The Montessori “Practical Life” activities deal with the care of the child’s own person (personal dressing and grooming), care of the environment (cleaning, taking care of plants and pets, preparing food), development of fine and gross motor skills, and learning courteous behavior and conflict resolution.
Independence, Confidence and Self-Care
The activities of Practical Life take the child closer to independence and bundled with that are feelings of security, confidence, and self worth. The child knows how to make her own toast and pour her own juice. He knows how to dress himself and clean up if he makes a mess. Children can make a perceptible impact on their immediate environment and this is a very empowering feeling.
This area directly feeds the need of the children to imitate the activity of the adults in their lives and to become independent. This area is for every child who cries out “Mama let me do it by myself!”
Refining Motor Control
At this age children are in a sensitive period for movement. According to Montessori and current research, movement is essential for the development of the intellect. It is the child’s means of influencing and understanding himself and his surroundings.
Movement is incorporated into every Practical Life exercise (indeed, almost every classroom activity)- from the fine dexterity needed to spoon tiny beans from one container to another to the gross motor work of traveling back and forth from the sink with a heavy pitcher of water.
Courteous Communication and Conflict Resolution
Learning how to work and play together with others in a peaceful and caring community is a basic life skill. Learning how to greet someone graciously is one of the first acts of courtesy learned in our classroom.
Everyday kindness and courtesy are vital practical life skills. Lessons in Grace and Courtesy teach everyday social customs, such as how to ask for or offer help, how to join in an activity and how to graciously decline an invitation.
Differences of opinion and misunderstandings are a natural component of social relationships and can lead to conflict. Learning how to express one’s needs clearly and to communicate honestly is critical in order to prevent an outburst and come to a peaceful resolution. We do daily role plays in our class to demonstrate how to handle various social situations. The children love to act out scenarios in which they have to deal with conflicts and resolve them!