The activities found in this area of the classroom provide real life experiences for children. The exercises in Practical Life provide purposeful activity, develop motor control and coordination, develop independence, concentration, and a sense of responsibility.
Practical Life activities are the activities of everyday life and they are involved in all aspects of life. The child observes these activities in the environment and gains knowledge through the real experience of how to accomplish life skills in a purposeful way.
There are mainly four areas of practical life in the Montessori classroom.
- Preliminary Activities – These activities provide the foundation and set the stage for all works in the Montessori classroom. These include such tasks as how to roll and unroll a mat, how to walk around a mat, how to sharpen a pencil, how to put down a chair, and walking on the line.
- Care of Self – These activities provide the means for children to become physically independent. These may include such activities as how to wash hands, how to brush teeth, how to pack a lunch, how to pack an overnight bag, and how to tie shoes.
- Care of the Environment – Learning how to clean is very important in the Montessori classroom. These activities may include how to set the table, how to clean dishes and cutlery, how to sweep the floor, how to dust the shelves, how to water the plants, and how to clean up spills.
- Social Graces and Courtesies – These activities are not found on the shelves. Rather, the Montessori teacher introduces social graces and courtesies such as how to shake hands, saying please and thank you, how to interrupt someone, and how to cough and sneeze.
Practical Life activities should be taken very seriously. The child works patiently, with reverence. This is her work and it is important that it is respected as such.
Math, reading, and language all require one to have the ability to focus, to be able to complete a task with logical and sequential steps, to concentrate, to make intelligent choices, and to see a task from start to finish. This is precisely the intent of the Practical Life activities
SOME EXAPLES OF PRACTICAL LIFE ACTIVITIES.
The Pouring/Transferring Activities
This activity serves multiple purposes, just like most materials in the Montessori classroom. Firstly, children are inherently attracted to water activities. They love the process of pouring, washing, and transferring water. A child’s concentration may be engaged for long periods of time, simply by pouring liquid from one container to another, and back again.
Grasping a handle and pouring water or grains helps children develop fine motor control. These simple activities isolate single skills children will later need, in combination, for more complex processes. One principle behind the activities Montessori designed was that “control of error” be evident. Children learn to correct themselves in their work, eliminating the need for adults to point out mistakes. In this spirit, most of the pitchers and dishes we offer are breakable.
Their fine motor skills are refined as they carefully manipulate the vessel. They must not pour too fast, or the water will spill. They need to tip it just enough to start the flow of water. It’s a delicate balance, but once achieved, children love this activity!
The Dressing Frames
The Dressing Frame is a key Montessori Practical Life material which helps children to develop independence and care of self as they learn to fasten different clothing implements.
These frames hold material and different types of fasteners which children may encounter while dressing. They include:
- Zipping Frame
- Bow Frame
- Large Buttoning Frame
- Small Buttoning Frame
- Lacing Frame
- Velcro Frame
- Buckling Frame
- Hook and Eye Frame
- Snapping Frame
- Safety Pin Frame
The Dressing Frames primary purpose is to teach children how to dress themselves through mastering different clothing fasteners. This process also tests a child’s hand eye coordination and fine motor skills, as they work with each material. Children are first introduced to the Large Buttoning Frame and Zip Frame from the age of two, and as their skill level builds they are challenged with harder implements
The Lacing Activities
These activities extends the benefits of the dressing frames, the child’s eye-hand coordination is further tested. Most importantly, concentration is targeted with this practical life activity as the child slowly locates and passes the tread through the holes. Mainly a child works to perfect her skills and master the activity. Her purpose is not so much to complete the task as it is to construct herself.