Watching a child grow is fascinating. The most ordinary, everyday routine things that we know without thinking and can do without trying, are for the child new discoveries and engaging, joyous challenges. Everyday practices such as preparing food, dressing oneself, cleaning, habitual courtesies, and more are for the child new, maybe daunting, exciting tasks that are visibly part of the human world and that are empowering to master.
A trademark of the Montessori method is that it takes full advantage of the child’s motivation to learn these things at a very young age. The practical life curriculum in Montessori provides a scope for these everyday routines. The Montessori elevates and empowers the child in her pursuit of these skills. Practical life in Montessori is purposeful activity, develops motor control and coordination, and develops independence, concentration, and a sense of responsibility. The exercises in practical life cover two main areas of development: care of self, and care of the environment.
What are practical life activities?
Practical life activities are applicable for all ages, even infants, and change depending on what the child can do at each stage of their development. The activities can start with something as simple as pulling pants up or washing hands and can get as complicated as baking a dessert, or developing a business plan in primary or middle school years.
Why are practical life activities necessary?
When presented as approachable, these activities hold great dignity. It’s not “just” getting dressed or “just” juicing an orange. The child is learning to follow a complex motor sequence, independently, in order to fulfill his or her own desires and needs. These skills, when taught early in life, allow children to believe in themselves as well as develop the self-discipline needed for success throughout their lives.
What types of practical life activities are there?
These activities provide the means for children to become physically independent. Activities in this area may include learning to wash one’s hands or learning to put on one’s clothing. For an 18-month-old, it could be as simple as assisting in pulling up his own pants, but for a primary student, it could be packing their lunch or an overnight bag.
Care of the Environment
Keeping a clean, orderly classroom is important in a Montessori environment. The practical life activities teach children how to take care of the space around them. This can be physically cleaning to appreciating one’s environment. These activities may include how to set the table, how to clean dishes, or how to water and care for plants.
There are multiple layers to these activities! They may seem straightforward and repetitive, but a lot is going on under the surface.
For children, these activities are multi-step processes that pave the way for a problem-solving mindset and a fulfilling experience. Also, there are often subtle curricular integrations within these tasks. Washing a table has an immediate purpose because the child is learning to clean up after herself. There is also an indirect purpose because the child learns to wash, in a Montessori classroom, from left to right, and then top to bottom, creating habituating motor control and attention in the direction of reading and writing.
In doing practical life activities, the child develops a high level of concentration, develops a sense of order, takes pride in completing a task and increases their independence. At Five Star Montessori, we are committed to the all-encompassing development of your children. They are our future, we treasure them.
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