The Children’s House is the name that Dr Montessori gave to the specially prepared environment for children between 3 and 6 years of age. It is an environment which has been prepared with great care for this age group. It has the warm atmosphere of a home. It is clean, beautiful, and very tidy!
“Adults admire their environment; they can remember it and think about it; but the child absorbs it. The things he sees are not just remembered; they form part of his soul. He incarnates in himself all in the world about him that his eyes see and his ears hear. In us, the same things produce no change, but the child is transformed by them.”Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind (1949)
Children will find the same ‘corners’ that they have at home: a corner to work in, to read, to eat, to get dressed in, as well as a garden in which they can play, observe nature and care for plants. Children of mixed ages, between 3 and 6 live together, just as they would at home, each one having the space they need for their individual development. They have the opportunity to work independently, or to work together in small groups, choosing amongst all the interesting and challenging activities that their class offers. With the discreet guidance of their teachers, the children are free to organise their day, following their own rhythm and choosing work which correpsonds to their interests and abilities.
A small community
The Children’s House, is like a society in miniature − a small community with children of mixed ages, each one going about his work independently, with many opportunities to practice social skills. The younger children are inspired by the work the older ones do, and often they will sit and watch them with great admiration! The older ones on the other hand really enjoy ‘teaching’ the younger ones all the things that they have discovered! The children come to respect the fact that each child has different abilities, so they learn to wait, to ask for help and to offer it when needed. They learn to live together not in competition, but in a spirit of cooperation with love, patience and understanding.
One of the reasons why this small community can function so harmoniously is because clear and consistent limits have been set by the teachers. These limits help children feel safe so they are able to function independently and express themselves freely and confidently.