Spring break is right around the corner and I have been daydreaming about how I am going to spend my 5 days off. Far off lands, exciting adventures, new experiences, not this year! I am taking a “staycation” for the sole purpose of de-cluttering my home environment. I am actually very excited.
Clutter sure occurs quickly, we stuff, stack and pile with great intentions. Before we know it, the well-intended stuff becomes overwhelming, a roadblock to our freedom and clarity. If this is difficult for adults, imagine how a child must feel when their living and learning environments are stuffed, stacked and piled!
A major tenet of the Montessori method is the prepared environment. Montessori tells us in the Secret of Childhood “the first aim of the prepared environment is, as far as it is possible, to render the growing child independent of the adult.”
An orderly environment meets the child’s developmental need for order, routine and purpose fostering independence and capability – I know what I am supposed to do, I can do it, and I am capable.
Preparing an environment is not just about the order of things; it is about the order of events, establishing routines, communicating clear messages, and consistent expectations. As adults we can tolerate more change (transition), spontaneity and variety. Children like sameness – they like to know what and when something is going to happen, what the expectations are and, if possible, what the outcome will be i.e., we are going to the park for one hour and then we are going to come home and get dinner ready. I will need your help setting the table tonight.
We think more clearly when our environments are orderly with all our belongings having a proper place and a clear purpose – My school clothes are in this drawer/closet, I wear the other clothes on the weekends. I can help myself when I am hungry because I have a stool in the kitchen to help me reach the counter top. When I get to school I always put on my indoor shoes, hang my coat on a hanger and put my lunchbox on the shelf.
An environment that is carefully thought out and kept in order allows children to act confidently, making choices with a strong sense of safety and security.
Ideas for preparing the home environment:
- Divide the toys/activities/games away into thirds; store 2/3 away for a while and rotate every few months. Having less fosters imagination, creativity and innovation
- Separate clothes so children know which clothes are appropriate for school and which clothes are for other events/activities
- Set up routines for bedtime, getting ready in the morning, meal preparation and cleaning up; picking up personal belongings, cleaning up toys, putting tools and equipment away
- Be consistent and follow though
- Tell children the plan for the weekend so they understand the sequence of events; they might have their own ideas about what they would like to do and be surprised and disappointed when there ends up being no time for their ideas
- Set up specific locations in house/garage/yard/car where children can put their belongings, tools, activities and sports equipment
- Employ children in the organizing, purging and relocating all the extra stuff you to are letting go
- Design by use; if you don’t use it, don’t have it out, store it away. Clear counters, closets and community areas
Prepared environments, whether at school, home or work, provide children and adults with the freedom and clarity necessary to navigate independently and effectively throughout the day.
I’ll be visiting my closets, drawers, cabinets and GARAGE next week. Enjoy your spring break! – Mary