What is the Prepared Environment?The prepared environment is an organized, clean, spacious, warm, and inviting space in which learning and activities take place in Montessori classrooms and homes.Materials are visually appealing, complete, and ordered specifically to aid in a child's development.All materials are on low shelves for accessibility.Furniture is child-sized, sinks are low and accessible, coat hangers are at a child's level, and artwork is kept at eye level for children to enjoy.A properly prepared environment says to children, “You are important, and here is a space just for you. Enjoy it and take care of it.”
What are the elements of a prepared environment?If you've set up your child's learning area and you're wondering if you've set it up in a proper Montessori fashion, ask yourself some questions.Is the area visually appealing? Will the child want to learn and explore here?Will the child be able to access what they need to function in this space safely?Are the activities based in reality?Are the activities suited to the child's interests, abilities, and developmental needs?If the answer to the above questions is “yes”, then you are well on your way to a proper Montessori environment.Properly prepared environments should encourage the following:
The teacher's or parent's role in preparing the environmentWhether you teach at a Montessori school or you homeschool in a Montessori fashion, your most important job is to create a prepared environment.Some components of a prepared environment:
- living plants
- small furniture
- art at child's eye level
- neutral walls and furnishing
- variety of natural textures in furnishings and materials
- ample open space
- designated place for personal items (shoes, jacket, ect)
- designated place for completed art projects
- low shelving
Why is the prepared environment so important in Montessori?Montessori environments aren't just pretty spaces with a bunch of nice-looking stuff on shelves. The prepared environment serves a great purpose.The Montessori environment essentially serves as one of the primary educators of the child, along with the materials contained within.This is why Montessori teachers are commonly referred to as “guides“.When the child's environment is prepared, a Montessori teacher needs to do little more than guide children within the environment.(That's not to say Montessori teachers don't do anything but guide. They are responsible for making sure the learning environment is meticulous, preparing lessons, and assisting with behavioral interventions. That's a lot of work.)When the environment is set up in a way that facilitates independence and learning, the goal has been met.
The prepared environment in Montessori is in stark contrast to traditional pre-school classrooms.If you compare the image below to the images of Montessori classrooms, you will see the difference between the two environments.The furniture is brightly colored and there are typically bright, distracting rugs covering various areas of the floors, which is not conducive to learning.Caregivers are constantly cleaning up spills and washing tables because the children do not have access to the materials they need to clean the spills themselves.Children are not involved in the preparation, serving, or clean-up of snacks and meals simply because it's not set up that way.This environment serves as a hindrance to a child's development.It's full of distractions and it says to the child, “You are just a child; incapable of concentration, independence, or caring for your own environment.”This is the difference between a non-Montessori environment and an environment that has a child's specific needs for development in mind.
This is the importance of the prepared environment in Montessori.Beautifully displayed and organized materials, everything within the child's view and reach, and a warm space that invites the child to come work with the activities.So, now that you are familiar with the prepared environment, how will you adjust your child's environment?Do you feel like you have prepared an adequate space for children to learn and grow?Cheers and don't forget to subscribe!