Shelving the Toys

A bookcase with hardly any books. Not my ideal home decor strategy, but last week T1’s speech therapist suggested an interesting strategy for encouraging further growth in his vocabulary. I hadn’t thought about it, but we have our life set up in such a way that he doesn’t often have to ask for stuff. I bring up a bath, brushing his teeth, meals, naps, going to the jumpy-gym, snacks, going bye-bye, blowing bubbles, and all of the other things we do on a regular basis. So the speech therapist suggested we provide more incentive for him to ask for things.

I did this by clearing off the shelves of the bookshelf and placing one toy on each of the higher levels. Now I point to each of the shelves and ask him if he would like the bird, blocks, choo-choo train, etc. I’ve only had it this way for a few days, but I can already tell he enjoys his toys more because he isn’t so overwhelmed by the options he has to play with.

He does have a few toys that are accessible at anytime in his green box. The rest are in a bag in the closet, ready to be switched out on a regular basis so he doesn’t get bored with what is available.

This reminds me of some of the principles espoused by Montessori, a method I’m intrigued by. I’d like to set up T1’s bedroom Montessori-style when we move to California.

T1 is making good progress with his language, though he isn’t where the therapist would like him to be yet. I can never remember all of his words (are the other moms writing them down, how are they making these lists of 100 words their child says?) but notable favorites include poop and light. When he says light he sticks his tongue out and touches it to the bottom of his chin. “lllllligh” is my best approximation of what it sounds like, and I’m apparently not supposed to encourage the incorrect pronunciation, but it’s tough because I love to hear it so much.

36 thoughts on “Shelving the Toys

  1. My tv looks exactly the same, covered with fingerprints at the bottom!

    Jenna Reply:

    He thinks it’s a giant iPad 🙂

    Rebecca Reply:

    Yes! Thank you for making me feel good about my fingerprint-covered tv!!!

  2. I’m a Montessori believer! I’m a Montessori graduate (preschool/kindergarten) and my son goes a Montessori preschool here in Chicagoland, and it’s amazing how much he has grown in terms of independence. You may have to check out my latest blog post about him and what he’s doing!

  3. my daughter is in speech therapy too (she is 26 months, with verbal apraxia) and the therapist used to always ask me for word lists. i would try so hard to think of all of them, and then inevitably, after i turned in the list, i would think of several more. then (fortunately) it got to the point where there were too many to list (at this point the main problem is pronunciation). I have seen blogs where moms list all the lists their kids say (blogs of moms with kids with speech disorders like Apraxia) and I am always so impressed! ps: sorry for all the parentheses! lol

  4. My daughter is delayed in speech as well and we haven’t gotten a therapist yet but my exes friend from HS actually helped a ton. Her son had a learning disability and at age three wasn’t speaking AT ALL. She gave me a couple websites that she was referred to on top of suggestions her therapist gave her. She said being repetitive is a huge key! I’ve noticed how much she is starting to say just from me repeating EVERYTHING I am talking about or items over and over. It is annoying for me to repeat so much but it helps tremendously! It is kind of comforting knowing that I am not alone on this journey. I see blogs of family and friends where there kids are saying an endless list of words and my daughter who is almost three, although talking still struggles. I love when they don’t say the words the correct way too. My daughter can’t pronounce the “l” sound and always sticks her tongue out so far after she has said the word. ha

  5. I don’t really count how many words she knows, so I don’t remember them all. I just take a mental note in my head when I feel like she should know a simple word and just work on it. So far it’s worked out great. She’ll be 2 next month and she speaks in sentences “I want juice” “I want a cup” “Daddy’s silly/funny” “That’s good!” “Where did it (or insert word) go?” “Where’s Reid at?”- Its so funny to watch her search for the words she’s looking for or speak in sentences..but a part of me thinks it’s just too much too soon! 🙁

  6. Is the plan for T1 to have a bedroom in CA? I’ve heard of Montessori schools…although I don’t know much about them. What would it look like to decorate a bedroom “Montessori-style”?

    Ellie Reply:

    Check out Sara Cotner’s blog for Montessori room ideas/descriptions – – she talks about furniture being child sized and using natural materials, so the child can feel independent and able to do/see things for himself. Also Meg at has a lot of suggestions for doing Montessori at home. The whole Montessori concept has a lot of really neat ideas.

    Megan Reply:

    Thanks– I’ll have to spend some time looking through these sites. No kids yet, but its never to early to plan, right?

    Gwendolyn Reply:

    Montessori bedrooms are set up for the child to reach everything and do it all on their own.
    So beds on the floor, the shelves and mirrors are all hung at child height. Clothing hooks, dressers, and chairs are all child sized.
    See explanation here:

    Here’s a couple examples of nurseries/toddler bedrooms:

    Gwendolyn Reply:

    well more than a couple!

    Megan Reply:

    Thanks for the resources!

    Jenna Reply:

    This is a great list of Montessori bedrooms! I’m going to refer back to it later 🙂

    MamaGigi @ twobedroomsandababy Reply:

    My little guy has one as well (well, utilizing a lot of the montessori ideals:

    Marissa C Reply:

    I need to read more on Montessori. I like idea of setting things up at the child’s height after looking at the first bedroom, but jeez, those descriptions and areas for everything gave me a headache. It just seems so overthought!

    MamaGigi @ twobedroomsandababy Reply:

    That’s what we’ve done – taken the theory and used it with what made sense for us and our little guy’s personality.

  7. our speech therapist says that it’s fine to have some words that are special family words pronounced incorrectly. our 25mo says “note” for milk and “bo” for bear, and we don’t correct those anymore because she said it’s fine and appropriate to have some words (particularly for things that are special or important) that are unique to your family.

    It sounds like you’re happy with yours, but I just thought I’d throw that out as an alternative for those words that are too cute to correct.

  8. Yay, Montessori! 🙂 As a Montessori teacher I have to say that while I totally get why you’re putting the items high up on a shelf so he has to ask for them, a more Montessori approach would be putting the items on low shelves so T1 can reach them himself.

    If you need any help setting up a home environment let me know. I’d be happy to lend a hand!

    Lisa Reply:

    I had the same thought–but it makes sense in a speech setting to have him ask for them. I just wanted to add another “yay Montessori!!” as well. We have Eli in a Montessori preschool and I love love love it. I would like to set up some areas of our house more Montessori style and hope to at some point. Independence in a child makes life SO much easier (and independence has never been a strength for Eli…but Montessori is helping!).

  9. When I started incorporating Montessori learning into our daily play and the toys and furnishings we buy for our 2 toddlers I noticed a huge difference in their attitudes and attention spans. I love doing Tot School with them which is surprising because I really fought it. I’m not what you’d call a ‘toddler mom’!

  10. I really like the idea of putting the toys higher so they have to ask for it. Though, now thinking about it, is he prone to climbing the bookshelves because then I would put some kind of gate or guard up so he couldn’t hurt himself. Overall, though, I can definitely see the benefits of doing that so he can communicate more.

  11. interesting about not encouraging incorrect pronunciation. not quite the same thing but we were just told that correcting them can lead to stuttering. we definitely don’t constantly correct em, but we do say it correctly back to her if she’s saying the word for the first time and says it incorrectly.

    Jenna Reply:

    This is very interesting Julie, and something I hadn’t heard! I will keep this in mind as he gains more language skills.

    Galina Reply:

    Julie- I have never commented before, but felt compelled when I saw your comment. Correcting your child’s speech WILL NOT CAUSE STUTTERING. You can not cause stuttering in your child. There is much we do not know about stuttering, but know this: there seems to be a genetic/inherited component to it, and it is not caused by a traumatic event or correcting your child/telling them not to stutter. Whoever gave you this information is completely mis-informed. Please tell me it was not a Speech-Language Pathologist.

    And Jenna- I would disagree would the comment on not encouraging T!’s mispronunciations. With where he is with his speech and language developments right now, you should be accepting and encouraging any and ALL communication bids. There is so much focus on getting kids to “talk better,” when the goal (initially especially) should be to make them better communicators.

    Jenna Reply:

    Thanks Galina!

    (And Julie, this is yet another example of how difficult parenting can be, right?)

  12. So glad to hear T1 is making good progress with his talking!

    Putting the toys up high to encourage talking is an interesting idea and one I hadn’t thought of, so thanks for the suggestion. It might come in handy in a few months.

  13. I’m a Montessori alum! I switched to public school in 4th grade. As I get in contact with more and more former classmates I’m really impressed with the paths people have chosen. Montessori kids make really cool adults!

  14. I’m a long time lurker but as a Montessori educator, I just have to comment! 🙂

    I’ve been in Montessori education 17 years (and grew up in Montessori school, with a Montessori mom) and my favorite workshop is my “Montessori in the Home” workshop for parents. If you want any help setting up T1’s room or with resources, etc feel free to ask! I’d be so happy to offer any advice or insights I can.

    Also, one of the things I do with children who mispronounce is to offer the correct pronunciation without actually correcting. ie: “child says i want nana”, I would say, “oh, you’d like a banana. lets get one,” etc. Just another point of view!

    Jenna Reply:

    I didn’t know there was a workshop like that! I’d be interested in looking into it when we get to San Francisco.

    inspiredlife Reply:

    Well, I always did if for the schools I worked for. Then I started doing it for the public in Boston. A lot of Montessori schools do mother and child type things for the younger children so that might be a good place to look. Montessorians loves to share their ideas and their passion for Montessori! 🙂

  15. We’ve implemented Montessori principles at home and my son sleeps on a floor bed. We love it. I can see the idea behind putting things out of his reach to force him to use words to ask for stuff, but like someone else pointed out that goes against Montessori principles where things should be set up to allow independence for the child. His things should be uncluttered and on his level so he is free to get them without help.

    inspiredlife Reply:

    As a Montessori educator, I love seeing how many people are implementing Montessori principles at home! Enabling independence is definitely the key principle in a Montessori environment. But, one of the first lessons in Montessori training is to follow the child’s needs. Sometimes that means we need to find ways to serve each child in our classroom individually. I hope I don’t sound rude…I just wanted to share that Montessori has a history of adapting to serve the needs of a child. And one way I’ve done this in my toddler classrooms has been to encourage speech (for children needing that extra help) in a similar manner. I hope you don’t mind me sharing an alternate viewpoint.

  16. Have you ever tried ‘Signing Time’ or ‘Baby Signing Time’? Love those dvd’s!!!

    Also, my friend’s little girl is having some speech therapy through Shriners Hospital here in SLC. I looked up the Shriners locations and there is not one by you, but you could apply to get an appointment when you are here and even if you just see them once or twice it might be helpful…I know it has really helped little S. Also…totally free! I LOVE SHRINERS!!!

    P.S. My childhood friend is a Chicagolander like you and she is also a writer…she writes here:

  17. I agree with this great suggestion from your speech therapist! I have spoken with other behavioral therapists about this topic and how we often see that parents don’t require their children to ask for what they want. I think that part of it might stem from the desire to be an attentive/intuitive caregiver – you want to be able to “speak your child’s language” by understanding what he wants/needs without him having to say it. A certain whine or cry means he’s hungry, reaching means he wants a toy, grunting means he needs help, etc. I think that focusing on this skill will definitely help him!

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