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 home learning spaces, alike. 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.”
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. Walk into any non-Montessori pre-school and notice the brightly colored learning posters all over the walls and the containers that hold the toys and learning materials are brightly colored, almost masking the materials contained inside. Even if shelves are in use, the order of the materials makes no sense to children and don’t lend to a child’s development. The furniture is brightly colored and there are typically bright, distracting rugs covering various areas of the floors. Caregivers are constantly cleaning up spills and washing tables. All table-ware is plastic and children are not involved in the preparation, serving, or clean up of snacks and meals. Many playrooms and learning areas in people’s homes are set up in this same fashion. And many parents behave in the same way as the caregivers in these traditional preschools. This environment serves as a hinderance 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? Always looking for feedback! Cheers and don’t forget to subscribe!