The Montessori prepared environment Birth-6
The natural environment enables survival, but the prepared environment is created for the purpose of supporting a child's natural development. This blog we'll discuss the features of a prepared environment in a Montessori children’s house (3-6). As well as the support it brings to the development of the children and how you can translate this into your home.
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When creating a prepared Montessori environment considerations must be put into the child's needs. The child of the first plane has an absorbent mind, and so we must take into consideration what the child will absorb from the environment.
“The man who does not live in an adaptive environment can neither develop his faculties normally nor learn to know himself” Maria Montessori, The Child in the Family, P.41
For example, if you're a family who always has the tv on, what is being absorbed through it? Or what language is your child absorbing from you? I myself am prone to swearing although doing my hardest to reduce how much I swear for the purpose of Jax's absorbent mind. Language exposure should be rich, and not shy away from long, specific and in depth words and explanations.
We also need to be aware of the child's sensitive periods and how the environment speaks to the child during these sensitive periods and support them. I have a post on my Instagram about Sensitive periods if you want to delve into the subject further.
Movement is also important, children need room to move around and explore their motor skills. A child of this age is learning and perfecting their motor skills that will become unconscious acts as they grow older, practice, practice, practice!
If like myself you don't have a large home, although we have a really long hallway which is very useful, then get outside! Go in the garden, or to a local park or forest where there is space for the child to run and challenge his motor skills naturally.
The child of this age also craves independence and the environment should be prepared to support this developmental need. Having the home set up for the child to be independent is arguably one of the most important aspects to consider in your home.
They also need to acquire and develop their social skills by working and communicating with other children beyond their own age. Weather that be siblings, friends children, at nursery or the park. Socialising with children younger and older is amazing for a childs social development.
The three components to think of in a Montessori environment are space, people and materials.
In terms of space there should be adequate space for children to move and explore freely. There should be lots of natural light and good ventilation in the environment. Items should be maintained to a reasonable standard and be fit for purpose. Ongoing maintenance, repairs and cleaning should be undergone consistently within the home. Seasonal elements can be bought in for decoration, as well as activities and learning.
The people in the environment are also of great importance. Directresses and assistants that are aware of child development are a must for maintaining a suitable environment and for encouraging the natural development of the child, in the childrens house. But in the home, YOU, the main caregiver are what's important.
You can learn about development, the Montessori approach and such. But most importantly you need to be your childs safe space and guide inside and outside of the home and support them unconditionally.
The adult in the environment should have respect for the child on a deep level and have emotionally healthy interactions with the children as well as other adults/children in the environment.
Materials in the childrens house are intended to aid the independence and development of the child. The furniture is all child sized and fit for purpose for the children as well as being accessible for the children to use them independently.
In the home independence and being fit for purpose is still the main goal, but a few steps and adjustments here and there will probably make it mostly possible within the home without having to splash out on all new kinds of furniture.
The prepared childrens house environment should be simple. There should be order within the environment for example, things going from easy to complex, left to right. Items can be colour coded for easier organization for the children. Everything should have a place to go back to, and be in that place for the children to find easily. The environment should equally be beautiful, it should be clean and tidy, and have attractive materials. Have artwork on the walls, or flowers in a vase for example.
In the home, your home is already "Homey" and beautiful. It also probably won't be clean and tidy all of the time and that's okay, because what a classroom will never. ever match compared to a childs home is the integration of home maintenance and exposure to everyday practical life in a natural way.
Now I don't mean they couldn't practice these skills in a classroom, but that the repeated exposure of watching you do all these daily tasks is always going to be a lot more attention grabbing to a child because it's you. The environment should still be beautiful, simple and easy to navigate but in a more homely way.
It should be based in reality, with real tools and materials for the child to use.
For example real glasses and china plates instead of plastic. The tools and materials provided should be functional, be in working condition and be fit for purpose.
All elements should be present and in working order for the child to use. Items should be small enough for the child's hands, and not too heavy for the child to carry and move within the environment.
There are also intangible characteristics to contemplate. Like the freedom of movement given to the child. The child is free to move within his environment as he chooses. The child is also free to choose what materials he wishes to engage with, and how long to work with those materials.
Although the child has this great freedom it is also within limits. The child has these freedoms, within the limitations of respecting their environment, materials and people around them. You can read more here about Freedom, limits & discipline.
There also needs to be consistency. The child should have consistent interactions, routines and the environment and its materials should be consistent. This creates safety for the child and they know what to expect on a daily basis. But it should also be flexible to follow the child in their development and learning and normal daily life.
I hope this post helped you understand a little deeper about preparing your home environment for you 0-6 year old.