Montessori Summer — Space
This summer, we’re reminded that Montessori lives outside the walls of the classroom, Montessori is a philosophy, Montessori is a lifestyle.
We’re highlighting one way each episode of the podcast (did you know we have a podcast? Click here to subscribe through iTunes, or listen at the bottom of the post!) to bring Montessori home. This week, we’re talking about Spaces.
In Montessori, we call the classroom, a Prepared Environment. This shared space, designed with this group of children in mind, with tools and materials ready for them to use, the right size, at the right height, just for you.
What’s one space at home that could use a bit of “preparation?” It’s natural to want to do an overhaul, it’s appealing to change everything at once, to make big changes. If that’s what you’re ready for and that’s what works for your family, fantastic! But we’d encourage you to start small, one small area, since small changes are easier to stay consistent, and lead to habits and big changes over time.
One area that comes to mind is the kitchen. We’re often called upon to help children with simple tasks they’re very capable of doing themselves, such as getting a drink of water, or finding a healthful snack. Maybe a drawer in the refrigerator at a child’s height could be available to children whenever they need, with snacks you’ve already decided (this is the “prepared” part of the Prepared Environment!) would be okay to have at any time, maybe small cheeses and fruits and veggies. Or maybe it’s seemingly constant drinks of water that are needed. Is there a place, a low cupboard or table, where a pitcher or water dispenser with a spigot and a few cups could be placed so a child could help themselves when the need arises? Perhaps this need could be met with something as simple as finding a sturdy step stool, so a child can reach the cups and the faucet.
Another space that tends to creep out of order is a play area. Anyone who has or who has been a child knows the intense pain that comes with stepping on just another Lego brick or Barbie shoe! They really do find their way all over the place!
In the classroom, we display materials in boxes, on trays, or in baskets. Toys magically never seem to fit back in the cardboard or plastic box they came in, no matter how hard we try! Even a slightly larger shoebox can be repurposed to hold a toy and accompanying accessories, and if there’s a container to hold it, items are more likely to be gathered and tucked away.
In the same vein, materials in the classroom have a “home,” a place where they can be found on the shelf, where they’re always returned when a child is finished using them. This is a tool that translates beautifully to home! Is there a space, maybe a low shelf, that could be used to display a selection of the toys a child has available to them? Other items could be stored away, maybe in a less-used closet or garage, and rotated periodically.
Limiting selection often means children play for longer, with greater creativity and imagination, with the choices available to them, rather than bouncing from toy-to-toy. Additionally, if everything ends up getting used at once, as sometimes happens, it’s not unmanageable to tidy up, independently or with help!
Along with having a tidy way to display work, sometimes having a work space helps children to be independent and organized at home. This can be a small table and chairs, similar to what we have in the classroom, or could just as easily be a low coffee table or a small rug — a clean or new entryway rug or bathmat works beautifully! This is an area where a child can work to their heart’s content, and then is a gentle reminder that they still have something to put away before selecting something new.
One last suggestion is the bathroom. Providing a small hamper means that clothing might not end up on the floor at the end of the day, and a low hook gives a towel half a chance of being hung up when it’s served its purpose.
This is certainly not the limit of what can be implemented! These are just common areas where families see dramatic benefits with not a great deal of effort. Of course, each family situation is unique, and these are just a few ideas to start. Maybe they help you think of something that would work even better for your family! We don’t intend these suggestions to be onerous, or expensive; we hope they’re convenient, simple, and dovetail easily into family life, and even help make things a bit easier.
Follow along on the blog or with the podcast over the summer, and please keep us posted on how things are working (or not!) for your family. As always, we’re here to help!
Written by:Charlotte Wood