as well, but she’s almost always happy with what she’s wearing, so it’s just fine with me :)

      Thank you for sharing!

      Reply

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