|Social Behavior How to Walk Silently Silence Activity
The Montessori Environment My Montessori Background
Introduction to the House of Children
This is from the AMI Training in India, the Indian Montessori Training Course of 1970. The Director of the
Course was Mr. A.M. Joosten who had lived part of his life, from the age of 14, with Dr. Montessori. I have
made slight changes to the language because originally it was filled with ‘he’ ‘him’. I hope this is useful to
you, at least interesting.
All living beings need a vital environment, without this environment of life and for life, life cannot exist…
human beings must adapt the natural environment into a vital environment for themselves, an
environment which helps them follow their inner laws. It is the task of the adult to build this supranature.
The child is also a builder. They are the builder of themselves, which they must do first before being able
to directly contribute to the development of the supranature. As they are unable to construct their own
vital environment, the adult must do it for them, taking into account the child’s powers, task, capacities
and needs, realizing that they are totally different from the adult’s own.
The human being’s first environment is the home; it is the fundamental basis, the core. The second is the
child’s society. Until about the age of two and a half years, these two environments satisfy the child’s
needs. But then at about that age, the child begins to have new needs which cannot be satisfied by these
two environments alone. They are in need of a third environment, a workshop where they can work at
their development. This need for a third environment will continue throughout life.
This environment should be one where the child can continue to live their life. There they must get all
they need, prepared solely for them so they can work at their development in complete freedom in the
company of others doing the same work as they are doing. They should find nothing there that they do
not need. We call this environment the House of Children.
Besides the specially prepared environment and the means of development a specially trained and
prepared adult, trained specially for this service, specially trained for children from two and a half to six,
specially in relation to the scientific apparatus, specially in relation to understanding the needs of the
child to reveal himself. They must be there solely to help the child’s development.
There must also be a developmental community consisting of 20-45 children between the ages of two and
a half to six; between these ages they are all passing through the same period of development, though
their individual and peer needs will differ. It is only then that a social life is possible, that social give and
take is possible.
1. It should be quiet, conducive to concentration.
2. It should be clean; children are clean by nature, but we train them to be dirty for our own
3. It should be in a walkable distance for all the children.
4. There should be open space around the building for the outer environment.
The Main Articulations:
1. Inner part
3. Outer part
There should be no restrictions in movement between one and the others.
Sub-Articulations of the Outer Part:
1. It should be bounded by a low wall. If the wall is high, only the lower portion, about one and a half
meters should be colored. If the gate must be big, have a small child sized gate in it and make only that
part extra attractive.
2. The space should be distributed all around the house, and a minimum of twice the area of the
3. Signboard about two meters up. Don’t call it a Montessori House of Children until it is.
4. Decorative garden in front, where man has helped the plants to develop to their fullest.
a. A rich field for the child’s intelligent exploration.
b. Open up a whole field of activities, e.g., taking care of plant life.
c. It should contain a variety of paths, e.g., paved cement and bricks, flagstones, grassy, gravel, dirt,
d. A kitchen garden of different aromatic herbs
5. A sample of nature untouched by man.
a. Typical plants of the area
b. Plants that grow in different soils
c. Hierarchically different types of plant life
d. Plants that attract, invite their own type of animal life.
6. Means and stimulation for large bodily movements.
a. Balancing Beam: if it is metal it is sufficient that it be five centimeters high. Prepare the
environment so it tells the child where to get on and off, e.g., arrows. When you show how, “Get on when
they reach that line.” If a child is walking backwards they must wait until the first child crosses the second
line, the same if the child is walking with their eyes closed. If the child is walking backwards with their eyes
closed, the next child must wait until that child has crossed the third line.
b. Moveable Horizontal Bar (I don’t know what this is actually called): This needs no presentation
except perhaps showing how to change the level of the pole. There must be a stepping stool available.
c. (I’m not sure what this is)This can be made of metal, wood or cement-filled bamboo. Make sure it’s
on soft or grassy ground.
d. Swing: While sitting the child should be able to touch the ground with their toes. There can be a
net in front against which the child can give themselves a push. Along one side there should be a limit
beyond which the waiting children cannot pass. Let them work out how long they must wait.
i. A dead tree with spikes
ii. A rope ladder fixed at the top and bottom
iii. A rope ladder fixed only at the top
iv. A rope ladder made by tying knots in the rope
f. A low tool shed for their tools. Four to five sets of tools
g. Small wells with a bucket and pulley and rope. The cover can be made of gauze with a hole in the
center. There should be a dip in the well wall for the child to put their foot against while pulling water. The
tap should be hidden by plants on the back side of the well.
7. There should be space provided for doing inside activities outside
a. Outdoor mats
b. Rough hewn log benches and tables
8. Steps leading into the house with banisters 30-40 centimeters high, at the foot a wire mat and
some support so the child won’t lose their balance while wiping their feet. On the steps should be two
lines in two colors, one up and one down. On the top step should be a door mat.
If used only as a veranda it needs no special furniture only decorations. It should be all around the
building, at least in the front and wider in the back. If necessary it can serve many purposes, as a cloak
room, place for liberal use of water, where more room or light is necessary, for group presentations and
activities, for an eating area.
Sub-Articulations of the Inner Part:
1. The cloakroom where the children can leave what they don’t need inside, and can inspect and
rectify their appearance.
a. One double hook for each child. If there is no wall space you can make a stand.
b. A several layered shoe rack. The lowest level should be 10cm. from the floor; the top level not
more than one meter; a depth of 20 centimeters with 20 centimeters between each layer. Mark each shoe
area 20x20 centimeters with paint or thin wooden strips. The levels should slant forward at a 20degree
slant with a thin wooden strip in front to keep them from sliding. The indoor footwear (something soft) can
be kept here when not in use.
c. There should be a pigeon- hole arrangement for the child to keep other things they do not need
inside, e.g., snacks.
d. Each of the preceding must have some kind of indication to the child knows which is theirs.
e. There should be four different mirrors, a full child sized mirror, one for their head (neck and
above), one for the neck to knee, one for knees to feet, each at the appropriate level. With each mirror
should go what is necessary for rectification. There should be a long wash basin with two or three taps
fixed so that even if turned on full, only the necessary stream of water comes out.
2. The Living Room
i. Sitting mats can be kept in a three-sided compartment on the floor against a wall, as can working
mats, just to indicate the space.
ii. The low tables should be of three or four different types. They should be flat, as light as possible,
no rubber shoes, a variety of colors.
iii. The adult’s table must have a drawer
iv. The adult should have a sitting mat visibly different from the children’s which always remains at the
v. Each semi-circular table should have at least three legs
vi. A collapsible table fixed on the wall, 4.5 meters x 45 centimeters x 75 centimeters high.
vii. Chairs: criteria of perfection:
1. The child should be able to rest their feet comfortably on the floor
2. The small of the back should touch the back while sitting straight
3. The back of the knees should touch the front of the seat
4. If it’s an armchair – the forearms perpendicular and the upper arms parallel
5. The back should not reach his neck
viii. There should be three folders for each drawer, one for drawings, one for writing, one for
arithmetic. If the child wants to throw something away, have them show you first.
For further information refer to “Helping One Helping All (I) and “The Montessori House of Children.”
3. The Adult’s Room for the adult to leave their things, receive visitors, repair materials, for storage,
4. A dining place equipped with what is necessary for eating, i.e., tables, chairs, plates, bowls,
glasses, silverware, napkins.
5. Kitchen if possible
6. A quiet place for resting, if not a bedroom, at least a bed
7. A place for liberal use of water and for use of fire
8. A place for noisy activities, music dancing.
9. A quiet reading corner, screened off with low screens, maybe an aquarium
10. Bathroom: it should be kept immaculately clean and attractive, at least 4-5 toilets and cubicles.
There should be an indicator of some sort, e.g., string of beads which is hung on the door by the child
when the child goes in. there must be as many bathroom slippers as toilets. The toilet doors must be
closed from within as simply as possible, e.g./ hook and eye. The doors should cover only half the door
frame and with slits on each side. There must be a hook on the door for the indicator. There must be
hooks inside the toilet. If a child should need help go to the bathroom and help them inside. The toilet
should be proportionate to the child. There should be space on the sides of the seat to hold on to; their
feet should rest on the floor; there should be a back rest. There should be toilet bowl deodorizers. In the
anteroom there must be basins, soap, towels, searing for three-four children.
How to Beautify the House of Children
1. Colors: walls inside and out should be bright but not loud colors; all colors should go well together,
i.e., furniture, materials, decorations, etc.
2. Decorations: all decorations should be functional; let them represent cultural values, local,
regional, national, international; art objects, pictures: flora and fauna in natural habitat, people doing
things, humans throughout time. Also decorate according to seasonal interests; change the decorations
from time to time. Pictures should not hang more than one meter from the ground. There should be things
that stimulate caring for and exploration of the environment.
3. Aquarium - introduce new fish from time to time
4. Aqua –terrarium
7. Other animals in the outer environment