Home & Decor

Disguising a Toy Shelf with Montessori Baskets and Trays

Thursday July 16, 2015

Ok, maybe it still looks like a toy shelf, but it’s a less ugly toy shelf, and really, that is goal enough if you happen to share a home with a toddler.

Montessori trays and baskets are an ideal way not only to present legit Montessori activities, but also normal toys that your kid loves. Montessori classrooms are outfitted with these trays and baskets, and the idea is that everything a kid needs to paint/draw/build is right there in the basket. So, she can take it down from a shelf and have everything she needs without coming to you for help.

At home, the baskets and trays are an easy way to corral, separate, and identify which pieces go with which toys.

And, obviously, given that this is all in a corner of our living room, it helps that the trays and baskets are attractive in and of themselves.

(This is a fraction of her toys; we’re not exactly minimalists. We cycle her toys in/out on a weekly basis, so this is just what’s up today.)

Let’s break it all down.



Wooden building blocks (I couldn’t find these exact blocks, but the link is similar), Michael Olaf Large Basket

I love these baskets because there are no pokey ends sticking out, and the basket is finished so no chance of splinters either.




Duplo blocks, Michael Olaf’s large basket

The baskets even make Duplo blocks presentable.




Bracelet making — Wood beads, pipe cleaners, small wood tray (part of a set of three, couldn’t find the same but link is the same idea), The Container Store’s Small Palm Leaf Bowl.

I recommend getting a set of nested trays, since different toys/activities require different size trays. It’s usually cheaper to buy a set rather than buy them individually.




Melissa & Doug See & Spell, large nesting tray (similar), small card tray that came with another toy

Montessori trays also have nice handles for little hands. Bean’s been able to carry them easily since she was about 14 months old. This is an example of a tray that serves to limit what I give her. This toy actually comes with 8 puzzle cards and dozens of letters. She got overwhelmed and frustrated when faced with all of the letters and cards. Here, I’ve only given her a few cards and only the letters that she’ll need, which seems to work much better for her.




Variety of vehicles, Small Willow Basket

Baskets are a terrific way to corral open play toys, like cars or plastic animals.




Orchard Toys’ Farm Animals 2-Piece Puzzles, Michael Olaf’s Small Basket

Baskets are also an easy way to organize puzzle pieces. The handles are nice and big, so she can pick up a basket easily then dump or carry it over to the floor.


The initial investment isn’t cheap, but with only a few trays and a handful of baskets, you can completely transform your toy area into a more functional space for your kid and a more attractive space for you. I’ll also cull materials from the kitchen — mise en place bowls, ramekins, saucers. Really, whatever works.





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