The Prepared Environment

Hello everybody, I am glad to take some of my vacation time to write this post on a very important subject for me : the prepared environment.

As I see my baby (now technically a toddler) evolve in my parents’ house in France, it reminds me that the environment the children grow in, is of utmost importance. Why ? Well… many reasons but I would start by saying that having an environment adapted to your child is to me a matter of respect.

I am, myself, a short woman and I am extremely annoyed and frustrated when I need something that has been placed out of my reach when I need it. So eventually, I got a stool to help me reach these items I need that are on a higher shelf and my husband and I reorganize based on how often we use these items as well (he is the tall one).

If our children live in an environment that is in no way adapted to their physical (and psychological) needs, we might be asking for trouble. Children needs to feel they are respected, acknowledged as they are.

I am not talking about making a full classroom like we do (in a daycare or classroom setting) but in our houses we can make things accessible for our children so they feel empowered to do things by themselves – ” Teach me to do it myself” is a Montessori motto coming from Education for Human Development written by Mario M. Montessori.

You are going to tell me YES BUT HOW ??

My vision of it is to not fall into the trap of making a classroom in your own house unless you are fully homeschooling your child full time and/or you are a Montessori teacher, there is no need. If your child goes to a Montessori daycare, preschool, school, they should take care of the specific, scientific material the way Maria Montessori intended it.

What you can do for your child is observing what they seem inclined to do at home. There are Montessori friendly toys you can do yourself or buy for a reasonable price as well.

shelf in france
Our one year old shelves at my parents’ during our vacation in France. She could find her brush for after bath time, her finger puppets she likes, 2 of her books from home she likes and her egg shakers as well as my childhood xylophone my mom had put out.

For a start I will give you some characteristics the prepared environment should have to make it nice for your child to live at home and feel like he is a part of this house like adults are, this list is non exhaustive and as you prepare your child’s environment don’t hesitate to ask questions, I have resources and advice and get a lot of inspiration from Montessori teachers such as Jeanne-Marie Paynel (Voila Montessori) and Simone Davies ( The Montessori Notebook) or Montessori mom like Nicole Kavanaugh (Kavanaugh report).

The environment should be:

-beautiful (nicely painted or wood colour furniture, with child level Art in frames, I like to use beautiful pots, jugs, baskets that are also safe for them…)

-adapted to the child’s size and hence grow with her (make sure your child has a table and chair adapted to her size so she can feel independent to play, draw…) – Your child’s material/toys/activities should be on shelves she has access to independently.

-Each item of your house should also respect your child’s sense of order and have a specific place they can see/find it, it is reassuring for her. I heard my baby (when she was about 10 months old) scream when a sweater had been left on her wagon when it is not its place, she stopped when we removed it.

-Place items your child will use and like in an independent manner, as long as she uses it, she is learning something. Then, you can rotate with something else and reintroduce it later, she might find a new interest as she grows older.

-Use items that are real, not made for pretend play, your child likes to be involved in what you do but need tools that are appropriate for her size.

This list should give you a good start. Try to think practical, go down to your child’s level and see the environment the way they see it… then you will realize it might need a couple of changes for safety, for practicality, for independence and happiness.

On vacation it’s hard to not change the routine so be patient with them as they adapt to a new schedule and/or environment as well, we try to not push and follow our child.

I asked my parents to move their CDs (to a safer place for them) and make space on low shelves for our daughter to find her toys.

During our vacation, we left a rug my mom had kept for our daughter and placed the toys she received for her birthday there – a owl version of the russian dolls and some stacking blocks.

After a couple of days, she was automatically going to those to find her peace and quiet time to play by herself. If this is what it takes, avoid too many changes over vacation and when you are back home, let them rediscover their environment. They will be happy to be back !

As your child grows older we change and adapt the environment, if your child is ready for toileting then make a little shelf for her to have her tooth brush and a hand towel available or a way to hand wash independently, I promise, they will love it !

How do you prepare your child’s environment ? Share your tips.



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