The Whats/Whens/Wheres/Whys of Montessori Shelf Rotation

One of the most difficult things to master as a Montessori teacher or homeschooling parent is the ins and outs of rotating shelf work. Keeping the interest of the children you’re working with is key to having a functioning classroom, but knowing when it’s time to rotate materials, or which ones to start with, can be daunting! Here’s a quick little guide to how to rotate the works on your Montessori shelves.


  • to follow the child in her developmental path through materials
  • to reinvigorate old materials that the child still needs to work on
  • to reduce clutter and overfilling of work shelves


  • when a work has been mastered
  • when a work is not being used appropriately – destructively
  • when a work is never being chosen from the shelf
  • seasonally
  • some of this depends on your space – if you have a smaller space, you may need to rotate more frequently.  We had a large space, and only rotated seasonally or if something was mastered and needed to be supplemented with the next material.


  • sometimes just switch out little pieces – the tray, the tray liner, the transfer material, a transfer utensil
  • sometimes a whole material for the next in the series – or maybe just ADD the next material while keeping the first one there for review


  • a couple from each section – NOT all of the works at once

*always keep at least one work that is familiar – something like playdoh, that your child has technically mastered but can remain for when he needs something comfortable.

I wrote a bit about why we only rotated our shelf work every few months rather than every few weeks here: