from "The Joyful Child"
Michael Olaf's Essential Montessori for Birth to Three

At this link it is now possible to order the The Joyful Child, which is a 70-page Montessori overview and catalogue of appropriate toys, tools, and materials for the home or school that support the Montessori philosophy for educating the child from birth to three years of age.

Preparing the Environment

Learning comes from a natural interaction with the environment much more than from listening or watching another. For this reason the preparation of the environment is extremely important.

Considering quality and beauty is very important in attracting the child. Shelves do not have to be expensive; they can be as simple as boards and bricks. Tables and chairs made of wood instead of plastic develop a taste for quality, and show respect for the child.

Pictures on the wall, hung at the eye-level of the child, can be beautiful framed art prints, or simple posters.

Rather than keeping things in large toy boxes, we recommend trays and baskets for most things. This helps the child sort his belongings and makes putting things away much more logical and enjoyable.

Here are some things to keep in mind in organizing a child's environment:

  1. Have a place in each room - the bedroom, kitchen, dining room, living room, front hall, bathroom, garage, and so forth - for the child's few, carefully chosen belongings. By the front door a stool to sit on and a place, within reach, to hang coats and put shoes. In the living room shelves for organizing a few of the child's books, toys, puzzles, or games.
  2. Think carefully about family activities and the materials used, in all areas of the home, and arrange the environment to include the child.
  3. Don't put out too many items at one time. A few baskets or trays holding tools or toys that are being used at the moment is sufficient.

It is a good idea to rotate books and toys—taking out those that have not been chosen lately and removing them to storage for a time. A monthly rotation works well. An older child can help with this. This is done after observing what the child is actually using, and removing those things which are being ignored, or which have been outgrown. Be sure to leave the favorites!

  • Preparing the Environment
  • The Environment and the Mind

The Environment and the Mind

A person's preferences as an adult are influenced by this first environment, and nothing can help create beauty in the world as much as giving beauty to the very young. Even the first baby mobile and rattles can reflect this approach to preparing the environment.

We must not only think of the quality but the quantity. Visible posters, pictures, toys, etc. always affect the mind. It has been shown over and over in infant environments that cluttered shelves, which are visually blocked out by the adult, are a constant visual barrage for the young child, causing stress. Too many pictures and posters on the wall do the same. The Chinese art of placement or Feng Shui, teaches that clutter, even hidden under a bed or piled on the top of bookcases, is bad for a person.

The same holds true for the sounds in the environment. With time the adult brain learns to block out the sound of a TV or radio, but a child is always aware of it. Sometimes a child is upset by visual and auditory stimulus of which the adult is completely unaware!

A neat, attractive, enjoyable, organized, and uncluttered environment can help create good living habits, concentration, and a clear, uncluttered, and peaceful mind. Learning what we can in order to prepare the environment before birth frees parents to devote time to learn from and with their child after birth.

If you would like to see more information on Montessori theory and practice from birth to age 12 and beyond, links to lectures, information on Montessori teacher training, books and other materials for the home and school, and more, go to: The Michael Olaf home page The text on this page is reprinted from several different versions of The Joyful Child, with permission of The Michael Olaf Company.

Copyright 2009, The Michael Olaf Montessori Company
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