What is Practical Life ?
Practical Life is anything and everything that relates to daily living. To a child in a Montessori classroom, they are all exercises and experiences that prepares them to do things independently.
The moment a child is introduced to a Montessori classroom, it is the task of the educator to lead him to practical life exercises. The child is greeted at the door, introduced to people in the room and lead to an area where things look familiar to a child. The practical life area in essence replicates your home activities. They are the most familiar to your child.
Why does Practical Life matter?
Practical Life is the cornerstone of all the academic areas of the Montessori classroom. It serves as a foundation for academic learning and this is why:
1. Practical life is repetitive.
Everyday you make up your bed, get dressed, put your shoes on, you set up the table, you wash the dishes, and the lists goes on. When you do a task daily, your child gets to see the importance to learn it. Your child gets to associate it as something that he can do for himself. And no matter how mundane and repetitive you think chores are, for a child it is an opportunity to learn by observing and doing through repetition. And children learns best through repetition.
2. Practical life encourages independence
Three months ago, when I broke my ankle. I never thought that everyday activities just like walking and balancing, are difficult to relearn. Since I started physical therapy, I learned how to put one leg after another and go up the stairs while maintaining my balance. I was pushed to my limit, though very slow, so I can attain my independence. Just imagine the learning opportunities lost with your two year old toddler when you keep on carrying him in your arms, when all they want to do is learn how to walk?
3. Practical life build focus, coordination and concentration
Let’s talk about the task of a toddler feeding herself. Do you know how much focus it takes for your toddler to pick up a small green pea with her fingers? And how much concentration is required for them to scoop it up with their spoon? We feed our toddler because its faster and we do not like to deal with the mess. We miss an opportunity for a child to learn for themselves if we try to do it for them. And building focus, coordination and concentration is just as important as learning your alphabets.
4. Practical life has a purpose.
You need to have clean plate to eat. At the same time, you cut an apple so it can fit easily in your mouth. There is a purpose, a goal, and an end in mind. All your daily living tasks have a purpose, and meeting it is immediately gratifying.
5. Practical life prepares the child for life.
One time, I got a text from my independent 21 year old daughter asking me how long should a 4 lb turkey to be cooked in a microwave. I almost went ballistic and thought I have failed as a parent. Sure enough, this was a trending joke on social media and I was one of her first victims.
In conclusion, we must not always equate pursuit for knowledge through academics as the only road to success. On the contrary, educating the whole child with daily living tasks should be an integral part of the learning process. If we take the time to put value in allowing your child to do purposeful tasks, and allow them to repeatedly do it builds their confidence.
If we take a step back and allow the child to make mistakes, it gives value to their hard work which in turn builds their resilience and boost their self esteem. And that is a life lesson worth teaching!
How about you? What are the things that your toddler or preschooler does independently? Do you feel than you are doing more than you should?