Have you been told, "Start with Practical life"? So what do we mean by practical life?
What is Practical life?
It's just a fancy way to say "involve your children" in your daily tasks.
Practical life are the everyday activities that we need to do to be functional. It includes self-care and care of the environment.
Children thrive to learn the skills to become more and more independent.
They copy you all the time and as they grow, becoming more functionally independent and being responsible for some aspects of their life will make them more confident.
Children like to help although, yes, in the early years, it's not that helpful for us! It's definitely more about the process.
Why do we say "start with practical life"?
Montessori was a great observer and it became clear to her that children wanted to be "useful", they wanted to be independent and responsible. She noticed that children around the age of 15 to 18 months were not satisfied by toys, they wanted to be involved in the tasks the adults were carrying.
Children need "practical life activities" because they learn how to function in their family, how to contribute. And later on, they will contribute to the society they live in.
When your child is more independent, can take care of most of his needs, he will then be ready for other kinds of learning.
Benefits of Practical life:
Not only children become more independent but there are many other benefits to those activities:
- refine fine and gross motor skills
- many practical life activities are "cross the midline" activities and are good for balance and coordination (like mopping the floor, washing the table, ...)
- refine pincer grip and tripod grip which will be useful for reading
- as the child practices from left to right, it is an indirect preparation for writing (in cultures where we write from top to bottom or right to left, you present the activities differently)
- most baking/cooking activities involve counting, measuring and weighting so it is also a preparation for maths
- the child develops concentration through repetition and because those tasks require attention
- it helps to develop a sense of order (step by step process)
- it refines language
- it helps with social skills
- you can teach science, culture, maths, new vocabulary through any everyday activities
Practical life on the shelf vs everyday activities
Practical life activities are not limited to a few activities on tray on your shelf. Those are great to repeat and to develop some specific skills but the most important is to involve your child in your daily life. And yes it means that everything you do will be slower, less efficient and not up to your standards. And yet those daily chores become a daily opportunity to teach your child.
So, are you ready to involve your child in your day to day chores?
More ideas in these blog posts: Montessori in the kitchen - 40 ideas for your toddler, 5 healthy snacks, Children's knives round up