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  • Writer's picturehayley s

The Practical Life Area

Updated: Aug 21, 2023

The name of this area is to the point. These are the materials in the classroom that allow the child to develop the physical skills and awareness of their surroundings needed in everyday life. It is divided into four categories, care of self, care of the environment, grace and courtesy, and fine motor skills development.

Care of self includes the dressing frames, which assist the child in learning to use buttons, zippers, buckles, shoe laces and so on. Acquiring these skills creates in the child the confidence that comes with dressing oneself, an important step in early life. This translates to getting themselves ready and unready at the beginning and end of the school day, and helping their younger classmates with these tasks, creating a further sense of accomplishment, caring and leadership.

Care of the environment starts small, with such activities as sweeping the floor, wiping the tables or mopping up a spill. The children progress to taking care of the plants and any class pets. In a Montessori classroom, lessons and materials are put back where they were found, as they were found, when a child is finished working with them, so the next classmate will be able to find and use them too. This instills consideration for others and the awareness that their actions impact their environment; the plants will die if left unattended, if they've not cleaned their snack spot, their journal will be dirtied when they lay it down to write, if they've spilled water and not dried it, they or a friend will slip and fall.

Grace and courtesy is built into every interaction in a Montessori room, from the morning greeting to the goodbye at the end of the day. Eye contact and attention given to the person is speaking is emphasized. Many children enter their classroom in the morning in a tearing rush to get to a particular friend or activity, or enter sullen or tired, head and eyes down. They are taught the proper way to greet the teacher and their friends if this skill is lacking. Of course the basics of please, thank you, excuse me and pardon me are taught and instilled, as well as polite ways to interrupt someone who is speaking, if it is necessary. How to close doors or drawers without banging or slamming, walking feet indoors, how to serve snacks, how to welcome visitors to the classroom and many other skills necessary to good manners are modelled, taught and used as a constant.

Fine motor skills are developed through the care of self and care of environment lessons, as well as a myriad of other activities. Spooning, tonging, tweezing, pouring, clothes pegs, chopsticks, eyedroppers, beading, and sewing - too many to list - are taught and changed regularly to keep the child's interest, develop hand eye coordination and the muscles in the hand, as well as the pincer grip needed for writing later on.

At heart all these lessons have a commonality, which is to develop order, coordination, concentration and following the steps of a process. These are the basic skills needed to move onto more complex academic lessons.

"Do not tell them how to do it. Show them how to do it without saying a word. If you tell them, they will watch your lips move. If you show them, they will want to do it for themselves."

Dr. Maria Montessori

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