“If teaching is to be effective with young children, it must assist them to advance on the way to independence. It must initiate them into those kinds of activities, which they can perform themselves. We must help them to learn how to walk without assistance, to run, to go up and down the stairs, to pick up fallen objects, to dress and undress, to wash themselves, to express their needs, and to attempt to satisfy their desires through their own efforts.
All this is part of an education for independence. “…(The Discovery of the Child, MM, pg. 56~57) EPL is the abbreviation of Exercises of Practical Life .These exercises are simple daily actions which are normally performed by the adults in daily life, like washing, dressing, cleaning, brushing, eating, cooking and religious teachings and practices like how to pray, greet others, knock at the door, drink water etc . are all part of EPL. EPL for the children in growing and learning phase is important as they teach them the correct way to conduct daily routines of everyday life.
Practical life activities give the child an understanding of the environment and how it works. Two main purposes of practical life exercises:
• First is the dignity of work. In the past, the child had an opportunity in the home to fold clothes, pour water, fetch and sweep. As a result, children developed motor skills of grace and fluid movement at an early age. More importantly, children developed competent participation around the home and the rest of their environment.
• Second reason for the practical life exercises is to enable children to organize themselves as functional human beings. To do this we must begin by the time the child is two years old, primarily physical and primarily concerned with himself. We must help him to become master of himself and then he will be able to master other things. Below being discussed are few reasons why EPL should be encouraged: For independence and love for work: EPL helps children to become independent and confident. Parents at this stage should avoid to give superfluous help to the children, as they are required to do their work by themselves and they want adults to help them in doing thing not doing things for them. This love for work and independence increases self-esteem of the child and helps in making him a better adult for the society For happiness, self-satisfaction and self-respect: a child between the age of 0-3 loves to work and learns very quickly.
This time should be utilized properly and activities should be taught very seriously. Our attitude while teaching should be supportive and generous. In return we will create an adult who will be happy, self-satisfied and respectful to the society. For making the world a better place: beginning from the Montessori class the child learns that there is a place for everything and everything has a place. This same principle helps in making this world a better, organized and tidier place to live in. children by seeing their adult role models learn to place everything back to its original position. To attain Normality: In age of development child has certain strong urges If these urges are overcome by the adults and environment, developmental process gets disturbed and deviation occurs. Normality, on the other hand is a state in which all the urges of a child are being fulfilled and he is satisfied with his environment. Normality is the spiritual goal of EPL.
Learning to give and take help: EPL is extremely helpful in developing grace and courtesy in a child. The child learns how to ask for help or give him in a graceful manner. As adults these children learn to participate in household chores knowing that each one has to participate to run the home as a family. For passing on good habits: a child learns, idolizes and imitates his adults. If adults complain about work the child will automatically avoid all kind of work. Thus we need to pass on good work habits to create a positive attitude in the coming generations. For developing love of universe: a child develops love and care for the universe and all other life forms by doing exercises related to care of living things, care of the environment, exercises of grace and courtesy and exercises of personal care. He/she develops a personality of a person who is responsible and peaceful and who cares about everything. For perfection of movement: naturally a child is constantly on a move.
EPL exercises keep the child constantly on a move with interesting activities which help develop his movement and reflexes. For avoiding personality disorders: The child who really lacks confidence has lost the confidence and courage which every child starts with in the first years, reason is that his help was not acceptable to the mother or adult in charge. Children lose the urge to learn these skills by the second period of development. They like then to learn to cook, to use electric machines, but not to do things they should have learned earlier. Dr. Montessori called these “sensitive periods.” If this time of special sensitivity is not used, it is lost. It does not come again. We must go on to the next stage of learning. Thus we should provide maximum opportunities to the child during this phase to maximize his learning and development.