The Practical Life materials are everyday activities which we as adults complete without a thought- This could include a tray with the activity of pouring from left to right or an activity to develop sweeping into a circle.
The aim of the Practical Life activities is to develop a child’s control in the coordination of movement, as well as help gain independence and adapt to society. The practical life activities also help develop the child’s intellect and concentration. Each activity has a set progression – making it harder and more complex to develop the concentration second by second.
The Practical Life materials can be divided into four main areas Caring for the self, Caring for the environment, Grace and Courtesy and Movement of Objects.
Caring for the self includes activities such as Polishing Shoes or Washing Hands, caring for the Environment could include care of pets or polishing Brass, Grace and courtesy includes games such as the silence games as well as activities to develop please and thank-you. The most prominent area in the prepared environment for practical life would be the movement of objects which includes the trays and activities you see ready for the children to access.
As the practical life activities are everyday activities the materials which the activities are made from are real- we have glass jars and china bowls – real sugar tongs and pestle and Mortars for the children to use and develop these skills.
Once the children are happy and settled within the Duckling and Gosling nursery Classrooms, these activities are the first “work exercises” to which a child will be introduced to within the Montessori curriculum.
We invite the child to perform various exercises such as sweeping, pouring, carrying, sorting and transferring. Through these activities they develop their concentration, attention to detail and good working habits, together with refining both their gross and fine motor skills. Many of the Practical Life Activities also prepare the child for later pencil work by fostering an anti-clockwise, left to right and top to bottom movement they are preparing for reading and writing.
At this stage I wish to define the word “Work” as it is often referred to at our school. “Work activities” are those which we invite the children to share which aim at promoting specific skills or which expand their knowledge. Within the nursery context the word “Work” should not be confused with the adult interpretation as being “something we do which may be enjoyable but often is done through necessity! “Work” at nursery is always fun and interesting!
Once the children have been shown the equipment and activities they are encouraged to choose freely as everything in the room is available to them.