A Montessori-Inspired Kid’s Closet

My daughter recently turned three. I’m learning that as awesome as Three has been so far, three year olds (and thirty-somethings, for that matter) can be extremely particular and demanding. For several months before her birthday, SB had become increasingly interested in what she was wearing AND extremely stubborn when I chose the “wrong” things.

For our family, we’ve found that giving her autonomy helps make the day go smoother. I started thinking about how we could prevent the daily meltdowns related to getting dressed by giving her more control over what she wears. What we needed was a closet where she could be in charge but not be overwhelmed by too many choices. I began scouring the internet for ideas. Although I found bits and pieces here and there online of Montessori-style closets, I didn’t find exactly what I was looking for and decided to wing it instead. Here’s what I came up with:

A Montessori-Inspired Kid's Closet

The first morning this closet was in place, she woke up to the new setup and was amazed. She looked through her outfits, selected one, and I watched as she began dressing herself and helped only when needed. I walked her through how to put her underwear on and asked her to put her shoes on once she was dressed. It was like a dream compared to the morning before. She was dressed and ready for preschool without a fight, and in an outfit of her choosing – we were both happy!

This Montessori-inspired closet has worked wonders in our daily routine. The first week or so, she had several wardrobe changes each day because she was enjoying the access to her clothes so much. As far as upkeep, whenever about half of the hangers are empty, I dig through the clean clothes basket and put together more outfits. When she gets undressed, I remind her where the dirty clothes go. Honestly, it’s been about a month since we changed the closet around and it mostly all happens without any prompting anymore. I wish we had done this earlier, even though she may have needed more help, there certainly would have been less tears (on both our parts)!

So, what do you need to set up a Montessori-inspired kid’s closet? 

First, I hung the shower rod at a height where she could reach her clothes. Although she can hang from it, I talked with her about how it could fall down and she has left it alone. If you’re setting this up for a young toddler, please make sure the rod is secured to the wall.

Then, choosing from all her clothes, I selected only items that she can put on themselves (this is important!) to make complete outfits. I decided to hang about 10 outfits at a time, and included a variety of outfits. For my girl, I have a couple long dresses, a couple of shorter ones that require leggings, some shirt/skirt combos, and some shirt and shorts combos. For the two-piece outfits, place the shirt on the hanger and then pin the bottom piece of clothing to the hanger.

On the right is the dirty laundry hamper. In the larger bin on the floor, I placed all her shoes she can easily get on by herself. In the smaller bin are her underwear. I’ve since placed a second large bin on the floor of her closet that holds dress-up accessories. Speaking of dress-up, I chose to leave her dress-up outfits on the higher clothing rod or she’d wear her mermaid tail to school everyday!

Interested in learning more about Montessori in the home? Check out this post on The Montessori Bedroom.

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  • Haley @ Carrots for Michaelmas
    September 17, 2013 at 1:29 PM

    Love this, Leslee! I just have a question. At what age do you think this system starts working? My almost 2-year-old is constantly getting into all of her drawers and leaving her wardrobe all over the house, so I can only imagine what will happen if it was more accessible, haha.

    • Leslee
      September 18, 2013 at 2:09 AM

      Thanks, Haley! I bet you could set something up that would work for your daughter and then change it as she grows. I think the challenge is balancing between having things accessible and having TOO many thing accessible. If she likes to get into her drawers, maybe put only a few items into them and see how that goes. She may still drag them around the house, but it will be easier to round up two outfits as opposed to every single outfit. Like with most things in parenthood, it’s trial and error. Try it out and alter it until you find what works for you both!

  • Stephanie
    September 18, 2013 at 4:51 AM

    I love this idea! Penelope started a Montessori school this year, I bet she would love it. Although, now she is wearing uniforms so getting dressed life has gotten much easier from that. I also love that SB has three tye dye shirts in her closet. I really miss Tallahassee. No one wears tye dyed shirts in Palm Beach County.

    • Leslee
      September 24, 2013 at 4:32 AM

      I bet Penelope would love this closet. Let me know if you try it out!

      Ha! Tallahassee misses you, too! Honestly, we aren’t really the tie-dye types either, but it’s so much fun to do and SB looks so cute in it!

  • Melissa
    September 19, 2013 at 4:56 PM

    I just did something very similar for my kindergartener. He likes to pick his own clothes and we’re doing what we can to reinforce the things he’s learning at school (a montessori school). 🙂

    • Leslee
      September 24, 2013 at 4:33 AM

      That’s great, Melissa! Thanks for sharing. I love the idea of my kiddo attending a Montessori school although she currently attends a wonderful play-based preschool, we may be trying to get into the local Montessori’s VPK program next fall. 🙂

  • Jamie
    September 19, 2013 at 5:35 PM

    My daughter just turned two and we will be doing something similar (our home is all Montessori). She will have two outfits to choose from each morning. She already chooses two from what I offer her, but I want her to have more independence. As she gets closer to three she will be able to choose from more then two.

    • Leslee
      September 24, 2013 at 4:36 AM

      Jamie, we started out the same, offering her two choices. Typically, I like the idea of offering only a couple choices, but she started refusing any of the choices when we were trying to get her ready in the morning so we decided to make it so that there was more to choose from and less pressure on the act of choosing. Independence is challenging as they get older, you want to foster it but have to stay on your toes because HOW to foster it seems to be constantly changing! 🙂

  • KatG
    December 31, 2013 at 10:13 PM

    I just came across this while looking for ideas for my daughter’s closet. This is the best idea I’ve seen yet. I want to figure out a way for her to pick out her clothes for the day and not look like a tutu’d goofball, so this will be a great way to start that. I think I’ll try making index cards with images on them of other clothing items needed — tights, undershirts, leggings, etc. Thanks so much for inspiring me! It’s the most thoughtful and doable idea I’ve seen so far for kids. I might even do the same in my own closet!