The Montessori philosophy can be thought of as a triangle with three key components, the child, the prepared environment and the adult (parent/educator).  The adult is the link between the child and the environment.  The adult prepares the environment for the child, they are the link between the child and the environment they observe, interpret and model for the child.  The child from birth to 3 years old is in their period of unconscious absorbent mind.  During this period the child has sensitive periods for language, order and movement.  The sensitive periods are defined as periods when children have the ability to absorb and learn very quickly.  When a child is in a sensitive period for language they can absorb language very quickly and in a sensitive period for movement they can learn from moving.   The prepared environment contains materials from several areas including: practical life, sensorial, language, cognitive development, art, music, movement and outdoor materials. 

In the Montessori philosophy of education the prepared environment is important because it is the means by which the child learns.  According to Maria Montessori, “The principal agent is the object itself and not the instruction given by the teacher.  It is the child who uses the objects; it is the child who is active not the teacher.”  (Montessori Discovery 149)  The teacher prepares and maintains the environment.  The characteristics of the prepared environment include physical, social, mental, emotional, and spiritual characteristics.  The elements of these characteristics of the environment include: natural light, fresh air, space, proper temperature, safety, beauty, child sized, order, motives of activity (learning materials), freedom, social interactions, language interactions, atmosphere of validation, positive interactions, reality, and to meet the needs of the whole child.

Dr. Maria Montessori developed a detailed philosophy of child development.  The Montessori Method is the result of her experience and it relies on the child’s natural ability to learn.  Children learn certain traits very quickly, during “sensitive periods”, and she developed an environment with materials to capitalize on these sensitive periods.  Dr. Maria Montessori postulated children have “absorbent minds”, that is, they learn from their environment through their senses or that they absorb knowledge by interacting with their environment.  She felt the environment should be prepared by the adult and that the role of the adult in the environment is to observe the child.  She saw the adult as a facilitator between the child and the environment.  The environment is structured so the child has the freedom of choice and movement.  Although, along with this freedom comes limits.  The environment was also developed with several characteristics of physical and psychological health.