Montessori Inspired CD Organization and Accessibility for Kids

Sharing how we have organized our CD player and CDs in our kids' room!

Anybody else old-fashioned like me and still own CD players?

After a cross-country move in our 20s, my husband and I transferred all of our “adult” music to digital files and donated all CDs.

I never thought I would own a CD player again…until we had kids!

Now, our CD player is a key part of the prepared home learning environment for our children (2-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter).

My children love their CD player, and they can use it independently.

Everybody wins because they don’t have to ask me to play music or stories on my phone or computer!

Montessori Inspired CD Organization and Accessibility for Kids

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CDs and their role in creating a multilingual learning environment

Our growing CD collection consists of Korean and Chinese audiobooks and children’s songs.  Since we need to encourage our kids to speak the minority languages in our home, we use media to boost exposure to native speakers.

On the other hand, we actually have only one English music CD.  English is the dominant language in our community, so our kids don’t need passive exposure to English at this time.

I’m going to share how we make CDs accessible and organized for our kids!

The first section is for parents of little ones who are wondering about introducing CDs to kids.

If you have older children, scroll down to “3 secrets to keeping CDs organized for kids.”

Montessori inspired advice for introducing CDs to kids

1. Introduce CDs to your child by creating a prepared environment

We follow the Montessori philosophy of making our children’s spaces fully accessible.

This means that each item has its designated spot, and it’s easy for kids to find and reach what they need.

Things that we don’t want them to touch are out of reach and out of sight (and therefore hopefully out of mind!).

Our kids’ play space is a corner behind our open living room, and we have a CD player on top of low shelves.

Below is photo of how our play area is set up; the CD player is at the top right corner of the image.

Chinese water calligraphy - magic calligraphy cloth
Kids exploring Chinese water calligraphy (read more about the activity here)

2. Choose a simple CD player for your children

During my childhood, I had a 12-disc CD player with a dozen different tuning features and various other buttons.  It also took up quite a lot of space! 

Now, I only have experience with one brand, Jensen, and we have been very happy with it!

The design is simple and clean with a small footprint, and the buttons are easy for toddlers to manipulate independently.

After owning our first CD player for a couple of years, we bought a second one.

Currently, we have one in my children’s play corner and the other one is in my daughter’s bedroom.

Here are some close-up photos of our CD player.  You can read detailed reviews and compare with other players on Amazon.


3. Give your child clear and consistent guidelines on CD player use

My children know that if they want to use the CD player, they must handle the CDs and CD player as carefully as possible.  They learned this by watching and listening to my examples.

If they are disrespectful to the CD player or materials and do not respond to verbal reminders, then I remove them from the area immediately and redirect them to another activity.

For example, if my son is acting out, I will try to figure out if he is cranky as a result of hunger, sleepiness, or frustration.

Sometimes, I need to carry him to a different location and give him an outlet to be rough with hands, like ripping paper, throwing balls, squishing playdough, or banging on a drum.

Here is a video my son turning on the CD player with my guidance at age 23-months.  (He is now 27 months old and can manage it independently).

4. Trust your child with freedom within limits

Every family will decide on what works best for their circumstances.

For our family, freedom means that our kids can choose to listen to any CD whenever they want, as long as it’s Chinese or English.

Limits in our family means that they cannot touch the volume control and they can listen to only 1 CD at a time.

My kids are learning to take turns for selecting CDs.

5. Let your child learn from natural consequences

Anything in our home is potentially breakable by children, but I believe that we can teach them to be mindful of their actions.

If a CD breaks, my children will learn from the consequence.

Our kids have definitely lost a couple of CDs by learning the hard way, but I think this helpful them understand that haste makes waste.

However, you may want to consider backing up the music onto your computer since finding music and audiobooks in the minority language is not easy!

3 Secrets to keeping CDs organized for kids

1. CD organization for children: Location, location, location

Previously, the CD player and CDs were fairly distant from each other.

In the photo below, you can see my then 23-month-old son using the CD player, but the CDs were located on the other end of the shelf.

23-month-old using CD player independently - Montessori inspired home

Later, I realized that I should place the CDs directly underneath the CD player as shown in the next image.

As a result, my children no longer had to walk much to get the CDs, and the CDs are less likely to fall and get scratched.

CD Player Organization for Kids - Montessori Inspired Homeschool Learning Spaces

2. CD organization for children: A basket is a shelf’s best friend!

As you may have noticed from the above images and our homeschool tour, we love baskets!

Baskets help with compartmentalization, and they also are convenient for carrying.

These are our favorite baskets from Amazon.  The little handles make the baskets easy to take out and put back in.  It’s also one of few soft baskets that has a structured shape.

Over the past few years, they have held up well despite daily use and occasional cleaning in our washing machine!

CD organization for kids - Montessori Homeschool Preschool Tips

3. CD organization for children: Replace plastic cases with zipper wallet cases

In our experience, original CD cases take up a lot of space and are difficult for young children to open and remove independently.

Therefore, all of our children’s CDs are in zipper wallet cases.

During my son’s baby days, the zipper of the wallet case was an effective deterrent.

As my younger son grew and was able to open the CD case by himself, he developed the fine motor skills, focus, and patience required to manipulate the CD player.

Comparison of CD wallets

Here’s a look at our 2 CD wallets.  The large CD wallet is for Chinese children’s music and stories, and the small CD wallet is for & stories.

One side of each CD wallet has audiobooks, such as Greenfield I Can Read Series

Case Logic CD Wallet Zipper Cases

And the other side has music CDs, such as 巧虎!

Case Logic CD Wallet Zipper Cases

Korean music player for children

Our CD basket also has a Korean music player set (available here and here) which we store in a cloth bag.

Electronic music sound books

In addition, 2 Chinese Stream of Praise music board books are in the basket.

We have a lot of other sound books (eg, BaoBao Learns Chinese, Pinkfong) in Chinese and Korean that are not pictured here.

However, I intentionally limit accessibility of sound books.  Most of them are excessively loud, and sounds books can distract my children from other hands-on activities.

Plastic Korean music player and song lyrics book for children

Why my children don’t use headphones yet

Although many school-aged children have their own mp3 players and headphones/ear buds, I prefer to stay old-fashioned for my kids.

We have a system that works for us.

I’m also concerned about the risk of irreversible hearing loss with prolonged headphone use on developing ears.

To learn more, contact your primary care doctor and read this article from the World Health Organization: Make Listening Safe.

Why we minimize screen time for our children

While my children do watch some screen time for Chinese language and cultural exposure, I believe the cons of frequent viewing significantly outweigh potential benefits.

Therefore, we are grateful for our Chinese and Korean CDs!

What about your family?

Do you use CD players or do you find them outdated?

I’d also love to learn about how you organize your kid’s music!

Please share in the comments below!

Resources for creating a multilingual learning environment for children

Happy learning, friends!

18 Comments

  1. You are an amazing mother!
    I wanted to get my kids a CD player last year for the same reasons you listed, but I couldn’t pick a good one. You like yours? Myself husband thinks it’s old fashioned, but I think it’s much easier for the young kids than an MP3 player.

    1. Hi Susie! Thank you for your the nice message! We love our CD player, ended up buying a second one for downstairs. My 2yo can open/close the lid and push the buttons by himself. Took a little practice, but the design is nice and simple for toddlers! I don’t know if there are other better brands though.

  2. Hi Betty,

    I have a question about your Jensen CD player:
    Does it have an USB input?
    If it’s not, do your have a other reference?
    Thank you for answer me.

    1. Hi! I don’t see a USB jack on my CD player. However, it has an “Auxiliary Input Jack for Connecting Your iPod, MP3 or other Digital Audio Players” which we have not used yet. Here’s the link to the Jensen CD player product description for reference (affiliate link).

  3. My kid loves to listen to music and stories on CD player. I intentionally purchase book set that comes with CDs so he can listen to it while we are in the car or at home. I feel my kid learns a lot from the listening activity and sometimes he would also learn the tone of the voice from the story teller. What a great way to learn.

  4. I can’t agree with you more! CDs and CD player has been a big part in our Chinese learning journey. I play only Mandarin CDs in my car, my kids learn those Chinese songs during car rides. (We spend quite a lot of time on the roads as a busy family!) 🙂

  5. We love using cd’s! My 15 yr old still buys Kpop albums with cd’s and my youngest likes to handle the cd’s.

  6. Great blog! I’d love to start giving my toddler some independence with CDs, but haven’t tried yet because our old CD player has buttons that are really difficult to press even for me. The one you have here looks very nice and kid friendly.

  7. Thank you for sharing all those tips about using/choosing CDs and CD players. I start playing CDs to my daughter since she was a few months old. We have one player in the living room, and another one is the dining room. I taught my daughter how to use a player and let her be in charged when she was about 2 and a half. She really enjoys the freedom to my decision. Also, the player in the dinning room plays tapes. Even though the sound quality is not as good as the CDs, we enjoyed some really good old stories and songs.

    Thanks again for this article. The player in our living room just broken two weeks ago. Your tips are very helpful for me to choose the next one.

  8. I think music would probably help my daughter a lot she’s just starting in the last year to try and learn Chinese and we don’t speak it so the more she hears it the better.

  9. Music to learn Mandarin is such a wonderful idea! I love the idea of a CD player because it gets them away from screens too. I grew up listening to my parents Chinese music but it never occurred to me to look for kid friendly Chinese music. What a great idea to make it so accessible for them to use on their own! Thank you!

  10. What a great way to have child led learning! We control our children’s screen time so they would be so excited if they had a CD player and new music.

  11. We used to use the same CD player ~ I had my daughter (currently 19 mos) use it so she could learn… but then she broke it! (Consequences as you mentioned in your post). I think next time around we will have to set rules/boundaries as you had mentioned! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and wisdom regarding this!

  12. I used to think that CD players will just be a clutter in the house. But now I have some CDs that my kids want to listen to and I don’t have a player! CD players are convenient and would definitely be a fun learning experience for the kids. It will also improve their auditory skills, something I definitely lack.

  13. I’ve been looking for a CD player for the longest time! I have a collection of classical music, Chinese stories, and audiobooks that I’d love for the kids to listen to. I’ve noticed my kids are very auditory and this would be a great help to them! My daughter’s music teacher suggests that I play the music recordings often.

  14. This is a fabulous article! Thanks for sharing about the white structured baskets! My 4 & 6 year old kiddos listen to music or audiobooks on CDs when folding their clothes (but sometimes get distracted having “dance parties”), and during bedtime, have been serenaded by Fernando Ortega’s music (also on CDs) since they were babies. I’ve found some good deals on CD players on FB marketplace/yard sales. I also have a good bit of Chinese music and Christian stories on cassettes from my childhood, so it’s been fun to let the kids play with those on old cassette players. I’m feeling super old school…lol!

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