Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A Free Flowing Montessori Environment — Indoors and Outdoors

NAMC Free Flowing Montessori Environment
The environment must be rich in motives which lend interest to activity and invite the child to conduct his own experiences.
—Maria Montessori
The Absorbent Mind, p. 92.

When we think of the Montessori environment, we think of a well-prepared environment that maximizes both exploration and independent learning. The world of the child is full of movement, and we prepare the environment with beautiful materials that facilitate growth and foster peace while keeping up with the busy and active bodies and brains of young children.

Many Montessorians have two prepared environments; one that is indoors and one that is outdoors. There are scheduled times to be in each environment, with the 3-hour morning work cycle occurring primarily indoors. However, what if there was no delineation between the two? What if children had the complete freedom to choose and move between the indoor and outdoor environment as part of their work cycle? What if, instead of two prepared environments, there became just one larger environment?

One Indoor/Outdoor, Free Flowing Montessori Environment

I can see some of you shaking your head… what about the weather? And supervision? And what happens to work time? What about the child that never wants to come inside? At first, it seems like an obstacle that is too large to overcome. It is not enough to think outside the classroom; this needs a whole paradigm shift.

NAMC Free Flowing Montessori Environment

Have you ever sat back and watched your class hard at work and suddenly looked at the clock and realized, “It is time to go outside.” You ring your chime to get the children to clean up and suddenly, the moment of concentration and hard work are lost. Or what about the child who comes to you during the morning work cycle and wants to garden, only to be told that he needs to wait until it is time to go outside?

Removing the separation between indoors and outdoors allows children to freely and naturally follow their own desires.

Dr. Montessori described the ideal environment as having an indoor space with an adjoining garden, believing that depriving children (and also adults) of natural experiences is damaging to their soul. Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, believes that not only does nature promote a healthy lifestyle, it also boosts mental acuity and creativity while strengthening relationships.

Creating a free flowing environment can present some challenges, but there are always solutions:


Norway places a strong emphasis on outdoor play, no matter what the weather – rain, sleet, snow, and ice. Norwegians believe that “There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.” Having good outdoor clothing is just part of the prepared environment.

Staying outside

What about the child who does not want to come inside? Would you ask the same question if it were a child who refused to go outside? Ask yourself; is this really a bad situation? It may be inconvenient for the adults, but rest assured, it is satisfying for the child. This is the sensitive period they are in and we must respect that. The real question becomes, are they genuinely and productively working, no matter which environment they choose?


Having only one teacher inside and one outside is less than ideal. Having a third teacher would certainly help ensure that children are receiving the presentations they need while providing adequate supervision.


While many of you cringe at the thought of those beautiful materials being taken outside, there are ways to work around it or make your own outdoor classroom. First of all, it seems natural that the best place to learn and explore the natural world is outside. A quiet reading area can be made in the grass or under the trees. Practical life is taken care of with all the outdoor activities and there is a plethora of natural sensory materials. Math materials can easily be made using natural matter: small twigs for a Spindle Box, stones and pebbles as counters, etc.

NAMC Free Flowing Montessori Environment

Change presents itself either as a threat or an opportunity. When thinking about whether or not to create a free flowing Montessori environment, allow yourself to explore the possibilities.

Ultimately, the decision will be made by what is of greatest benefit to the children in the environment.

— NAMC Staff

As much as possible, NAMC’s web blog reflects the Montessori curriculum as provided in its teacher training programs. We realize and respect that Montessori schools are unique and may vary their schedules and offerings in accordance with the needs of their individual communities. We hope that our readers will find our articles useful and inspiring as a contribution to the global Montessori community.
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Tuesday, November 12, 2013.


  1. Have I told you how much I love you for this? Great post! So us!

  2. I absolutely agree. It pains me to see the urgency with which children rush outside for "playtime". It makes me feel we are doing something wrong; that we are not attending the needs of the child.


Have questions or comments? Let us know what you thought about this article!

We appreciate feedback and love to discuss with our readers further.

NAMC Blog Inquiries Contact Form


Email *

Message *

Search the NAMC Montessori Teacher Training Blog

Are you interested in reading back through NAMC's blog articles from years gone by, or for more information on a specific topic?

Browse a select list of our most popular categories below; by clicking on one, you will see every article posted under that topic since 2007. You may also use the lower archive menu to select a year and month, displaying all blog posts in the chosen time frame.

If you are seeking a range of information on a certain topic or idea, try this search box for site-wide keyword results.

Choose From a List of Popular Article Topics

NAMC Montessori Series

Montessori Philosophy and Methodology

Montessori Classroom Management

The School Year

Montessori Materials

Montessori Curriculum

Montessori Infant/Toddler (0–3) Program

Montessori Early Childhood (3–6) Program

Montessori Elementary (6–12) Programs

What is Montessori?

Search Archives for Montessori Blog Posts by Date

Thank you to the NAMC Montessori community!

This year marks NAMC’s 20th anniversary of providing quality Montessori distance training and curriculum development to Montessorians around the globe. Since we began in 1996, we have grown to build a fantastic community of students, graduates, and schools in over 120 countries. We are grateful for your continued support and dedication to furthering the reach and success of the Montessori method. Thank you for sharing this amazing milestone with us!