A carefully prepared environment is central to the teachings of Maria Montessori. We often think of the Montessori environment as the classroom itself. However, the environment extends to all of the conditions that influence the physical and mental growth of the child.
Studying the Works of Montessori - The Absorbent Mind, Chapter 9: The First Days of Life
Dr. Montessori was very clear about the environment needed immediately after birth. She states that for the first few days the infant should be in direct contact with the mother. The surroundings must not be harsh, since this is infant’s first experience after the moderated, safe surroundings of the womb. “There must not be too much contrast, as regards warmth, light, noise with his conditions before birth, where in his mother’s womb, there was perfect silence, darkness, and an even temperature.” (Montessori, p. 98) The bond of mother and infant is to be nurtured and respected.
At home, the infant mentally prepares to learn about his environment through his senses. Montessori assures us that while he is helpless, the infant is not passive. Rather, he is an “active seeker…looking for impressions.” (Montessori, p. 100) We must surround the child with those impressions we wish the child to remember — calm, peace, joy, beauty — for “It is in babyhood, by means of his infantile powers alone, that the child acquires personal characteristics that will mark him forever…In doing so, he is happy and his mind matures.” (Montessori p. 102)
We know that in order to learn and develop language skills the child must be immersed in language. He must hear it spoken and make connections between the spoken word and the objects and actions associated with it. The same can be true for temperament. If a child is exposed to a calm and peaceful environment, he will develop that same temperament. When surrounded by natural beauty, the child learns to appreciate it and will cultivate it throughout his life.
The environment of the child is not only what he encounters while at Montessori school. It extends to his home and beyond. And as such, it is up to us as parents and guides to control the environment our children encounter in order to prepare them for the adults we wish them to be.
Montessori, Maria. The Absorbent Mind. Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Press, 1964.
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Tuesday, March 25, 2014.