The following is the text from this section of the 2009-2010 edition of The Joyful Child, Montessori from Birth to Three. To see other sections of this publication return to: http://www.michaelolaf.com/JCcontents.html
General Environment Principles
Here are some things to keep in mind when organizing a child's environment.
(1) Participation in Family Life: Even from the very first days invite the child into the life of the family. In each room—the bedroom, kitchen, dining room, living room, front hall, and so forth have a mobile for the infant, or a basket or shelves for the young child, to store the few carefully chosen belongings, and a special mat or rug for him to "work" on developing abilities.
(2) Independence: The child's message to us at any age is "Help me to do it myself." Supporting this need shows respect for and faith in the child. Think carefully about family activities in all areas of the home, and arrange each space to support independence. A twin mattress for the child's bed; clothing cubby, coat tree, or low clothing rod or hook wherever the child dresses or undresses (front hall, bathroom, bedroom, etc.); a stool or bench for removing shoes and boots; inviting shelves for books, dishes, toys.
(3) Belongings: This brings up a very important point. It is too much for anyone to care for or enjoy belongings when there are too many out at one time. In preparing the home environment for a child, have a place to keep clothing, toys, and books that are not being used. Rotate these when you see the child tiring of what is out on the shelf, in the book display, or toy basket. Have just a few pieces of clothing available to the child to choose what to wear each day, just a few toys that are enjoyed, and only a few favorite or new books to look at.
(4) Putting Away & The Sense of Order: "Discipline" comes from the same word as "disciple" and our children become disciplined only by imitating us; just as we teach manners such as saying "thank you" by modeling this for our children instead of reminding, we can teach them to put away their books and toys only by gracefully and cheerfully doing it over and over in their presence.
People are always amazed at how neat and beautiful a good Montessori class appears. This is not because the teacher is imposing her own order on the child, but because she is satisfying the strong sense of order of the child.