The Practical Life area in the Montessori classroom is one of the key ways to help a child achieve normalization. This area is the basis for all the rest. It directly and indirectly prepares the children for all the Sensorial, Language, and Mathematics activities. The skills that the child learns through the Practical Life activities will help them be successful in everyday life. And, they must begin right away, from the moment the child enters the classroom!
The dictionary states that ‘practical’ is an adjective, meaning:
Of or pertaining to practice or action,
Consisting of, involving, or resulting from practice or action,
Of, pertaining to, or concerned with ordinary activities,
Adapted or designed for actual use.
So in general, we can say that in the Montessori environment, the Practical Life area is where the child ‘practices’ life. What does that mean? For us, Practical Life includes all of the activities that we do to survive. These are activities that we do to ourselves and to the environment such as dressing and undressing, preparing food, washing dishes, etc. These activities help us to care for ourselves and others, and also help us to provide hospitality and courtesy as a form of human expression.
There are three main purposes of Practical Life:
Introducing these activities of daily living to children help in assisting their adaptation into their particular environment. Adaptation is one of the main necessities of human beings in order to develop. Without adaptation, the human will not be able to function in his environment. Adaptation is the starting point in our work with the child. The child will be able to incarnate the environment and make it a part of him. The child is making himself Canadian, Mexican, Indonesian, etc., adapting to whatever environment he or she is living in.
These Practical Life activities are present in every single culture around the world. Children show great interest in this and are drawn to these activities. Their motivation is purely for developmental reasons, which produce a positive outcome if they are allowed to participate.
What changes with these Practical Life activities is the way that the different groups of people perform them. Our needs as human beings are the same; just the way in which we perform these activities in our culture differ from group to group.
The Practical Life activities have been part of the child’s life since the moment they were born. These activities sometimes were done to the child such as feeding, bathing, or changing, and sometimes were done around the child such as making the bed, washing the clothes, etc.
Through these activities, the child begins to acknowledge his own needs and the particular way in which these needs are satisfied in his own environment. Aided by the Absorbent Mind, the child will then come to understand how to take care of his own needs. He will get the sense “I am worth it”.
The physically prepared environment assists the child’s development of independence in the Montessori classroom. As we can say, external order creates internal order. Our materials are set out logically in order from simple to complex, with each activity being self-contained within itself for greater independence. The materials are child-size, colour-coded, and provide the child with a control of error which lets him or her be aware of when a mistake is made – independently.
- Control of Movement:
During the first 3 years of life, the child’s movement changes dramatically. From being basically motionless as a newborn, the child within the first year learns to slither, crawl, pull up, stand, and then walk. Over the next few years the child works at perfecting this gross motor skill, along with finding greater coordination with his or her fine motor ability.
Children need to be active learners, not passive. Children experience their work through doing, especially through the connection between the hand and the brain.
By experiencing the real activities of Practical Life, we are helping the child achieve greater coordination between the mind and the body, which leads to normalization through a purposeful goal.
The Practical Life activities encourage children to develop concentration, which also helps in the refinement on movement. The activities have a set sequence with a beginning, middle, and end, which grow in complexity as the child progresses through the materials.