True Montessori

Module 1: Montessori Philosophy

The Prepared Environment

The Prepared Environment

“A felicitous environment that guides the children and offers them the means to exercise their own faculties permits the teacher to  absent herself temporarily. The creation of such an environment is  already the realisation of great progress.” – Maria Montessori, The Child in the Family, Page 46 

Across the animal kingdom, we see animals prepare environments for their young and these environments are very specific to the  needs of those young. We can think of nests in a tree, the material  that the nests are made of the location within the tree for safety.  Think of a honeycomb. The cells in the honeycomb are perfect to support the life of the larva of the bee until it matures. We think of  prepared environments as spaces that are designed to nurture and protect growth, and this is what needed for the perfect prepared environment.  

Montessori Prepared Environment is a unique idea. It takes into account physical, psychological, intellectual, spiritual needs of whatever group of children comes and provide them precise help to  address their needs. It also recognizes the ability of that age group.  Prepared environment is the environment for particular age group.  This environment allows manifestations of these powers to  maximum for the natural development to occur. By fulfilling inner  urges in this environment human being contributes to a larger goal.  Adaptation happens through work by using intelligence. The  intelligence, ability and need for work along with the connection to  the environment, these are natural states for human being. A living  environment where we work and show our ability, has been so natural for us to flourish. The changing environment is constant, the  need and ability to adapt is also constant. We adapt by physically  exerting ourselves. In this process of adaptation, the intellectual,  emotional, physical ability of human being have to find expression.  Environment plays crucial role in adaptation to happen all these. 

Why is it called as prepared environment? The environment which  brings development is called as prepared environment. For human  being, we adapt after we are born, so we heavily rely on child to  make that adaptation. The very first prepared environment for the  child is the home and from the ages of zero to three this is the best  place for the child to be, surrounded by family, culture, going out into  the world, observing movement, and adapting to life. But around the  age of three, that important shift happens in the absorbent mind  where we are moving from that unconscious functioning to more of  a conscious functioning absorbent mind and this child is now very  intentional explorer of his environment. The home is no longer the  optimum place for the child. Dr. Montessori described the home  through the eyes of a three-year-old as it being a place for giants. 

The counters are too tall, the furniture is too large, the utensils are  too heavy. It is full of obstacles for the child who is trying to do for  themselves, trying to be independent, but they’re in an environment  that is far too large for them. The routines in the home can often be  too rushed and when a child is building that independence, they need  the time to go slow, to repeat, to make mistakes until they reach the  satisfaction that they’re looking for. Dr. Montessori realized that the  child of three to six required a specifically prepared environment to  support them in reaching their potential. Environment has to change  age from one plane to another. Conducive environment facilitates growth and development while on the other hand harmful environment that is not prepared can hinder development and can bring atypical behaviour.  

Characteristics of Prepared Environment of any age group:  

Mixed Age Group: in this environment children are not divided  as per the age within that plane or sub-plane. For second sub phase of first plane from 3- to 6- years, it is called vertical age  grouping. Here there will be diversities which boost learning and  social capacities. These older and younger children together work and study, here elder children help younger children. They  learn to help, socialize, and will also earn to live with differences. They understand the needs of other, their tendencies explore. In this mixed age group, they have same  powers.  

“When we think about mixed ages, we must make sure we aren’t starving children intellectually or physically … we should not have a supermarket, but just what is essential.” – The Discovery of the Child, Page 152

Developmental Tools: as we know adaptation happens through work and performing work. Children of any plane of development adapt if they get proper conducive environment.  And this environment becomes wider as per the age. Depending  upon plane of development, a prepared environment includes  activities which relates to whatever level the child needs to in  the world and they find purpose in it. These activities are  purposeful and relevant to age group. Sensitivities also brings  attraction to work and this helps in first plane of development. In first plane of development, they explore to physical activity, language development. Immediate environment they get at  this plane, they work and connection with environment also  strengthen. But for a second plane child, they require wider  environment, they need the environment where everything is  included. They explore world, mathematics, universe. In third  plane, activities should help them to prepare adult life so, it will  be totally different.  

“The first aim of the prepared environment is, as far as it is possible, to render the growing child independent of the adult.” – The Secret of Childhood, Page 267  

Trained Adult: creating and maintaining is the responsibility of the adult. Adult is a stable person just the link between child and  environment. She should be trained and have knowledge on  how to train these children in various planes of development.  They need to establish contact with children. The adult should  have practised with the developmental tools and helps the child  to establish contact with others. Observing the child is very  important for the adult and assess individual needs of every child. The adult has to maintain records of the observations. Adult has to maintain relationship with parents and speak for  the child in wider community to educate the society about needs of the child. 

“We must, therefore, quit our roles as jailers and instead take care  to prepare an environment in which we do as little as possible to exhaust the child with our surveillance and instruction.” – The Child in the Family, Page 127

Order: Order is a human need which means that when there is order human qualities flourish. Through order human beings  have built security and therefore possibility for exploration.  Order in the prepared environment vary according to planes of  development. For a fist plane child relates to routine, people in  environment, physical order, things kept in proper order. Order  they find in physical world, they built it in their mind. For a  second plane child, they don’t need physical order, they need  order for social life. They also look to understand order in  universe. They explore the order of world. In the third plane, the  young adults, they need stability and people around them, the  way people respond around them. The response from adult  provides them security and they need that.  

Freedom within limits: We want these children to work to fulfill  their own needs. In the process, they will find activities which  interest them, challenge them and they will go on to repeat  them achieving concentration becoming happy, joy and stable.  These activities fulfill their inner urges. Only when they are able  to choose it with freedom, they are able to pay attention to  their inner voice. If there is no opportunity to repeat or choose,  these processes will not complete. There are many levels of  freedom in learning environment. In this Montessori Prepared Environment, each child has freedom and they do not conflict  with other. There are limits to these freedom – we don’t hurt  other. We care for the materials, misuse, or throw it. They are  taught to keep material back as winding up after activity. We  don’t disturb another child when he works. When they work in  group, they have agreement on how to speak with others. The trick is that not to have too many limits. Setting of these limits  also changes with over a period of time. They change over the  planes of development. In second plane of development, child  decides by own. Adult is there just to facilitate them. Children  demonstrate high level of discipline. True inner discipline comes  where there is freedom.  

Foster Independence: independence is achieved at successive  level through the planes of development. The conquest of  independence that happens in one plane makes way for the  second plane. Environment should be ready to support.  Independence achieved in first plane help to explore in second  plane of development. Environment should recognize what  child has achieved and further what he wants to achieve. This is  possible only with active actual experience. In prepared  environment, when they come, children are encouraged to  think about their needs and group, they choose work, they feed  themselves, they help each other. Therefore, independence is  achieved by their own efforts.  

The Physical Environment for the 3-6 year old (Casa):  

We are aware that the age of 0 to 3 years is period of creation and  now the age of 3 to 6 is period of consolidation. This child is looking  to strengthen his will and use his acquisition in connection with will  and intelligence. In addition to this condition, every child will be  different because between 0 to 3 they might have different  environment. Here in casa, they work for natural development. For  this to achieve, we need prepared environment. Completion of  personality cannot be happened without this. They work with hand,  mind, intelligence, and love for environment.  

Main Room / Living Room:  

It should be spacious room where children work a lot. It should be  well lit. it should accommodate ideally 30 to 35 children. Room has to  have enough wall space with good painting and space to put picture.  There should be windows for visual access for outdoors. Rooms can  be connected for more than one environment. Floors should be with  light colour. Rooms should be neat and clean. Avoid carpeting in the floor. Montessori prepared environment is based on reality, and this  is the reason why we encourage classrooms to have hard floors. Hard floors allow for natural consequences. Room temperature  should be maintained.  


Dr. Montessori was the first person to use child-sized furniture in an  environment like this and what she realized was that when she used  child-sized items and furniture the child could act in the environment  and the environment could respond to them. So, think of child-sized  tables, chairs, shelves. Floor mats of different size and we need  chowki for the activities. It is ideal if not more than two children work  on a table. Chowki of different size can be used and should be light  enough so that they carry by themselves. Noise control bushes  should not be used. Surfaces of tables, chowki and mat should be  light coloured if possible. Tables and chairs should be arranged in  such a way that there should be open space to do activity but not  too much open space. Child size shelf should be kept. Materials should be kept in proper order from top to bottom and left to right  with varying difficulty. We rarely have room for Montessori adult or  separate chair for Montessori Adult.  

We also have to take in account the four areas of work in Montessori  environment – Activities of Practical Life, Sensorial, Language and  Mathematics. It through work children engages in these purposeful  activities. 

Practical life as the name suggests are the activities of daily life  where children learn to take care of self, environment. These  activities help them achieve independence, co-ordination,  concentration. These activities are most familiar to child.  

Sensorial Area have activities for sensorial development. Activities in  this area help the child in development of visual, auditory, Tactile,  olfaction and taste.  

Language materials helps the child to consolidate language  acquisition which he has laid in first three year, vocabulary is enriched and enlarged and the child explores speaking, reading,  writing.  

Mathematics helps child to understand world. Explore their world through mathematics. They learn concept of number, quantity, and  operation such as addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.  

No matter what area they work, Materials are in order and clean. Environment is setup to look beautiful, warm, and inviting. We want  artwork hung low at the child’s eye height. We have indoor plants;  these are great opportunities for the children to care for the leaves  and tend to the plants. It should be their job to water them, too. This  builds the sense of responsibility. And sense of responsibility is also  constructed when we have classroom pets. Classroom pets are a lot  of fun, they can be a fish or a cat. This allows the children a role in  caring for that pet. It builds responsibility, but it also develops  compassion and empathy. We keep materials in set together  wherever needed. We replace supplies and there should be access to  these supplies to child.  

We have fragile objects such as jugs, glass, vases, sculptor. These  are the things they handle and care, with this their movement  develops. They are not dependent on adult. Environment and  materials become the teacher.  

Water Resource:

In the Casa, access to water has to be ensured not just for work  purpose but also for the child to do washing and cleaning activities  without depending on others. Low sink and step stool to reach the  sink is necessary so that the child is able to reach the water. 

Cloak Room Space:

Every Casa should have a space to leave their things, their own  belongings, bags, umbrella, raincoats, etc. There should be an  indication mark for the child so that he knows what this room is for.  This space is used for keeping foot ware, jackets, bags, etc and there  has to be an order followed. This space can be a part of lobby or a  corridor. They can use indoor shoes or no footwear inside the room. 


Toilet should be prepared with utmost care and as much thought  should be put here as much as in living room. The door should be  open up from slightly. The look inside should be simple. Toilet should  be 24 x 7 neat and clean and adult should take active part to keep  clean and child should feel independence and safe. There should be  child size chair to sit and remove their clothes before going to toilet  and there should be hooks to put these clothes. Everything should be  of Childs height .ie. wash-basin, mirrors, table,etc.  

Outdoor Environment:

There should be an outside space for children. Everyone in casa  should take care of plants inside and outside. Children can also play  outside, periodic visit to garden, harvesting, collecting leaves,  cleaning dried leaves. Childs connection with nature is very essential.  It helps in the child development to consolidate his movements. For  example: watching a plant grow, watching ants moving. The adult  has to plan about how the child is going to have access to outdoor  environment. 

Prepared environment removes conflicts between adult and children.  The Prepared Environment gives the child the opportunity to connect  with the process of normalisation, it is a holistic environment to  integrate psychic and physical needs, to encourage a strong  personality able to contribute to her own development and the  society and order and beauty of her environment through her will,  choices and independence. The prepared environment not only  contains materials and activities to perfect movement, co ordination, and to act on tendencies but also a community of  learners who can offer help or be kindly aided and an adult to model  problem solving, social ease, gracefulness, precision, love and  security, to inspire to confidence of parents and infants. Prepared  environment makes a child peace loving and peace giving.  

“The environment itself will teach the child, if every error he makes  is manifest to him, without the intervention of a parent or teacher, who should remain a quiet observer of all that happens.” – The Child in the Family, Page 28

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Learning Environment

Child Development
Montessori Philosophy

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