Most children are passionately interested in practical life activities because the activities respond to all the sensitive periods (important periods of childhood development). Practical life activities build a foundation on which the children will grow and carry over into the other areas of the classroom, and over in to their every day life. The Montessori Practical Life exercises respond to the need for: Order of activities (sequences, routine, hierarchy, a cycle or full rotation of an activity) Movement. All practical life activities involve great movements that are varied and attractive. The variety of movements help the child’s self-awareness within the environment and increase the child’s acquisition of intelligent movement. Sensorial exploration (sights, sounds, smells, and eventually language). Needs and tendencies are responded to, to help the children adapt so that they can actively participate and grown within their environment. A child’s love of work. Practical life activities feed their natural desire to work and play an active role in their environment.
Practical Life Lessons Guide Children
1. Construction and integration of the child’s personality through their freedom of choice, and through the variety of their choices. Freedom of choice is necessary for the healthy development of the will.
2. Spontaneous purposeful activity that is only possible when children are allowed to exercise their curiosity through repetition. It is only through repetition that abstraction is possible. This abstraction brings about a feeling of completion for the growing child.
3. Development of co-ordination of movement. The child thinks of the activity, wills himself to the activity, and then does the activity.
4. Development of the physical, mental, and emotional aspects of the child.
5. Purposeful movement that helps the development of the mind, and a sense of achievement. The development of the child’s mind, movement, and senses will in turn, develop the will.
6. Concentration. The child will concentrate on completing an activity as perfectly as possible; all activities are intelligible, logical, sequential, and exact. Children will internalize this and try to repeat the exercises as perfectly as possible; all exercises have a motive for perfection.
7. Orderly work habits. The children need to internalize presentations in an orderly manner in order to reproduce it in an orderly manner.
8. The practical life exercises develop logical thought through the definite logic in the exercises. There is a beginning, middle, and end to each exercise.
9. The exercises give the children a sense of responsibility from the result of freedom (freedom which is a result of co-ordination of movement and awareness of the environment). Children have the freedom and ability to exercise their will within their environment.
10. Social development. All of the practical life exercises teach the children grace, courtesy, patience, and respect. These elements of social development are re-enforced through the actions of the other children and through the actions of the teacher.
11. Establish a sense of reality, rooted in real activities (nothing is make-believe). Exercises are lucid, logical, and realistic. This helps the children pursue reality. If an activity is not meaningful and purposeful than the mind cannot develop or construct itself.
12. Emotional stability helps the children become familiar with the real world and their environment. It builds self-esteem, and through that, their dignity will flourish. Materials and activities are therapeutic, meaning the mind and body work together.
Scope and Sequence of the Montessori Practical Life area
Before beginning you must observe the child, know what kind of activities they are drawn to, and understand their current skills and abilities. Not all children will be capable of each activity in the order it is shown below. The order below is a guideline only – not a steadfast rule. It is possible to skip over certain activities as long as the next activity the child chooses does not require knowledge/skill that the child does not yet have. The key is to follow the child and offer appropriate activities according to their abilities. The goal is always to set the child up for success. That’s not to say that the child won’t have to work through an activity and repeat it over and over again before being successful. The child needs to be adequately prepared for the activity, physically and mentally. And last, but not least, adults must use their own judgment and decide if an activity is safe for the child.
Many practical life activities do not require expensive ‘Montessori materials’ to be effective. As well, practical life activities will vary from culture to culture. You can read Practical Life Lessons and Practical Life FAQ’s for more information.
If you are homeschooling your child and wish to have a little more theory and direction on the presentation of Practical Life materials you can purchase our Practical Life Teaching Manual.