I am back with some tips for a Montessori Home. This time we will talk about Practical Life activities.
What is Practical Life and why do children need it? you might wonder.
This area of work is the first one in a Montessori classroom, the first one to be shown and also the one that children seem to seek naturally. This is one we can make happen easily in our home life.
Work from Practical Life assists the development of the whole being, physical, mental and moral and its different types of activities help developing the child as a whole.
It involves a ‘practical’ aspect since the activities are activities from daily life i .e dusting, washing, carrying and so on. However, « their aim is not a practical one. Emphasis should be laid not on the word ‘practical’ but the word ‘life’ ». Maria Montessori
It is going to help for the integration of the human personality through meaningful purposeful work. It is also about achieving practical skills.
Here are the purposes behind Practical Life activities:
–Orientation and adaptation : the child needs activities to make sense and help him adapt to his surroundings, the social habits of his environment and so on. In order to attain that, the child needs to be able to find some consistency in his surroundings, he needs habits, things that will not change in order to fulfill his inner need for order. Later on, thanks to this environment he can count on, he will develop an ability to abstract and adapt to change.
–Control of movement: Through Practical life activities, the child works towards mastery of movement (both gross motor and fine motor skills are developed) in order to attain certain goals i.e. carrying a tray without anything falling from it, pouring water without dropping any on the table, moving his chair without noise. These practices of control of movement and being able to handle fragile objects leads the child to self-esteem and dignity. Knowing you can control your self in a real life setting, realizing you can adapt to your environment and master this one gives a high sense of satisfaction to the child. The body serves the mind and vice and versa.
–Development of independence: The child should be using his own willpower and acquire his own physical independence, he has to learn how to be self-sufficient and he will do it through some of these activities. The adult need to leave the child able to work with no interruption, so he can create his independence. This independence is not only a physical or even material one but also a intellectual, spiritual independence. As Maria Montessori said:
« We have to help the child act, will and think for himself ».
As Kahlil Gibran says in his poem On Children, « they are the sons and daughters of life’s longing for itself[…] you may give them your love but not your thoughts, for they have their own thoughts ». This resonates with me as how to see the children, my own, or the one I guide through their path of learning and becoming the adults of tomorrow.
–Development of concentration: Concentration happens only if the human being can focus on a task and maintain this focus over time to the point of concentration. First, to get to concentrate on an activity, this one needs to attract us, hence the beautiful material prepared by the adult. This beauty and attractive material will create an interest needed to focus on a task. It helps keeping the attention on this work and concentrate. Will is showing in choice of activity. It has to come from the child, therefore, it is important to respect the child’s freedom to choose his activity. If he is not willing to work/play with something, then he will not be able to focus and then concentrate on this activity.
AND NOW FOR SOME IDEAS OF PRACTICAL LIFE ACTIVITIES you can have in your home!!! List non-exhaustive, I give more to the families I work with over time.
3 places I find are great for practical life work are :
the kitchen: washing hands at the sink (provide a learning tower or step stool, depending on the age of your child), pouring their own drink (glass and water should be ready for them on a shelf), setting up the table (it can start as early as they can walk, they love helping), transferring anything to a bowl – for the sake of it sometimes or to help with preparing a meal. I also like to have a sponging activity so they can transfer water from one bowl to another via the sponge (cut for the size of their hands), it is a great strengthening activity for the hand and it’s fun. Sweeping is a must and it can be done anywhere in the house. Washing the dishes or loading and unloading the dishwasher, cleaning, wiping the table and chairs, washing fruits and veggies (there is special brushes for these), slicing a banana, opening individual cheese, transferring anything with a spoon… the list goes on and on.
Our daughter at 11 months standing in/on her learning tower.
COOKING is also a fun activity ! Prepare things measured up first and they can do the rest and mix it up.
The bathroom and laundry room: washing hands at the sink (again a step stool or tower will help or have a station ready with a pitcher of water for them to fill a big bowl where they can wash their hands + soap it’s so much fun once they are past the oral stage), brushing their teeth (have a station next to the washing hands station for a cup with toothpaste and toothbrush ready to go), transferring laundry from basket to machine and vice and versa, matching socks, folding clothes…
Outside: watering the plants and garden, sweeping the patio, raking leaves, using a shovel (their size) to make a hole in order to plant seedlings and seeds, carrying wood, branches, shoveling snow…
FOR A FEW MORE:
- tearing paper (page from an old newspapers or ads)
- cleaning windows
- make the bed
- opening, closing containers (can start very early before they stand up)
- nuts and bolts
- locks and keys (can be done early id you tie the key to the lock)
- pouring grain, water
- using scissors
If you have any questions about how to set up the activities, don’t hesitate to ask!