Setting Up a Montessori Environment
Here is a general outline for how to set up a Montessori environment! I did receive a lot of comments about what to do if you have limited space, or if you have few if any sturdy bookshelves, or if you live in a small home.
Here's what I did: When my son was born, we lived in a small apartment with stairs so I did a lot of rotating and I also used a lot of floor space (I lined up activities on the floor along the walls and stairs).
Rotating means taking out activities and replacing them with other activities. So if my son was bored with certain activities, or showed no interest, I rotated them out and put other ones in their place.
And I kept the activities stored in large storage boxes that were stacked on top of eachother (I had to put gates around them to keep my son from climbing on them!).
Art area: use at least one shelf for your art materials, including paper, scissors, glue, hole puncher, string, pop sickle sticks, markers, colored pencils, collage basket, water colors, etc. You will also need a drying rack nearby for placing wet art projects to dry.
Circle time area: have a rug area available for circle time that is near a wall to place your calendar on. You will need a record player that you can easily access, along with any musical instruments, costumes, and or props for the children to access.
The shelves should be eight to ten feet long, if possible, one low shelf on the floor, and another one above that, with about two feet, or more, between the shelves.
Language area: you will need at least two shelves for your language activities. The shelves should be eight to ten feet long, if possible, one low shelf on the floor, and another one above that, with about two feet, or more, between the shelves.
Your language activities can be placed on the shelf from left to right in sequence from easiest to hardest. The Movable Alphabet, however, should be on a low shelf. You will also want to place your early reader books in the language area.
Math area: it is always best to have the math materials next to a large rug or carpeted area. You will need at least two shelves for your math activities.
Place your math activities on the shelf from left to right in sequence from easiest to hardest, place your math activities in the same group.
For example, from left to right on the shelf, math activity number one will be the number rods, number two will be the sandpaper numbers, number three will be the spindle boxes, number four will be the cards and counters, and number five will be the color bead stair. These are all counting from one to ten activities and should be grouped together.
Plants and animals are a nice addition to the environment, and daily/weekly jobs or tasks can be given for their care. You can place your pets in the zoology section, if you wish, and your plants in the botany area. Practical life activities can be created and kept nearby for their care (watering plants, feeding animals, etc.).
Practical life area: you will need at least two shelves for your practical life activities for ages 3-6, and they should be close to the sink, if possible, to have easy access to water. Place your PL activities on the shelf from left to right in sequence from easiest to hardest, place your PL activities in the same group.
For example, place three dry pouring activities side by side, from left to right on the shelf. Pouring activity number one will have large pasta, number two will have beans, number three will have rice, and number four will have water.
Snack table: have a table and two chairs set up with a snack basket on it, some napkins, and perhaps a table cloth and vase with flowers.
Writing area: the writing area should have a table and chairs, along with paper and writing supplies (pencils, erasers, metal insets, sandpaper letters, various types of writing paper, chalkboards, and chalk) on a nearby shelf.
Other areas to include in your environment: geography area along with cultural subjects, botany and zoology area, science area, sensorial area (for ages 3-6), and cleaning materials near the sink (sponge, towel, hand soap, whisk broom, laundry basket).
Books: You can also have a book/library area with books for the children to look at, and a pillow to sit on. It is recommended that young children who can read take their reading book to a table and sit in a chair.
Computer: some Montessori classrooms have a computer, and if you choose to add one to your environment, put it in a quieter area, and away from the sink, bathroom, and snack area.
Higher shelves can have the more complex materials, that is, materials for older children who can reach them; and the lowest shelves can have the simple materials for younger children ages two to three.
Mats and rugs: place a storage box or basket with mats (all of the same color) in a central location, and rugs can be laying flat nearby, or rolled up in a large basket.
Puzzles: puzzles can be added to each area according to subject matter. For example, an alphabet puzzle goes in the language area, and an animal puzzle goes in the zoology area.
Shoes and jackets: have hooks or cubbies near the door for jackets, extra clothes, and shoes: some classrooms have the children where "inside shoes" or slippers. You can also have a boot and raincoat rack near the door to the outside for rainy days, working in the garden, etc.
Task board: A daily or weekly task board can be created, with the name or the picture of the task next to the name of the child (whose task it is for that day or week). Some tasks can include: dusting the bead work, watering plants, feeding fish, emptying dead flowers in the vase, as well as outside tasks.
The adult's place: position one chair at each end of your classroom or homeschool room so that you can watch an observe the children working, and so that your view is not obstructed. Sit in your chair while the children work, moving away only to give a lesson or help a child if needed. The child, however, should learn how to come to you and ask for help.
You may also be interested in my Montessori and homeschool programs and PDFs at Montessori for the Earth.