Preschool children working on practical life


Practical Life exercises very simply put are the exercises of everyday living. These exercises found in a Montessori preschool are those that assist a child in becoming more independent in his daily activities.  The Practical life area in a Montessori classroom is the first building block in a child’s road to independence. It is this area that the youngest children are attracted to first.  This area enables a 3 year old to learn basic activities that will help them on their road to independence in the classroom environment as well as at home. Pouring is a classic example of an activity from the practical life area that carries onto a real life situation like snack time at school or dinner time at home.  The benefits of the practical life area in Montessori are innumerable. The four main abilities that this area helps develop in a child are:  order, coordination, concentration and independence

How Practice Life Impacts a Child

Physically practical life exercises help in the development of fine & gross motor control. Examples of activities that enhance fine motor control are grasping, spooning, pouring, manipulating scissors, using tweezers etc.  Activities like hand washing, suds whipping, window washing, and buttoning help in developing both fine & gross motor coordination in children.  Most practical life exercises also help in building eye-hand coordination which is a prerequisite for a lot of activities that a child does in his everyday life including sports.  You do not see this type of focus on these skills in traditional preschool classrooms.  In fact many children today are lacking these skills upon entry into kindergarten because traditional preschool programs are using technology in their programs and this actually limits the child’s physical development.  More and more children are receiving occupational therapy because many of them lack the strength to write properly when they start their elementary education.

Social interaction amongst children does occur in the practical life area. In a Montessori classroom older children who have ample experiences in this area enjoy giving the younger children lessons. Often times if a particular child spills their pouring material on the floor it creates a social situation in which other children readily come over to help that child clean up.

Emotional development is an integral result of working in the practical life area. The skills that a child develops through working on activities in this area enable a child to carry on that experience into their real life. This creates a great sense of independence & personal accomplishment in a child. A child for example who has learned bow tying with the dressing frame feels ecstatic when he/she can tie their own shoes. Often in a Montessori environment children are heard proudly announcing “I DID IT!”.

Intellectual development is also nourished in a child through work in this area. Lessons like hand washing, making bubbles, and window washing involve a series of complex activities that need to be followed in order to complete the cycle of activity. A child working on these develops a sense of progression as well as realizes that with each activity there is a start, middle and an end. Some lessons like the dressing frame also build early math concepts like one to one correspondence.

Spiritual development is an indirect process that occurs in a child while working in the practical life area. The slow exaggerated movements, silent presentations and sounds of falling beans while doing spooning & pouring are some of the things that inculcate in a child a sense of inner peace & wonder.

Remember, practical life is just one area of a Montessori classroom, there are six main areas in typical Montessori preschool classroom.  By allowing the three year old to freely engage & explore this area the child not only obtains a holistic development, it also avoids the need for occupational therapy as seen in many children in our present technology generation.