If you are on Instagram looking for Montessori ideas, you might have already found Gabrielle of Plenty of Trays. If you haven't yet, you should definitely follow her. Her bio reads: "helping parents reach their child's full potential one Montessori tray at a time." Have I convinced you yet? I have signed up for her newsletter and I just love the positivity and realness that comes across in her writing. She promotes Montessori companies (big and small) and offers so many valuable resources for free. The genuine love of Montessori is very apparent in all that she does (along with her sister...see below). I was so happy that she agreed to do an interview and home tour, especially because she has three children, home schools and runs a business. I enjoyed getting to know her better this week...I hope you do too!
Tell me about yourself...
My name is Gabrielle and I grew up in a small town southeast of Winnipeg, Manitoba. I have been married for over 6 years and we have 3 young children. My husband and I both come from large families and we both love Jesus, sushi, traveling, and wine.
How old is are your children?
My children are 5.5 years old, 4 years old, and 14 months.
When did you first learn about Montessori?
My sister Cat introduced me to the Montessori Method in 2017. She is an early childhood educator and has worked in different daycares for over 10 years before landing a job with a Montessori school. She was amazed. She shared her experience with me and I began researching the Montessori Method and I’ve been hooked ever since!
How have you created a Prepared Environment in your home?
I started small and one area at a time to avoid getting overwhelmed. I knew I was going to homeschool, so I started with a small classroom area. After that, I moved to the entrance and added a few low hooks and a small shelf. Some time passed and I bought a different shelf for their closet to make their clothes more accessible. A little while ago, I noticed they would always leave their towels all over the place after their bath because they had nowhere to hang them. So, I bought a few more hooks and stuck them on a wall in the bathroom where they could reach.
My most recent projects have been a peace table, music area to learn the piano and the kitchen.
Once my youngest is a bit older, I will have to set up a few areas for her too.
What are your favourite activities to do with your children or to watch your children do?
Learning piano is a new favourite for all of us. My 4 year old loves all things practical life. My 5 year old loves art and anything to do with animals.
How do you deal with toy/activity/material storage and rotation?
I am fortunate to have a lots of storage space in my home. I try to stay organized with bins and boxes separated by theme but I definitely don’t have this part all figured out yet!
What is your favourite part of your children’s play/work space?
I love the calmness. I love when the two older ones are busy with different trays and there is peace.
What benefits have you found in implementing the Montessori philosophy in your home?
The Montessori Method has given me confidence to homeschool my child, without worrying about when they start reading and writing or math or things like this. I love following my children and taking their lead to make learning natural and without a fight.
I have seen my 5 year old grow in confidence since implementing the method and more positive parenting techniques.
Seeing them grow in independence has also been a huge benefit and confidence booster for them!
How do you help foster independence in your children?
The prepared environment is by far the biggest help in fostering independence in my children. Also, allowing my children to help setup those environments has given them a sense of ownership and responsibility towards the new environment and keeping it up.
You also have recently set up a classroom in your home. How has that experience been?
I love our classroom, probably more than my children do! We’ve had to do some changes and have embraced a less traditional setup in our home (our master bedroom is now half of the basement!) but it’s been worth it.
A big challenge is having a one year old running around. She isn’t allowed in the classroom, which limits the time I can spend in the classroom observing and giving lessons to the older ones.
I’ve done lots of research and reading and have setup some of the basic Montessori works. I learn a lot from different Montessori Facebook groups as well.
I love that you work with your sister on Plenty of Trays. How did that start? How do you decide what resources to create and what activities to post?
Before Plenty of Trays, I had set up a different blog, I loved the creative aspect and writing but I wasn’t able to be consistent and it was too broad.
When my sister told me about Plenty of Trays and I started learning more about it, I quickly got overwhelmed by all the information. It seemed like there was lots of info but it was all over the place!
I knew that Plenty of Trays would be very beneficial for other moms like me but also beneficial for me to stay consistent in bringing Montessori into my home.
I usually decide what to post based on my children’s interest or if I’m inspired by something I find online (and hope that my kids will be interested! Sometimes they are, sometimes they’re not..).
My sister also helps with ideas, she is such a creative person and has so many ideas! We have since convinced 2 of my sisters-in-law to join the fun. One of them does most of the photographs and the other does the illustrations!
Anything else you’d like to add?
We are working on a How to Start page that will include the best Montessori products, books, courses, and materials. Only things that I (or one of my sisters) have read, tried, tested, and love. If you are a parent interested in this, please sign up for our newsletter to be the first to know when it goes live. If you are a Montessorian who has a product or course or book and would like to be featured, please send me an email and we’ll go from there!
To learn more, please follow Gabrielle at @gabrielle_plenty.of.trays and check out the Plenty of Trays website (www.plentyoftrays.com).