Today, I would like to share with you our Montessori art environment at home. Because we have limited space at home, I don’t keep all our art equipment and materials on individual trays. Our Montessori art environment consists of all equipment and materials have their own place and are accessible by the children whenever they are inspired.
The children are free to to use their existing tables for their artwork. I have large Ikea trays kept aside for when they need to do messy artwork on a flat surface. On a busy creative day, they typically work alongside each other, gathering materials as needed or when an idea sparks.
All of our materials have a home and the children know where they are. The majority of them are placed at the youngest child’s height while some are kept slightly higher (due to lack of space) but still reachable using a stool. I do keep a small number of materials, such as liquid watercolours, much higher up so they would have to ask me for them (this is not exactly Montessori, but more for my sanity).
I find that Z often has “seasons” when he likes to paint all the time, and then after a while we see the easel abandoned as he finds interest in something else. We typically leave his artwork as is while waiting for it to dry, but I find he doesn’t automatically ask for a clean canvas if I forget to remove it once dried. Changing out a fresh piece of paper or putting a different type of paper on the easel is usually enough to invite him to freely create again.
We dry artwork on the refrigerator or on the easel. For our family, we rarely need any more space than this because once it’s dry, they go to a sketchbook, the wall of fame, or the recycling bin.
The children have access to a clear tape dispenser and masking tape, in addition to the more traditional glue sticks and liquid glue. Hence my coined term “stickies” because they are generally all sticky material. They are all housed in a low drawer along with the rest of my stationery.
Here is a Minecraft picture that my 9 year old created using the [masking] tape resist technique.
My mother recently finished this cute homemade apron for Z, but we only have one so we use it for both cooking and painting. It’s reversible, so you see a star on this side, the flip side has his initial. He looks so cute in it that I feel like making another! You can find beautiful child-sized aprons from here and here. This is another style that might interest you. Etsy has lots of beautiful aprons too, some are customizable. If you’re in Australia, How We Montessori has beautiful aprons.
In a small pitcher, the children have easy access to scissors, a hole puncher, a plastic and metal ruler. We keep 3 good-quality 2B pencils in a small ceramic cup next to a pencil sharpener and eraser. These are all placed at the youngest child’s level so everyone can access them.
In addition, I have a small bowl of crayons and markers that are also on another child-height shelf.
Chalk is available in his chalkboard writing tray.
Recently I have been extremely dissatisfied with low quality colouring pencils and have invested in a set of Lyra Rembrandt colouring pencils — it makes the process less frustrating when their time and effort (as well as mine) are not spent fixing a broken or wobbly lead, endlessly sharpening, or trying to transfer more vibrant colours onto the paper. I have since learned the importance of providing the best quality that we can afford (not just for my sanity) but also to show the child how to use and care for them. A moment of frustration with a lousy colouring pencil have caused me to recklessly toss the pencil aside (and this is not desirable modeling) whereas now that we have good quality (and more expensive) colouring pencils, I am treating them like glassware (consequently the children have also followed suit).
We also have some watercolour pencils, but have not really done a lot with it unfortunately.
I find that along with good quality writing equipment, the quality of paper is just as important. I learned this as soon as we opened our brand new Lyra Rembrandt colouring pencils and started colouring on a dollar store recycled paper colouring book — very frustrating. The process of colouring on just plain copier paper easily brings more pleasure compared to that! I have sulphite paper which is versatile in that it works well with almost anything, and we have watercolour paper as well.
In addition to the Crayola washable paints at the easel, the children also have access to liquid watercolour paints. Rather than make those an everyday outlet for creation, I will bring this down when I notice the need for something fresh. I know that’s not very Montessori of me, but I do it for my sanity since those liquid watercolour paints are rather expensive and tend to stain if left for too long.
Below, he is writing his name on his painting after we discussed artist signatures.
I also keep a small supply of open-ended crafting materials — homemade play dough, popsicle sticks, pipe cleaners, pom poms, googly eyes, ribbons and strings. In a separate tote in the basement, I keep a stash of recyclable trash (empty boxes, cans, yogurt cups, toilet paper rolls, etc.) that the kids can rummage and use whenever they want to create something 3-dimensional.
Art display & storage
For the longest time, the children’s art were displayed on our refrigerator door. I would discard them when newer art starts to crowd the older ones out, but I felt really sad about throwing certain pieces which turned out really beautiful or was a fond memory in the making. For these keepsakes, we paste them in the children’s sketchbooks (they each have one), but not before they have had a chance to be proudly displayed on our wall of fame. I try my best to remember making a note of their age, the month/year, and any milestones or if there was anything special about the art. The car painting below was the first time Z learned how to paint inside and along the lines.
Tip: If your kids, like mine, love to draw on loose letter-size papers, be sure to purchase a 9″ x 12″ sketchbook like this one so their artwork won’t stick out once pasted. There are 8.5″ x 11″ sketchbooks but those leave no room for error when the children do the pasting. I found our inexpensive sketchbooks in the dollar store, so be sure to check there first.
Our wall of fame have inexpensive and lightweight wooden frames from Ikea, and I used 3M Command strips to make them easily detachable from the wall for frequent changing of artwork. I’ve placed them so that they look pretty on the wall (for an adult), but also making sure that enough frames make it to the youngest child’s eye level — it is truly a gallery for the entire family. (They also hide our thermostat and switches really well!)
Most of our art are currently either paintings or crayon work. However on the top row, there is a beautiful first-time stitch art that was done by my 8 year old son, right after I introduced some sewing basics to both the boys.
I hope our humble Montessori art environment has inspired you in some way! Because of our small home, we rarely have any dedicated spaces — instead they are thoughtfully arranged so they
can be shared by the entire family, much like how wemade our kitchen child-friendly, or how we use tall bookshelves but leave the lower shelves for the children and highest ones for the adults.
For additional reading, I have found these articles to be extremely helpful.
- Art & Montessori, from birth to age 12 by Michael Olaf Montessori
- Art in the Montessori Environment by Montessori Services
If you have an art environment or space, I would love for you to share it with us Facebook!
More Montessori Art Activities and Ideas
As part of the 12 Months of Montessori series, nine other bloggers have shared their Montessori Art activities and ideas — be sure to check them out!
- Montessori Art Inspired by Nature (Free Printables) // Natural Beach Living
- 5 Great Ancient Civilizations: Art & Architecture (Activities & Free Printables) // The Natural Homeschool
- Art Postcards: Montessori Art Appreciation for a Variety of Ages // Living Montessori Now
- Our Montessori Art Environment // Planting Peas
- DIY Art Cards for Montessori Learning // The Kavanaugh Report
- Montessori Art Appreciation for Toddlers // Mama’s Happy Hive
- 10 High-Low Art Essentials for Little Artists // Study at Home Mama
- Explore Writing Materials with Kids // Child Led Life
- Preparing Children for Their First Fine Arts Experience //Every Star is Different
- Our Montessori Art Program // Grace and Green Pastures