Did you know that just by being more mindful of:
- how we set up our home environment and
- what we include in our spaces
can have a massive impact our child's learning?
In Montessori terms, we call this thoughtful set-up of the child's environment "The Prepared Environment".
The prepared environment is one that is created for the child to construct his/her own knowledge by the teacher (or parent - that's you!). The loving adult observes the child's learning needs and carefully curates learning materials that are aligned with his/her learning needs and interests.
Some characteristics of a prepared environment:
1. Curated according to the learning needs of the child
You would want to pick activities that you know your child will be interested in - either he's in the throes of mastering this skill or the topic selected is something that lights up his eyes.
As a start, if you're new to this whole thing, prepare 2-3 activities of varying levels of difficulty spanning across different subject areas (language, mathematics, art and craft, practical skills etc) so that your child is free to choose what piques his interest that day.
You curate the activities but your child has freedom to choose what he wishes to learn for that day.
The activities are presented in a way that the child is free to access them any time in the day. Pay attention to how high the materials are placed - Can your child see them comfortably at his eye-level? Are the materials within his reach? Does he have access to the tools that he needs? Is his work space safe from unwanted disruptions from younger siblings?
There are a few more features you have to take note of when creating this prepared space in your house but for now, these are a good place to start.
So, what's the big deal about the Prepared Environment and why should I care?
In the prepared environment set up in an ideal way, we would:
- already know what our child is interested in learning
- set up activities that pique his/her interests
- make the learning space so conducive, beautiful and inviting
- provide freedom and choice for him to choose what he wants to learn today, everyday
When the environment is set up, your child will be actively constructing his knowledge with the wonderful activities set up. Opportunities abound in his home for him to learn. He is no longer dependent on an adult's availability to teach him. He doesn't have to passively submit to what the adult decides what he should learn that day.
All these are decided by the child and he is his own active teacher. From a passive learner, he is transforming to be a self-directed learner, who searches out resources in his environment (in this case, the home) for him to construct his own knowledge. He becomes invested in his own education and takes ownership because it is all his own decision - no one forced him.
Can you see why this gets me so excited? This is the key to unlock the self-motivated, self-directed, life-long learner we talk about in education. And it all starts from the home. Your home.
By observing and respecting the child's development needs, by selecting materials that help him build that skill, by giving him time to explore and self-educate, we are gradually handing him the keys to be independent. Isn't that what our ultimate aim as parents should be? That we are daily building their self-confidence to manage and thrive on their own.
The prepared environment will look very different for children of different ages but if your goal is to train for independence, think of how you would structure the bedroom for your baby; the toileting area for your toddler; the study area for your kindergarteners; the kitchen for your primary schooler; the sewing / hardware tools and electrical spaces for your teenager?
Are we consciously training our kids for independence? Are we preparing the right environment to help them be independent and self-sufficient?
I hope I've challenged you a little to have this shift in perspective. If you're interested in trying your hand at setting up this prepared environment in your home, I have a 5-day challenge for you!
In this 5 day challenge, we are only attempting a sliver of the prepared environment - to create a learning corner/space for your child to learn independently. I hope you will join us!
Sign up below 👇
5-day challenge: Prepare A Prepared Corner Challenge starting on January 13 (Monday).
I hope you'll join us and see what setting up a prepared environment entails. It's not that hard! 😄 I'll be doing a theme on Chinese New Year 🧧 and it's super timely! You can follow what I'm doing or choose another theme!
See you in the challenge next week!
P.S. I'm sure you have many many burning questions! Just comment below and I'll get back to you!