Practical Life is one of the most controversial areas within the Montessori Curriculum. This is because people often question the educational benefits of Practical Life Activities, such as watering plants, sweeping, cleaning and folding. It’s not uncommon for people to ask why children need to learn to wash dishes and pack away, instead of simply leaving them to play. So why is Practical Life so important?
To begin, Practical Life is an area within the Montessori Curriculum that encompasses skills practical to everyday life. There are four components of the Practical Life Curriculum, including: preliminary exercises, applied exercises, grace and courtesy, and control of movement. The skills learned in the Practical Life Curriculum lay the foundations for work within the rest of the Montessori classroom, and teach children the correct way to conduct routines of everyday life.
Doctor Maria Montessori designed the Practical Life Curriculum to teach children concentration, independence, and a great love for work. She discovered that children have an innate need to imitate the activities of adults, as this is their way of learning about their role within society and their environment. Thus, Practical Life Exercises are designed to meet this need by providing children with the skills to move and manipulate materials independently.
The objectives of the Practical Life Curriculum are based on teaching children skills that are relevant to everyday life, such as control and coordination of movement, independence, concentration, care of self, and care for the environment. Practical Life Work also gives children the opportunity to develop a sense of pride in their work. Through contributions in the classroom, home, and the wider community, children learn to gain a sense of independence and satisfaction in what they have achieved. In effect, this provides children with the building blocks for positive self-esteem, and a sense of place within their society.
To achieve the greatest benefit from Practical Life Education it is essential that children understand the importance and value of an activity. For example, if the activity is watering plants, it’s important that children know that watering plants keeps them living and healthy. The skills that children learn from the Practical Life Curriculum also assist with the development of their social, mental, physical and emotional faculties. Through Practical Life Exercises, children learn to become independent and come to fully realise their potential capabilities.
As our wise founder, Doctor Maria Montessori, states: “It is just these ‘independent’ children of ours who learn to write at the age of four and a half years, who learn to read spontaneously, and who amaze everyone by their progress in arithmetic.”
Despite the critics, it is clear that Practical Life Exercises play an important role in helping children to achieve their full potential, and teach them to become actively contributing members of their society. This is why children need to scrub floors.