Practical life activities
The adult is the role model
The most important role model for the child is the adult. Every day, he watches his parents dress and wash in the morning, prepare food, set and clear the table, do the dishes or put away the dishwasher. It (hopefully) sees both parents sweeping, dusting, cleaning windows and tidying up. Sooner or later, the child wants to do these activities himself. While the adult does these things to finish as quickly as possible, for the child the activity itself is the goal - not the finished product of the work. This is the crucial difference between the work of the adult and the work of the young child!
Promoting autonomy and independence
Maria Montessori observed the children's great interest in activities of this kind in her first children's home and prepared careful exercises for them so that the children could do them independently. Through the exercises of daily living, the children learn early on to dress and wash themselves, prepare and serve food, sweep the floor, take care of the flowers and much more. In order for the children to actually be able to work independently, it is crucial that the furniture and equipment needed for this are adapted to the size of the children.
When the child enters the children's home, these exercises will be the first ones it gets to know. This not only bridges the gap between the parents' home and the children's home. Rather, these activities also prepare the child for further work in the prepared environment: For example, the child learns how to finish a task that he or she has started and how to put the materials back where they belong. He is shown how to roll out and roll in a work rug; he learns to carry a tray, later also a tray with a glass, finally with a filled glass.
In total, there are four main areas in the exercises of daily living:
- Exercises to promote motor skills and coordination
- Exercises to care for the environment
- Exercises in caring for oneself
- Politeness exercises
Each exercise has both a direct goal - namely the competence acquired through the activity itself, such as tying a bow - and many indirect goals, such as promoting independence, concentration, fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. Self-esteem - "I can do this on my own!" - and social awareness. Many activities relate to the care of the environment - e.g. sweeping the room or taking care of the plants - and thus serve the whole community. From the very beginning, the children thus learn to take responsibility not only for themselves, but also for the other children and their environment. Intellectual learning is also promoted: The children realise that it is logical to follow a certain order when washing up or that it makes little sense to polish the brass candlestick with a dirty rag. Through short and concise language lessons, the children also expand their vocabulary.