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Lockdown Day 94 – Favourable Environment

Adult Post

During the pandemic and its lockdown, teachers and parents alike have been scrambling to adjust to new routines, home schooling, digital schooling and now masked-and-sanitised schooling. These are very different times and with many added pressures and stresses.

It is easy during times like these to start to ‘sweat the small stuff’ and forget about the bigger picture. Parents and teachers are anxious about the children’s learning. This is understandable, but for preschool children also not completely necessary.

We have shown over the last 93 days the many different ways in which children can learn without having to be in a school building. This is not a long-term solution as children do need the preschool experience and the company of their peers. There are however not going to be any long-term ill-effects of the children being ‘educated’ at home during this time.

Whether the child is at home or going back to ‘pandemic-school’, this is a good opportunity to remind ourselves of two of the six characteristics that Maria Montessori felt made up a favourable environment for children’s natural development in the first six years of their lives – structure and order, and freedom.


Maria Montessori believed structure and order to be a key human tendency. As a species, we are programmed to need to make sense of our world and existence. We instinctively seek to order any new information in our brains, just as we seek to order and orientate ourselves in our daily living (where we fit into our families, communities, cities, provinces, countries and ultimately the world).

During this time, where there is so much ‘disorder’ in our lives, it is vitally important to protect the child’s sense of security by upholding the consistency and predictability of the structure and order of her/his life.

Consider that the child can only feel secure in her/his world when s/he feels that s/he has some level of ‘control’ over it. One way of feeling such control happens when we are able to predict what will happen next. This prediction is based on our previous experiences. When that prediction comes true, we can begin to rely on it. In relying on it we develop trust, and from trust comes security.

Whether you are at home with your child, or whether the child is back at school, the adults need to carefully consider how they can ensure that the child’s routines and experiences are kept consistent.


The concept of freedom is the most widely misunderstood and misinterpreted aspect of the Montessori philosophy. When Montessori said that children needed freedom, she did not mean this to be unadulterated and unlimited freedom. She in fact made a very clear point in her writings that this type of freedom should be reserved for cats and lizards only! The freedom we speak about in Montessori circles is a freedom that allows the child to follow her/his inner needs and urges to move, speak, touch, explore and follow her/his interests. This is important so that the child can develop and adapt to her/his time, place and culture.

This freedom, however, is LIMITED. The limitations of freedom are the rules of the society within which the child finds her/himself. This is why Montessori classrooms have strict and consistent Ground Rules that govern their spaces. Within these rules, the children have freedom of choice, speech, movement etc. Can you see how this links to the structure and order we described above?

Parents – consider how this is done in your homes. Create a set routine for your children with consistent ground rules. These ground rules need to apply to all within that space. We will explore this concept further in tomorrow’s post. Within these consistent structures, the child can then have room to follow her/his own instincts and needs.

Teachers – the proposed Standard Operating Procedures that have been issued by the Department of Social Development for preschools will have an impact on the way that our Montessori classrooms run. The freedoms that the children have become used to will have to be curtailed in certain areas. When planning to accommodate these restrictions, please keep in mind the importance of structure and order, and consider how the children can still be allowed to exercise as many of the necessary freedoms that support their natural development. This is where your own critical and creative thinking skills are going to be put to good use!

We need to bear in mind that in ‘sweating the small stuff’ we often forget about the bigger developmental picture.

We are going to end this post by leaving you with this question:

How much of what you have been pushing for in terms of work packets, colouring-in sheets, cutting and pasting, and worrying about the number of hours that the child is sat at a table doing ‘school’ has really spoken to the child’s internal needs and overall sense of well-being?

Many schools are now on holiday. Remember to enjoy this time with your children. Play in the rain. Get wet. Jump in the puddles. Snuggle up and tell stories.

Just be.


Find all of our lockdown tips here –