Montessori environments are prepared to be both beautiful and ordered.

From birth children are deeply interested in everything around them. They are driven to explore their world in the service of their own development. If they are to respond to this drive, children need the freedom to explore and discover their environment independently, and to engage their full attention on what interests them with a minimum of interference and interruption.

Personal development in Montessori early childhood settings revolves around the lessons of grace and courtesy, the Montessori lessons designed to ensure the needs of everyone in the setting are respected and to promote social harmony. These lessons are given to individual children, small groups or to the whole group. The lessons can be given:

The study of mathematics is a reflection of the human tendencies for investigation and orientation, for order and classification, for reasoning and making judgements, and for calculating and measuring. In the Montessori Children’s House (children 3-6 years of age), when mathematical concepts are first presented to children, they are embodied in concrete materials.

The Montessori environment prepared for preschool children from three to six years of age is called the Children’s House. The Children’s House is prepared to be homelike, welcoming, aesthetically pleasing and orderly so children come to think of the setting as a ‘mini-community’ where they learn skills they can apply at home and in the wider community. Cooperation, rather than competition, is encouraged.

Montessori environments for infants and toddlers are prepared to be as homelike as possible, and to involve small children in a round of daily activities including quiet times and rest periods. The characteristics of these environments include:

  • continuity of care
  • an ordered physical environment
  • consistency of activity and expectation.

In environments with these characteristics infants build a sense of security, a sense of order and a sense of time.

Montessori environments are prepared for multi-age groupings of children. These groupings operate very like family environments, providing key learning and development opportunities in two ways. First, multi-age groupings encourage children to aspire to the achievements of older peers. New students enter an established and mature environment with effective models of both work and social interaction.

Young children in a field of wildflowers

Dr Montessori outlined four consecutive planes, or stages, of development from birth to maturity, each plane spanning approximately six-years. At each plane of development children and young people display intellectual powers, social orientations and creative potential unique to that stage. Each plane is characterised by the way children in that plane learn, building on the achievements of the plane before and preparing for the one to follow. The timing and nature of the transition between planes vary from individual to individual.

Cosmic education Montessori teacher with children

Introduced to the primary aged child (6-12 years), “Cosmic Education is related to the development of human beings, not just a new educational method, or a new technique of teaching subjects in a syllabus. Cosmic Education is a form of relating children to the universe, its furnishings, and humanity, so that they are able to understand the law and order underlying their existence and to realise in themselves all the developing potential that is their birthright.” Dr Maria Montessori

Moveable alphabet letters

“Written language complements spoken language and is integrated with it.” (Maria Montessori, The Formation of Man)

Montessori said that writing is a complex action requiring certain abilities that can be categorised into two main groups: physical ability (the use of the hand) and cognitive ability (the use of the mind).

Have you noticed the young child is drawn to the tiny ant, that the child’s attention is caught by the delicate new bud or shoot just starting to emerge? The child has a close connection to nature and in the 3 to 6 Montessori classroom this interest is further stimulated through the leaf cabinet. This is a cabinet containing different leaf shapes. Three sets of cards (one with a filled in leaf shape, one with a thick outline and one with a thin outline) are also used with the shapes from the cabinet.

The outdoor area is an extension of the inside space as well as being a space in its own right.  It often includes a garden where the children can grow and harvest flowers, herbs, fruits and vegetables. Plants which reflect a variety of flowers, leaf shapes, smells and colours should be available to the child outside.