Montessori and the Importance of Order

Dr. Maria Montessori observed that children from birth to four and a half years have a sensitive period for order. Children during this age seek consistency in their  environment and their daily schedules. The external order with a defined schedule and consistency establish the internal order, and this a significant foundation of the intellect.

  • Schedules

When it comes to developing a schedule or daily routine with your child, consistency is very important. This allows the child to predict  what is going to happen next and creates a sense of security. For instance: eating breakfast, getting dressed, brushing his or her teeth and walking out the door to school on the same sequence every day will allow the child to envision what comes next. Subtle changes on the routine will seem off balance and many times children reflect this by crying, screaming, or being upset. In case there is a special reason to interrupt the routine, it is recommended to explain this to the child in advance and prepare them for it.

  • Role of the Adult

The main role of the adult is to be present in the child’s life, physically, mentally, and emotionally to aid in their development. All caregivers at home and at school must be a model in which the child can positively imitate. The adult must help guide the child through his or her life, giving the child the opportunity make choices, become independent, and always be consistent, being a stable entity in the child’s life, providing a sense of trust, security and love.  

The adult  observes and promotes independence in the environment avoiding intervention in the process. If a child spills something, it is not the adult job to rush over and clean it up, it is their job to wait and observe. If there is no safety issue then it is appropriate to allow the child to solve the problem on his or her own.

It is necessary for the adult to model respect and value toward the materials. The materials support and provide meaningful learning experiences, helping children acquire self-discipline and self- reliance by becoming aware of their mistakes and achievements.

  • Furniture and elements in the environment

We must take time to think about the organization of the space where the child will be working.

Does it makes sense? Is it simple and functional? Is it beautiful?

Laying out the furniture in an open plan, encourages the child to move from area to area to learn with plenty of natural lighting, the use of soft lighting from lamps will give it a feeling of home.

The elements of the environment should be in good shape and clean. Plants will soften the environment not only to provide fresh oxygen but to make it feel cozy as well. Real artwork or reproductions to decorate the wall will encourage the child to appreciate the beauty of art.

Children's’ sense of order is far more intense than ours and having the materials set up everyday in the same place will provide them the confidence that it will be there when needed. Giving children the access to low shelves, tables and chairs allow them to actively participate in the order of their environment.

Children enjoy being in a simple environment that fosters concentration and peace.  They thrive because they are able to satisfy their need of order without the help from the adult.

“The love of order in children not the same as that of adults. Order provides an adult with certain amount of external pleasure. But for the small children it is something quite different. It is like the land upon which animals walk or the water in which fish swim. In their first year they derive their principles of orientation from their environment which they must later master. And since a child is formed by his environment, he has need for precise and determined guides and not simply some vague constructive formula”

Maria Montessori, “The Secret of Childhood”, p. 53

Jared Brasher