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Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Getting Started with Montessori - Steps to Create Your Prepared Environment

If you are new to Montessori, it can feel super overwhelming making changes across your house all at once. Thankfully, it doesn't need to be an overnight, immediate change! Small changes over time to prepare your spaces can go a long way. A good Montessori prepare environment will be orderly, accessible to your child, and promote independence. The materials are curated to your child's developmental needs and interests. 



Here are the 5 steps that I take when creating a prepared environment in my home! 

Observation

In Montessori the first step is always observation. We need to make changes to ourselves, our children's materials, and to our spaces based on what we are actually seeing. This requires us to put aside all our other work and just really focus on the space we have created. We want to think about how our children are able to move about the space, what challenges we are seeing, what burdens are created for them and for us.
  • This is not a time to make changes. Just watch, listen, and observe. 
  • Try not to interfere with your child. Don't ask questions, offer help (unless asked), or jump into the play. 
  • Watch without judgment. 
  • Take notes 
  • Watch your child's movements, both big and small. Every movement has purpose and can offer hints into what your child needs in the space. 

Explore

Young children do not experience a space in the same way that an adult would. Getting on to our child's level and trying to carry out a task can give us insight into how a space looks and feels. We may notice things that we didn't before and get valuable insights about changes that are needed in the room. 
  • Lay on the floor, kneel or crouch to see the room as your child does
  • Notice what you see - what's interesting, what's distracting?
  • Look for safety concerns 
  • Try to carry out a task that might be common in that space - can you do it without getting to adult size? 
  • Is there anything you can't access that you thought you could?

Evaluate

Everyone starts with something. Even if you feel what you are starting with doesn't fit Montessori well, take stock of the things you have in your prepared spaces. We need to know what is working, and what is falling short before we make sweeping changes. We can use our observations to inform how we see each of the things that are in our space. This is your time to create a detailed plan. 
  • Consider how the room works as a whole. 
  • Make a list of the things currently in your child's space. Include activities, art, toys, and other materials.
  • Note which the things are accessible, fit your child's current needs and are used. Plan to keep these in your space. 
  • Note which things are not accessible or difficult for your child. Do they need a new arrangement or are they not meeting your child's needs? Consider what changes can be made to make the space work better. 
  • Note which materials, if any, go unused are are no longer appropriate. Plan to remove these.
Step by step ideas for creating Montessori spaces in your home. This easy to follow guide helps you get started with Montessori at home.

Organize

Spending a little bit of time organizing your materials before making a change can help to make the process a lot smoother. Gather the things you think you'll need. Make sure you have little details like hooks, baskets, and trays. Start to take steps to implement the plan you created in the last step. 
  • Declutter the space you are preparing. Put away or organize adult materials that will stay in the space. 
  • Make the space safe. Cover cords, outlets and other hazards that will make it difficult for your child to act freely in the space. 
  • Gather the things you want to keep in or add to the space. You can move them into the center of the room, or into a staging area. 
  • Place materials into baskets or trays. Organize the trays/baskets so that it's clear how to use the material 
  • Put away things that won't be in the space. 

Make a Change

Finally, it's time to make a change in your space! Remember to make sure these changes are rooted in the things you learned in your observation and evaluation of the space. And, remember, that no change has to be permanent. Observation should be a continuous practice and should inform how you see your spaces going forward. 
  • Use existing features to your advantage. How are these things accessible for your child? 
  • Start with any big furniture. Move shelves, tables, cabinets, or other furniture that you plan to keep in the space into their places. 
  • Place any materials that help with accessibility - stools, small hooks, light switch extenders, for example. Make sure these things have a place in the space. 
  • Add in materials that you have organized and are keeping in the space 
  • Remember the details - small things like plants, art work at the child's level or even a light at their level can make the space feel more beautiful and inviting for a child. 
I hope this helps you get started with creating a Montessori space in your home. The process can feel overwhelming but if you take it step by step, it doesn't have to be. Check here for more inspiration on how to create Montessori spaces at home. 

What is your process for creating a prepared environment? 
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