Practical Life (Assignment One) Montessori in the Absorbent Mind writes that “the hands are instruments of man’s intelligence”. It is therefore critical that children develop the ability to control and coordinate their hand muscle so that these can come into contact with the environment in intelligent ways. Discuss the principles underlining the practical life exercises and how it fosters independence in children. Introduction A child in the first six years becomes a full member of her particular culture and family group absorbing language, attitudes, manners and values of those in which she comes in daily contact.
A child develops properly if they are in an environment full of affection, love, caring and support. They feel comfortable and safe when they find a secure and lovable environment. Children learn according to their abilities. In the first six years of life they do this by imitating those around them. To support this we should provide them a physical and social environment suitable for them. We should provide the children with the tools they can create by themselves.
Children are able to explore, investigate and fulfil the natural curiosity about the world around them. The child’s purposes are not to complete the task as much as to construct the self. In addition, Dr Maria Montessori developed her philosophy of education based upon actual observations of children. She said children prefer work than play, and they can only be in their natural self, when their natural self is satisfied through work. It’s also through work they acquire independence, order, the power of concentration and be normalized.

Exercises of Practical Life were introduced and were recognized at the very heart of Montessori Education for it provides the opportunity for the child’s development of physical coordination, social skills, emotional growth as well as cognitive preparation. Practical Life Activities are the first activities the child is introduced to within the Montessori environment. These exercises are prepared based on activities children witnesses in their day to day life. That is why children can immediately satisfy their inner needs and desires by mastering these exercises independently.
Also, Practical Life area allows children to do the things that adults do every day, for example cleaning, dressing or greeting people. As we know that children construct their knowledge by themselves through their life exercises. The motive of Practical Life Exercises Practical Life Curriculum area has four main direct aims; Order, Co-ordination, independence and Concentration. Dr. Maria Montessori observed that children need order at a specific sensitive period in their development. If not provided during this period the opportunity is foregone. A routine is very important as well as a place for everything and everything in its place.
This offers the child for orderly self-construction. Co-ordination refers to coordinating large and small muscle movements as well as eye-hand co-ordination that reflect the respective development of a child’s mental life. In the practical life exercise of Montessori they learns to concentrate, to develop the fine-gross motor skills-i. e. controlling the muscle, to develop language, to develop the mathematical concepts, they will be good in care of environment, they will be good in logical steps and they are ready to complete the cycle of activity.
This is will be a good basement for the children not only in the early childhood, but throughout in life. “If teaching is to be effective with young children, it must assist them to advance on the way to independence. It must initiate them into those kinds of activities, which they can perform themselves. We must help them to learn how to walk without assistance, to run, to go up and down the stairs, to pick up fallen objects, to dress and undress, to wash themselves, to express their needs, and to attempt to satisfy their desires through their own efforts. All this is part of an education for independence. ” – The
Discovery of the Child by Maria Montessori MM, pg. 56~57 By giving the exercise of practical life in his early years of the child, he goes through a period when he wants to or likes to learn to do all the work he sees the adult doing. At first, he likes to learn the works at home. This age will pass, but if it is used, the child will know how to do everything well in the home environment. He will grow intellectually. It requires real intelligence to run a modern home. The indirect aim of Practical life exercise is to meet the child’s needs, to encourage and facilitate development, and to facilitate the child’s adaptation to the world.
It is very important that the child is given freedom to do these exercises at a time the child pleases; he should be allowed to try, make mistakes and correct his mistakes by himself without any help. The satisfaction of completing an activity drives the child towards independence. “Man achieves his independence by making efforts. To be able to do a thing without any help from others: this is independence. If it exists, the child can progress rapidly; if it does not, his progress will be slow” The Absorbent Mind, chapter. XIV, pg 155 The power of Concentration is one of the most calming activities for a child.
This is something which is controlled by the child and it challenges his body and his mind. With concentration the child is able to focus on purposeful work. I’ve witnessed to the concentration that my 3 and half year old niece had for folding her little brothers’ nappies. The pile of nappies was two times bigger than her, I thought, she would be bored and leave, but for my amazement after 45 minutes I could see that she has folded all nappies very neatly and have kept one on top of another and was ready to be placed in the drawers. Within the Montessori classroom deep concentration can be acquired through the ‘Silence Game”.
To achieve silence requires effort and the attention of the will, and maximum control of self-consciousness of every movement. Montessori thought of the silence lesson as a means for bringing children to this higher level of spiritual awareness. Practical Life Exercises aid the child in his journey towards normalization As a result of learning Practical Life Exercises in the Montessori environment, the child starts to develop confidence, self-esteem, he grow towards independence, mutual aid and co-operation, profound spontaneous concentration, attachment to reality and most importantly child’s joy of learning is supreme.
All these help the child to lead towards normalization. The normalized children possess a unique character and personality not recognized in young children. Children needs a carefully prepared environment It is important to provide the child an environment to work on activities of their own choice at their own pace experiencing freedom and self discipline while developing towards independence. Even though materials in Practical Life area are the least standardized, exercises needs to be carefully thought and designed. A prepared environment should consist of purposeful and meaningful materials and properly trained instructors.
When preparing materials the teacher needs to consider few principles of the Montessori Practical Life materials which satisfy Childs’ development needs. Firstly she needs to make sure that each material we give the child should have a definite purpose, for an example the mat is laid to mark the area of his workstation, handling the spoon develops child’s skill of spooning which leads to independence. Secondly materials should progress from simple to more complex design and usage. As a preliminary exercise for transferring solid objects we could give the child a spoon and later, it could progress to tweezers, chopsticks.
Also it should be designed to prepare the child indirectly for future learning’s such as writing, mathematics and scientific concepts. We prepare the child for wiring by teaching them the pincer grip, using thumb, index and middle fingers to hold objects and by left to right and top to bottom concepts, so that these orders naturally incarnates in the child’s mind. The mathematical concepts such as judgement of capacity and volume, division, calculation and exactness includes in activities of spooning, pouring and sweeping.
The activity, transferring water using a sponge gives the child the scientific concept of weight. The child could feel the weight of the sponge defers when the water is absorbed and when the water is released. Dr. Maria Montessori said, “Each individual should become aware of his own errors. Each should have a means of checking, so that he can tell if he is right or not. ” Absorbent Mind, Chapter XXIV, pg 247 So she included the path to perfection, which she called “the Control of Error” within the materials itself so the child would be able to observe the activity he completes and understand his own mistakes.
If a child has finished working on the dressing frame with large buttons, and he can see that buttons has gone through wrong buttonholes or buttoning halfway or seeing only half of the button come up the flap, these would be his control of errors. He has the opportunity to guide himself to correct his own mistakes. “Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed. ”-Maria Montessori. Furthermore when preparing the activity in the Montessori classroom the directress need to make sure that all materials are kept together in a basket or a tray and grouped accordingly to the level of development.
The activity should have its unique location and be reachable to the child so that the child could use the materials of their own choice and return the exercise, leading to independence and self-discipline. Also it is important to be providing attractive and clean child friendly and child size materials.
Each activity should be limited in quantity. In a Montessori classroom the directress plays a major role. She needs to be properly trained, be a good role model and she should be able to develop and maintain a happy and rewarding teacher-child relationship. The first essential is that the teacher should go thru an inner, spiritual preparation – cultivate certain aptitudes in the moral order. ” Her Life and Work, Chapter XVIII, pg 298 The teacher’s prime objectives are to maintain order in the prepared environment, facilitate the development of the child, and encourage independence and self-sufficiency.
Practical life activities can be divided into the following 4 categories: Exercises in each of these categories provide the opportunity to do purposeful work and are designed to teach the child life skills, so that they may become confident to do their daily chores at home. Care of the self: includes activities such as hand washing, dressing, and personal hygiene.
These activities embody the foundations of self-esteem. The exercises are designed to provide the child skills need for his sole independence. In order to gain independence, the child needs to establish will and discipline in order. The child needs to build himself and learn to take care of himself * Care of the environment: includes activities such as washing chairs, dusting, raking leaves, cooking, feeding animals, watering plants, composting, recycling and job time at the end of the day.
These activities promote the beginnings of community awareness and embody the foundations of an ecological ethic. They learn that they are a part of the environment and learn to respect and develop a sense of responsibility towards the environment. Also, the child will gradually learn how to gain greater control of his gross motor movements so that he would be able perform more complex tasks later on.
Some of the activities such as washing of a table can be carried out as a group task, which helps the child to be socialized. Social relations and courtesy: Maria Montessori called these exercises Grace and Courtesy. They include developing skills in greeting visitors, participating in a conversation, self-assertion, resolving conflicts, initiating and maintaining friendships.
These exercises are focused on developing will power, establish a proper posture, greet people, excuse one and interrupt when necessary. Maria Montessori considers the Social Grace and Courtesy activities as the most important exercises in the practical life curriculum.
She felt that when children are first brought into a Montessori classroom, emphasis must be placed on social grace exercises. * Development of Motor Skills: this includes many exercises involving hand/eye coordination, carrying objects, self-expression through movement as well as initiating and inhibiting actions and impulses. The Silence Game is an example of a group activity in which children have to restrain impulses to speak or move for a short period of time in order to report on what they may have experienced in the interim.
The particular exercise will be appropriate for any particular child will depend on that child’s individual development and interest. ans it is only possible to give a very general indication as to whether an exercise is ‘early’, ‘immediate or ‘later’. So each and every activity indirectly helps them to develop the language, mathematics movements and social awareness. To give an opportunity to exercise and co-ordinate body movement is one of the aims of the exercises of Practical Life activity.
Movement is so important for the young children; children need to move. Movement is very important to the child; because it contributes not only for the physical growth also intellectual and spiritual development of the child. “Through Movement, he acts upon his external environment and thus carries out his own personal mission in the world. Movement is not only an impression of the ego but it is an indispensable factor in the development of consciousness, since it is the only real means which places the ego in a clearly defined relationship with external reality.
The secret of childhood by Maria Montessori pg-97 Conclusion Practical Life exercises teach children to care for themselves, for others, and for the environment. They involve a wide variety of activities such as carrying objects, walking, polishing, sweeping, dusting, lacing, mainly activities that are done in day to day living. It is divided into four major areas namely: movement, care of self, care of environment, and grace and courtesy.
These activities are Montessori’s response to the child’s need for movement, order, independence, among many others; they are basic activities that enable the child to explore his environment and eventually make him one with it. Through practical life exercises, he learns to refine his movements, becomes conscious of his body and of what his body can do. He learns how to move and act in a socially accepted manner, thus helping him in his task of adaptation. He learns the ways of social living and becomes comfortable and confident in his society.
These exercises also teach the child to complete a task following a step-by-step procedure. This sequential ordering of tasks prepares him for the logical task that awaits him in mathematics. Likewise, activities in these areas are presented in isolation in order to help the child focus his attention only on a particular task. Practical Life Exercises refines movement, providing a foundation in early learning, attitudes and dispositions. Practical life exercises also provide children a sense of accomplishment as they engage in real, meaningful work with tangible results.
The familiar home-like environment of the practical life corner allows children to gain independence, order, concentration and confidence as they carry out thoughtfully prepared activities. This leads to normalization.
BIBLIOGRAPHY

Montessori, Maria, The Discovery of the Child, page 56-57, published 1967 Montessori, Maria, The Absorbent Mind, Chapter XXIV, page 247, published 1967
E. M. Standing, Montessori, Maria, Her Life and Work, Chapter XVIII, page 298, published 1998
Montessori, Maria, The secret of childhood, page 97, published 1966 Montessori, Maria, The Absorbent Mind, Page 155, published 1967

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