Montessori Materials: Practical Life
The Montessori Practical Life is the basic area in the Montessori curriculum as it is intended to prepare the child to handle all other activities within the program. Exercises in this area aim to make the child learn to work with order, coordination, concentration, and independence. The child learns here the skills needed for daily practical living.
Practical life Montessori materials aim to help in the growth and development of a child’s intellect and focus on activities which in the end will help the development of the child’s orderly way of thinking. Montessori materials in this area serve as the foundation in learning how to care for oneself and the environment.
The process of learning practical life skills in the Montessori system is broken down into independent progressive steps. Not much verbal explanations are given but the children observe the movements that are calculated and well-defined, making it easy for the children to catch on and do an accurate imitation of the activities.
Practical life Montessori materials calls for demonstration by the teacher to ensure responsible and correct use of the activities. Children will not be rushed from one activity group to the next as there is always the emphasis that they will progress from one level to the next at their own individual pace.
Practical Life exercises in the Montessori system are divided into four different groups, namely: Preliminary Applications, Applied Applications, Grace and Courtesy, and Control of Movement. Exercises for each group are designed and corresponding Montessori materials are utilized in order that the children will easily grasp the ideas that are being introduced to them.
Preliminary Application Exercises
In the Preliminary Exercises, the child is introduced to the basic movements in the society such as carrying, folding, and pouring. In any of these exercises, the teacher prepares the needed material, such as a mat or a chair for carrying, a towel for folding, and cups or mugs and cereal for pouring. The teacher will then invite around 4 children to participate in the lesson and tell them that she will show them something. The teacher will let the children sit where they can see what she is going to do and proceed with the demonstration of the activity in a very clear and methodical way, emphasizing each step to take. Once the teacher has demonstrated the entire series of steps in the exercise, each child in the group will be asked to do the same exercise.
The different exercises need Practical Life Montessori materials that will help make the learning process easier and faster for the children.
Applied Application Exercises
The child learns the practical care and maintenance needed in the everyday life. The activities will include the following:
- Washing of Hands
- Tying Shoe Laces and Putting on Buttons
- Care of Clothes
- Basic Cleaning such as dusting
- Sweeping indoor and outdoor
Practical life Montessori materials and exercises will also involve a demonstration by the teacher to a group of children. The activity is to be shown in a manner where each step is clearly demonstrated before proceeding to the next one. The demonstration must be very detailed so that the group of children observing it do not miss any single step. The exercises must also instill in the minds of the children the importance of what they are doing in order for them to make it part of their everyday activities
Part of the Applied Application activities also includes teaching the children the basic rules in the classroom such as:
- Cleaning up as part of the cycle of work or activity
- Caring for the pets and plants in the classroom
- Caring for the books and other properties in the classroom
- Handling of classroom materials
- Taking care in movements within the classroom
- Use of floor mats as work space
Grace and Social Skills Exercises
Montessori education recognizes the child’s need to know and understand the structure of the society he is growing into in order to be comfortable in his environment. Exercises in grace and social skills equip the child the needed vocabulary and skills necessary to be aware and be responsive to the people around him, giving him a better understanding of his role in the social structure.
Grace and social skills lessons and exercises are usually given to a group of children, allowing them to have an understanding of how to place themselves with the other members of the group. The aim is to make each child absorb the right vocabulary to be used in a given environment so that life will be pleasant for him and the other members of the group. Repeated exercises will make each child incorporate the graces and social skills into the everyday life. The child will learn to introduce oneself, shake hands of people or welcome guests, make requests in a polite manner, apologize when doing something wrong, work in cooperation with others, practice table manners, and other practices that are expected of any individual living in a civilized society.
Control of Movement Exercises
A child between the ages of 3 to 6 has not perfected nor consolidated yet his body’s movement. Practical life Montessori materials provide exercises that will help the child control his body movements, develop balance, and strengthen mind control over body movements.
Exercises in this area can include the Silence Game where the children in the classroom can be trained to exercise their self-control by keeping silent for a duration of time. This can be done only when the child have already developed good movement coordination, developed a strong will and an awareness of himself and others in the class. This will be a very difficult exercise at the beginning and the teacher must point out to the children when they failed to achieve silence.
There are a lot of exercises that can be performed in order to develop control of movement such as asking the children to stand in line while keeping equal distance from each other. Music will be played and the children will be asked to start walking while keeping the same distance. A lot of variation could be introduced in this kind of exercise but what is important is that the children are trained to control their movements.
Children love to role play and impersonate the behavior of adults. This can be taken advantage of by making children benefit from such role playing when it is done systematically, under keen observation of the teacher, and done in a progressive manner. With practice, children learn quickly, resulting in the mastering of the practical life skills that will build their confidence in living as part of the bigger society.