Magazine article Montessori Life

The Importance of a Simple Environment

Magazine article Montessori Life

The Importance of a Simple Environment

Article excerpt

Think about how you feel when your home is a mess-unmade beds, toys strewn everywhere, dust on the floors, grimy dishes in the sink. Compare that to when your home is clean and tidy, with everything in its place. Does one scenario bring on stressful feelings, while the other makes you feel calm and settled? Even if we don't consciously realize it, our environments affect us. Children are no exception and are in fact more sensitive to what's around them than adults.

We Montessorians take this to heart, believing that the student, the teacher, and the environment all work together to form a "learning triangle." We believe that when an environment is set up appropriately, it can help a child develop independence, coordination, concentration, and an internal sense of order, as well as support well-being and social and academic achievement. Montessori teachers take great care in the preparation of their classroom environments, guided in large part by the idea of simplicity. Everything in the classroom has a purpose and a place where it rests when it is not in use. There is an intuitive sense of order that makes it easy for the children to navigate the space and to clean up after themselves successfully. Teachers keep the environment fresh and engaging by observing how children respond to the environment and changing things as needed.

Children don't stop being sensitive to their environment when they leave the classroom. At home, parents can create a similarly supportive space by also using simplicity as a touchstone. A simple home environment can support your child's concentration, curiosity, and sense of calm. Simplifying also invites connection between family members, which may help decrease conflict and increase cooperation.

Here are a few guidelines to help you create a simplified home environment.

Less is more: Children have a chance to enjoy what they have when there is less of it around. When you tuck away 30%-50% of most children's toys (in a closet, garage, or other storage system), you may find they actually become more interested in what is on their shelves. This leads to longer periods of concentration, easier cleanup, greater independence, and less tension among family members about messy spaces. Think about quality rather than quantity.

Practice letting go: Paring down may be easier than you think. Regularly throw away toys that break and donate gently used items that your child has truly outgrown. …

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