The new school year has started, and children are acclimated into their Montessori environment at school. The Montessori classroom is an environment prepared by the trained adult for children, which Maria Montessori called the prepared environment. It contains all the age-appropriate essentials for optimal development but nothing superfluous. Many parents then ask, “What can we do at home?”
As you prepare your home environment, there are basic Montessori principles to consider, like organization, order, independence of the child or freedom with limits.
Furniture and objects in the room are tangible parts of the environment. Children should have child-size furniture and child-friendly tools for easy use. Older children, elementary and up need more freedom and varieties. Having choices in where to work, such as at a table, on the floor, at a counter-top, or patio area outside would be great. An open shelf is the best option for storage, which allows easy access, organization, and easy cleanups.
It is a good idea to have a separate supply shelf for the children, so that they know where to get materials they need and be able to work independently. At the end of the day, children can be involved in replenishing what they used for the next day.
Older children can have a selection of books on a separate shelf in common area of the house instead of storing everything in his/her room. Different board games or art supplies for big projects can be stored as well since older children enjoy more group activities with their families.
It is great to have child-size cleaning supplies, such as brush and dustpan, mop, broom, or table sponges, so that they can clean up the spills they made independently. You can also provide an apron for messy activities and a hook on the wall for the children to hang them.
Having choices, routine, freedom with limits and independence are intangible parts of the environment. Out of selections of activities, the children can choose what they want to do. Or they may just want to watch what other family members are doing. We need to be mindful about not to over-schedule activities. It is important for them to have unstructured times at home. Creativity and innovations are often born when children have free time.
By giving age-appropriate freedom and the limits, children feel safe to engage in activities independently. You can keep the objects and supply limited, so that they learn to take good care of them. Parents should also have a high expectation of the children to participate in family life. Care of the home should be done with the children.
Having order and organization are important for independent functioning of the children. Containing objects in baskets or on trays helps children to find objects easily and can encourage repetition. Objects on the shelves can be rotated every 2 or 3 weeks to keep children’s interests fresh. Toddlers need a lot more space to move around and keeping rooms tidy and organized are even more important for them.
“The adults work to improve his environment while the child works to improve himself.” By Maria Montessori