How To Start Shelf Work

Learning Areas for 3 month- 13 months:
1) Set up a corner in your home/school for babies. Set a mat down with some infant stimulation cards, a safe mirror, real life animal pictures and anything else that the child seems interested in.
2) Put out 1-3 different toys that the child is interested in such as a ball, rattles, teethers, open ended toys and let the child explore. Do not tell the child what to do, just observe them. There is no structure to this learning area, simply let the child explore.
Here is a corner for Emma who is 3 months here. Along the wall there are infant stimulation cards and a mirror.
The infant stimulation cards will help calm and soothe the baby, increase concentration skills, enhance natural curiosity, and stimulate the creation of brain cell connections. You can download them for free at brillbaby.

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Ages:13 months and up
1) Get a shelf according to the space your have
 2) Get get trays, bins, or baskets. 
You can get the bins and baskets at the dollar store. The trays you can purchase from: or or for the bins.
3) Pick the categories for your shelf.
They can be:
Life Skills– This is to help the child learn day to day life activities such as pouring exercises ( Dry and wet), spooning, transferring, cleaning, folding, scrubbing, preparing small meals, shoe lacing, buttoning etc…
Sensorial- Activities that develop the five senses: Hearing, sight, tasting, touching, smelling.
Math- Hands on math activities
Literacy– Hands on literacy activities
Fine Motor Skills: Hands on activities to develop pincer grasp to help the child develop pencil control and pre-writing skills.
Pre-Writing:  A step ahead of fine motor skills. This area involves tracing and beginning writing.
Logic/Memory- Puzzles, memory activities, reasoning activities, problem solving activities
Art- drawing, painting, coloring, arts and craft projects
Geography– The study of world map, your current geographical
location, landforms, oceans, etc.
Science– Nature studies
Interest Led: activities based on what your child is interested in.
* you can make your own categories such as bible, knitting, etc…
For example Shelf Tasks and activity ideas- see here:


To learn how to implement ShelfWork and get over 180 hands-on visual activities for children ages 3 months to five years, click here for the e-book.

13 thoughts on “How To Start Shelf Work

  1. Hello Ms. Jady,
    I have a quick question…are the stimulation cards only suppose to be used for infants or can they be used for pre-K and K children?

    I have seen many of your videos on YouTube and even though I started my children late your ideas still seem to work for them in a positive manner so thank you.

    1. For babies only. There are other ways to stimulate the mind of a prek- and Kinder children. Follow my blog I will be posting ideas for that age group as well!

  2. Hi Jady! I was wondering if you have any suggestions on how to introduce sorting to a little one? My daughter is 16 months and we’ve been doing shelf work for about 2 months. She’s been doing really well with most of the categories but for some reason sorting is giving us a problem. I’m not sure if it’s me and my way of explaining/showing her or if she’s just not interested. I’m only using 2 or 3 type of objects/shapes/color etc at a time, I ask her to watch as I sort a few first and then ask her to mimic me. If she gets it wrong I simply ask her to try again but she seems to think that I just want her to put the object in a space not that there is a correct space to put the object in. (I really hope that made sense) 🙂 Any suggestions? Should I wait a few weeks and try again? Thanks in advance for any help you can give.


    1. Before sorting you must do alot of matching activities. Have her match similar objects, items, pictures, etc. Once she gets the concept of matching then she can do the sorting. Matching activities comes first. Ask her questions like which one looks like this one? can you find where this one goes?

  3. Hi,
    I’m following your video’s (in Italy)since a few months and you are really fantastic mother very creative full of ideas. (sorry for my english, I’m italian). I’ve a 19 months old boy (and 3months old girl) and wanted to start matching activities but my son doesn’t seem interested. How can I get his attention. first I thought he’s maybe too young -he’s born preterm 29wks and had some psychomotor delay, but got better with physiotherapy. But then I saw your videos on your daughter who was even younger (by the way, adorable). and I ask myself maybe girls are different than boys?
    I thank you very much, I’m looking forward for your video with circle time that you once proposed to upload.

    1. Try putting him in an area where he will not be distracted like a high chair. First go over what he is matching and tell him what the things are called. Ask him questions- where is the dog? have him point to it. Then when he knows what each item is have him match by telling him “can you find the dog?” show him how he matches. Be patient he still is very young and if you just started working with him it takes time. I started teaching my daughter when she was five months.Girls and boys learn the same. I think its more of an individual matter- each child is interested in different things. Have him match things he is interested in. Email me for more info. I’d be glad to help!

  4. I love your website! Where did you find the first shelf (the white one) or can you provide the manufacturer’s name? I think that would work in my space.


    1. Hey, I got it at home depot. You can also probably find it at Walmart and Lowe’s. Thanks for stopping by.

  5. Love the new website! I’ve been watching your videos for a long time…you’ve been an inspiration.

    I was wondering…how long do you intend to do Montessori? My boy is in Kindergarten, but he’s a little behind in practical life, and loves the games/activities for math and reading. We homeschool, and love it.

    Also, are you still using your ikea shelf? Is there a reason you went with the white one?

    1. I went back to my Ikea shelf, did you see my recent video? I plan to do it until she outgrows it maybe first or second grade. I will be adding curriculum to our shelves but also I will keep Montessori items that she still is interested in and is learning from.

  6. Hi, quick question pls – when they’re done with shelfwork do you just put trays away and replace them by toys or activity containers? Thank you

    1. No I do not. I just leave it there and Jade does it again throughout the day if she wants to. Jade is already used to not throwing anything on the floor and always putting her trays back because she has been doing this since she was one. If you have a child who is throwing everything on the shelf on the floor you want to start with a few activities at a time and train them to put it back and only use the trays in a particular work area such as a rug or a table. If they are very young it is unrealistic to expect the items on the shelf to remain there. It is a skill that is learned. Hope this helps.

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