Wednesday, 5 July 2017

The Benefit of the Montessori Prepared Environment

When Jerome was one and began wanting to handle more things in our home and before I had discovered Montessori, even, Tharin and I decided we would allow him to handle as many things as possible, reserving the need to stop him only if it were truly necessary.

This meant a lot of harmless messes happened in our home, the pots were often taken out of the cupboard, books were often scattered at the foot of the shelves.

We redirected him if he were getting into something off-limits, like the garbage, the toilet, or something dangerous. Generally, he got used to not handling off-limits which were within reach. If not, I opted to move them instead of constantly stopping him.

This is the same attitude we have with Benedict, though it is definitely a different reality with two kids contributing to messes throughout the house.

Is It Harmless? Then Let them Be!

Benedict has a thing for shoes, and is often following me around with a pair of flip flops, trying to get them on my feet. There are constantly shoes around the house.

And he absolutely loves exploring my stand-up jewellery box.

At least once a day, I come into my room to find Benedict handling necklaces or removing belts and other small objects which are within reach. He is gentle and I can see this brings him a lot of joy, so I have let him continue.

The Prepared Environment in Our Home

Montessori supports the Prepared Environment and requires you to think of your children in every area of your home.

Whether this is a step stool for them to reach the sink, a water station for them to get their own drink of water, or thoughtfully arranged materials for them to explore, children should have freedom of movement.

According to Maria Montessori, many defects in children, such as destructiveness and violence, disobedience, being overly frightened or bored, untruthful, among many other defects of character in children, can be traced to a single cause: insufficient nourishment for the life of the mind.

Children need to be allowed to complete the cycle of constructive activities which every child by nature ought to traverse.

Children seek to act on their environment for constructive reasons which may sometimes be unclear to us.

Which is why it may seem random when Benedict went to the entryway and knocked over the rubber boots. Why he likes to carry around a jug of fluid we have near the door. Why Jerome poured his glass of water from a small cup to a larger one.

These seemingly random activities, and many more which are allowed and encouraged in our home are, according to Maria Montessori in the Absorbent Mind, beneficial in that they give my children the ability to actively experience their surroundings and exercise their abilities, helping them to develop strong and healthy characters. 

Maria Montessori is definitely an advocate for the specific materials and activities she developed for her classrooms, but at the root of this idea is the necessity of children having the freedom to "work at an interesting occupation [whereupon they are not to] be helped unnecessarily, nor interrupted, once they have begun to do something interesting." (The Absorbent Mind, pg 200)

All Within Reason, Of Course

This does not mean that I allow my children to run wild, destroying and misusing the things in our home.

While I am definitely more lenient with Benedict and the rules that govern his use of the environment, Jerome is expected to work at a table or a confined area such as the carpet or the couch, to clean up after himself and to model careful behavior.

While I will continue to research specifically Montessori activities, and continue to perfect the Prepared Environment in our home; while our shelves and prepared activities will continue to be a prominent part of the children's day, I will also be focussing even more on allowing the children to move freely in our home, even if what they choose to do may appear to be random or unconstructive to me.

After all, part of Montessori is following the child's lead, and trusting that, given independence, they will fulfill their developmental needs.

To read more about how we are preparing our environment read Our First Steps in Preparing Our Montessori Home Environment | & How The Prepared Environment Affects Our Home.

Thank you for reading! If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact me. I would also love to hear any suggestions for posts you would like me to write about. And if you are interested in following along in our daily adventures, follow us on Instagram where I post daily.

God bless,
Olivia Fischer


  1. I found this so interesting, it made me think so much! Also, I feel like I understand what Montessori is a lot better after reading this.

    1. I am definitely so new to understanding this stuff as well, but find what I read in The Absorbent Mind so fascinating, so I think I will be doing a few more posts on chapters of this book. I really hope to make Montessori a little easier to understand to people, although I really doubt I even understand it to the extent that a trained Montessorian would.

  2. Beautiful post!

    Yes, Dr. Montessori promoted allowing a child to finish his exploration - within limits as anything destructive, dangerous or disrespectful was to be immediately nixed, re-directed, whatever it (respectfully) took to not allow bad habits to form ;)

    1. Absolutely! Thank you so much for your comment Jessica. We are definitely not doing everything 100% perfectly, it's just so cool to realize we are on the right track!