The Prepared Environment:
“The first aim of the prepared environment is, as far as it is possible, to render the growing child independent of the adult.” (Maria Montessori -The Secret of Childhood, 1966.)
“The child should live in an environment of beauty.”
Image from 'La Casa Montessori in Illinois USA. (Linked here)
The 'Prepared Environment' is as much about the preparation by the teacher as the room...
The prepared environment is a key feature of a Montessori programme. The room should be beautiful, tidy, and clean. Keep the room free from clutter and things on the wall (distractions) such as posters and aim for clean lines (nothing on top - or only a few art items or flowers).
Materials: These need to be complete and accessible and developmentally appropriate, in order, self-correcting and each in its own place.
Containers/Storage: Where possible use natural materials and store excess materials (one at a time of each material should be available).
Furniture: Appropriate size for the children and spaced for accessibility and with room in between for movement. Furniture should be kept in excellent condition and repair. Natural wood is desirable. There should be plenty of room for students to work on the floor (on mats) and in a range of groupings.
Equipment: Tools not toys, child sized but real and it is appropriate that care needs to be taken when using them; breakable items are encouraged to promote care and respect. Plastic should be avoided if possible. Lessons are prepared to introduce the correct handling and use of equipment, including that used in practical life activities such as dishes, ironing, cooking and gardening.
In a peaceful space where things are always found neat and complete and where they should be, a child has the opportunity to become ‘normalised.’ This is the natural, calm state of a child who is content, working purposefully in a focused, self-motivated manner on activities of their own choosing, in an order they determine (with guidance - see permission to intervene) and at their own pace. In this environment, children experience freedom with responsibility and develop self-discipline and independence.
“Order means that the child is assured the possibility of a completed cycle of activity in using the materials. He will find all the pieces needed for the exercise he chooses… He will return the materials to the place – and the condition- in which he found them” (Paula Polk Lillard).