A simple task such as washing the dishes or preparing food can seem like just another mundane task to tick off your to-do list. However, your child might view things a little differently, seeing these tasks as new and exciting challenges they want to imitate.
As Dr. Maria Montessori noted: “Imitation is the first instinct of the awakening mind.”
A major pillar within Montessori is the Practical Life Curriculum, which takes advantage of your child’s need to learn these everyday activities. These activities give your child the space and sequence to learn and complete these daily routines and practices.
What is Practical Life?
Every aspect of Montessori offers your child the opportunity to learn how to be an independent, productive and well-functioning person in our world. Practical Life activities build on this, providing a holistic approach to fine-tuning their motor skills, self-regulation, concentration, independence and self-esteem.
These activities go beyond children learning to sweep or prepare food but help them build invaluable skills that will help them later in life.
Why is Practical Life Important?
The starting block for the Practical Life curriculum is teaching young children how to take care of themselves and their environment. Peeling an orange or tying shoes may be mundane tasks for an adult, but for a child witnessing these activities in ”real life,” it sparks a sense of joy and curiosity that makes them want to mimic these activities.
Practical Life not only teaches children how to complete these activities to the best of their abilities, but it provides them with the opportunity to follow complex motor sequences to meet their desires and needs. When done in the early stages of a child’s development, it allows them to acquire belief in themselves and cultivate a sense of self-discipline that provides a foundation for success.
While many may ask the question: “Why not place more focus on academic skills such as Math and reading?” It’s important to note the value the Practical Life curriculum brings to these academic practices. With Math and reading, you need the ability to focus, to complete an activity from start to finish, to find value in your mistakes, and to persist through the challenges. These life lessons are taught during the process of Practical Life.
These activities are divided into four main groups:
- Care of Self: This includes dressing, hand washing, sewing, food preparation, and putting on clothes.
- Care of the Environment: Sweeping, cloth washing, plant watering, and dusting.
- Grace and Courtesy: Greeting people, blowing your nose, offering help to others, serving food to others, waiting to be served at the table and statements such as please, thank you, and you’re welcome.
- Basic Procedures: Pouring, spooning, wiping a spill, opening and closing containers.
There are a range of benefits to this Montessori principle. Practical Life activities teach children how to complete tasks and develop the ability to organise and cultivate self-discipline and a belief in themselves – all crucial aspects of life and the academic world. Most importantly, practical life lessons help teach children that their actions can change the world.