Understanding the Montessori Method: The Importance of Practical Life

The Montessori Method is often a mystery to a lot of parents.  They may have heard of Montessori, but have no understanding of its ideology.  Over the next several months, we will dive more deeply into the Five Key Learning Areas of Montessori and how children develop academically and socially.  These five areas include:

  • Practical Life
  • Sensorial
  • Language
  • Mathematics
  • Culture

In the Montessori classroom, children encounter shelves and spaces devoted to each area.  The materials and activities are meticulously laid out from left to right, top to bottom, and easiest to hardest.  This order has direct and indirect aims, but essential to this order is helping children isolate one challenge at a time, which helps them build confidence as they overcome their individual obstacles.

Meaning and Purpose of Practical Life

Practical Life includes life skills that develop confidence, independence, coordination, concentration, self-awareness, and self-control.  Categories of Practical Life include:

  • Control of Movement
  • Care of Self
  • Care of Environment
  • Grace & Courtesy

Parents may wonder, “How do these activities help my child develop academically?”  The answer is simple:  in order for children to excel in subjects such as language and mathematics, children need to learn concentration first.  Concentration is the key to a child’s academic success!

It is in the Practical Life area of the classroom, that children learn this fundamental skill through practice and repetition of everyday life activities.

Children are naturally curious and want to know how things work around them.  The everyday activities and exercises that children learn through Practical Life are important and teach them to function in their own environment, while also helping them find their place and purpose in their world and culture.

Control of Movement

These shelves offer everyday activities such as pouring, spooning, tonging, folding, and stringing.  These activities not only enhance fine motor skills, but also develop order, concentration, coordination, and independence.

Care of Self

Activities on these shelves also help children develop independence as they learn how to care for themselves.  Here, children find activities such as dressing frames where they learn how to button, zip, and tie.  These frames directly teach the children how to dress themselves.  More importantly, these activities promote longer periods of concentration and strengthen their hand muscles  – which is key as they learn to write.

Care of Environment

Activities found on these shelves teach children how to maintain their environment.  Here, children learn how to sweep, dust, set the table, wash dishes, and clean up spills.  When children become involved in the care of their homes and classroom, it creates a sense of pride and builds self-control and self-confidence. And, more importantly, they are enhancing their concentration skills.

Grace and Courtesy

Social interaction is a cornerstone of our existence.  While there aren’t any shelves dedicated to these skills, children learn through example.  Teachers are the biggest models of Grace and Courtesy, and children build strong characters as they learn good manners, empathy and respect by participating in the classroom under the direction of their teachers .  Perseverance is an indirect result of this modeling, which is an important characteristic of future success – not only in the Montessori classroom but also in life.

Overall, children love the Practical Life area, as it allows them to do “adult work” in a child size environment.  With more and more success comes greater confidence.  When children believe in themselves, they realize they are capable of tackling any task through repetition and perseverance.  The concentration children develop through Practical Life will aid them in future skills and accomplishments in the more academic areas of the Montessori curriculum.

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