Understanding Montessori Practical Life Activities

-Article co-written by Mercedes Schenk, Lead Guide and Liliana Bautista, Training & Business Development Manager at Wonderland Montessori.

One of the main components of Montessori Education is “Practical Life”.  Allowing children to gain independence and self- discipline is the purpose of the Practical Life activities in the Montessori environment and at home. These activities in everyday life are categorized into four areas:  Preliminary activities, Care of the environment and Care of self, Grace and Courtesy and Control of Movement.

In the Preliminary activities, the child learns the basic movements such as pouring, folding and carrying.

Care of the environment and care of self, the child learns about the care and maintenance of their surroundings as well as personal grooming and care. 

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In Grace and Courtesy, the child learns about interactions with others and living a life of mutual respect, self-love and dignity.

And in the Control of movement, the child learns about his/ her own movements and learns how to refine coordination.

Research has shown that Practical Life activities aid the growth and development of the child’s intellect and concentration, helping the child develop an orderly, sequential way of thinking. Each activity is carefully designed to allow the child to practice repeatedly until the skill is mastered. The guide must model these activities, not only the mechanics of the process, but also the joy that is to be found in a job well done, or the journey of discovery thereof. By welcoming the child as an active participant into the environment, we are offering the opportunity to make him /her feel more confident, happy, focused and respectful. 

Practical Life activities involve tasks that adults perform daily in order to maintain their environment. Here are a few examples of how to introduce order, concentration, independence and coordination skills to your child at home.

  • Conversations: Start a dialogue with your child by asking questions that will encourage more than a one word answer i.e. What was something fun you did today? What was your least favorite thing of the day?

  • Help in the kitchen: Have your child help set up and clear the table at dinner time.  Later, try having him/her assist with washing dishes or serving food. The child can also help wiping down the table and sweeping the floor.

  • Getting Dressed: Give the child an opportunity put his/ her own clothes and shoes on. 

  • Bath time: Place dirty clothes in the hamper and having a bath time routine.

  • Take care of their belongings: Have the child be responsible for putting their toys away after playing.

  • Grace and Courtesy: Model saying “Please” and “Thank you” to your child. 

The child who, at a young age, is allowed to help parents in the house and learn these skills, grows independent, deeply satisfied, confident and develops a good self-image, by recognizing that the work done is of value.

Charlie Gold