The Practical Life area is the foundation of a Montessori classroom. It contains a range of activities that allow a child to develop their control and coordination of movement, concentration, independence, patience, awareness of their environment, social skills, and an orderly way of thinking. A child will also gain self-confidence through learning to independently complete tasks that they will use in everyday life.
The Practical Life area is the first area that many children explore because they are familiar with many of the materials and activities.
Well-known items such as spoons, cups, pitchers, bowls, tongs, brooms, and other common household items that resemble everyday activities can all be found in the Practical Life area. Because the child is learning through activities of daily life, it is important that the tools are recognizable to the child, as well as breakable, real, and functional. These teacher created materials help a child develop the fine and gross motor skills that are needed to succeed in other areas of the classroom.
The main areas of the Practical Life area include, Grace and Courtesy, Preliminary Skills, Physical Skills which include; pouring, scooping, squeezing, twisting, and lacing, Care of Self, Care of the Environment, and Food Preparation. The direct aims of the Practical Life area are the development of concentration, coordination, independence, and order, which are the basis for later learning in a Montessori classroom. While children often have difficulty focusing on any one activity for a long period of time, they must learn to resist the distractions around them to succeed in the Practical Life area.
It is through these repeated activities that they develop the concentration needed to accomplish the more academic activities found in the Math and Language areas. The Practical Life area provides numerous materials to assist in the development of strong motor skills. Children seem to possess an inner drive to achieve self-perfection, which is why a child working in the Practical Life area can often be seen repeating the same activities over and over. This repetition will assist in developing the motor skill necessary for writing. Children yearn for activities that allow them to be independent.
The materials found in the Practical Life area are designed so the child may complete them without the assistance of an adult. Activities that focus on developing the skills necessary to care for one’s self and their environment also promote independence in their everyday settings. This increased independence gives the child the confidence they need to try more and more complex activities. The Practical Life activities meet a child’s need for a sense of order by assigning a specific space on the shelf for each material and by a teacher demonstrating a specific series of steps that must be followed to complete an activity.
Following steps is an important skill for future academic work such as reading, writing, and math. As a child is developing their coordination, concentration, independence, and sense of order, they are also indirectly preparing themselves for academic readiness and everyday life. By performing the activities in the Practical Life area, a child will develop the skills necessary to care for themselves, their peers, and the environment around them. Mastering these skills will indirectly lead to a child obtaining emotional growth, social skills, patience, physical development as well as independent judgment.
As a result of frequent messes and broken materials in the Practical Life area, a child will also learns about cause and effect and cleaning up after one’s self. It is through these learned traits and behaviors that a safe, kind, and peaceful Montessori classroom is established. When presenting a Montessori lesson to a child it is important that a teacher’s language and actions are straightforward and precise. Analysis of movement and synthetic movement are both important principles to follow when giving a lesson. Every Montessori activity consists of a series of movements.
With analysis of movement, a teacher presents these steps in a logical sequence so the child may understand the movements and their order. Breaking a lesson down step by step also helps a child understand the intellectual purpose of their actions. Their movements are ordered and directed by their minds to a logical rationale through synthetic movement. This knowledge motivates a child because they are able to connect emotionally and physically with the material. Fun, exciting materials also propel a child forward in their intelligence.
Points of interest such as the feeling of a sponge, the sound of pouring beans, and colored water attract the attention of a child, triggering a desire to know more. The learning environment is also a key part of their intellectual growth. An atmosphere that attracts a child to explore and participate in activities, known as motives of activity, also assists in the unfolding of a child’s spirit. The materials are introduced to the environment in small intervals, beginning with the simplest tasks and gradually becoming more complex, to isolate the difficulty.
This allows the child to develop self-esteem and confidence as they move on to more challenging activities. When a teacher presents a child with a lesson, it is also important that they isolate the difficulty by teaching one concept at a time. Unnecessary words and actions can distract a child from the information being presented, resulting in potential failure and frustration. To successfully complete the materials it is necessary for a child to have an understanding of the activities and their concepts.
Being able to detect your errors and correct them on your own, known as motives of perfection, increases a child’s success and builds the self-confidence needed to do well in other areas of the classroom. Mastery of preliminary exercises also plays a key role in a child’s growth. Knowing the ground rules and the ability to perform basic tasks give a child the assurance needed to learn and develop. Maria Montessori based the Practical Life area off the expectations of life. She created materials she felt would expose children to experiences that would prepare them for an intellectual, healthy, and fulfilling existence.
By repeating the Practical Life materials, a child develops skills such as; left to right order, enhancement of their attention span, coordination, confidence, independence, and a sense of order. These emotional and physical strengths raise a child’s curiosity to explore their environment and spur a desire to learn. Practical Life is the most important area of Montessori education. It prepares a child for adulthood, while giving them the tools necessary to become contributing citizens in their communities.