Montessori Philosophy & Practice

AGE 3-12+ YEARS—The Learning Environment

The following is the text from this section of the 2009-2010 edition of Child of the World, Montessori from Three to Twelve Years

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Constant preparation and adaptation of the environment to the ever-changing needs and tendencies of growing children is essential in the Montessori method of raising and educating children. The first consideration is physical safety, and then the proper support for free movement, exploration, making choices, concentrating, creating, completing cycles—all of which contribute to the optimum development of the child.

To show respect for the developing sense of beauty, to aid the growing independence, and to inspire the child to activity, we choose the best of everything for the environment.

AGE 3-6

Children at this age often prefer to work on the floor instead of at a table—on rugs or pieces of carpet which can be rolled up or put out of the way when not in use. This marks the work space just as would a table.

In the classroom and in the home toys, books, and materials are attractively arranged on trays and in baskets, on natural wood or white shelves according to subject—language, math, geography, history, science, music, and art. Each object has a special, permanent place so that children know where to find it and where to put it away for the next person when finished. Tables and chairs that support proper posture are important at every age.

AGE 6-12

At this age the child engages in many projects and needs a place, such as a clipboard, or a special cubby or shelf, to keep work.

Whereas at age 3-6 the world was brought into the house of children, now the child begins to go out into the world, for field trips such as shopping at the grocery store for a cooking project, getting office supplies for the classroom, interviewing subjects for history projects, or visiting museums, and so forth. And so the preparation of the environment includes the outside world.


The adult model is always the most important element in the environment. It is from observing what we do, not what we say, that the child will learn. When we choose beauty, natural materials, and cultural object from around the world, the message is clear.


There are two important things to keep in mind in organizing a child's environment in the home.

(1) Have a place in each room for the few, carefully chosen child's belongings: By the front door a stool to sit on and a place to hang coats and keep shoes. In the living room a place for the child's books and toys—neatly, attractively organized. Think out the activities and the materials for all living spaces and arrange the environment to include the child's activities.

(2) Don't put out too many toys and books at one time. Those being used by the child at the moment are sufficient. It is a good idea to rotate—taking out those books and toys that have not been chosen lately and removing them to storage for a time. Children grow and change and they need help to keep their environment uncluttered and peaceful.


Everyone at every age is affected by their environment. Habits of organizing the environment reduce stress and aid the development of an organized, efficient, and creative mind. 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.

A child who joins in the arrangement of an environment, at school or at home, and learns to select a few lovely things instead of piles of unused toys, books, clothes, etc., will be aided in many ways with this help in creating good work habits, concentration, and a clear, uncluttered, and peaceful mind.

© Susan Mayclin Stephenson, 2010 (

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