“…but I know happiness does not come with things. It can come from work and pride in what you do.”
Practical life makes up a large part of the Montessori classroom, at all ages. At the toddler level, it is an important part of the child’s role in the classroom. Practical life includes doing things for yourself and your surroundings. Some examples of this includes preparing food, setting the table, clearing dishes, washing dishes, watering plants, washing fruits and vegetables, sorting, folding laundry, sweeping, dusting, wiping tables and floor, and much more!
When we stop and think about it, practical life work is really all of the things that adults dread doing, but at the toddler stage, these are magical and fulfilling activities that help children develop self control, concentration and a healthy self image. When a child sets the table for lunch for himself and his classmates, he is fulfilled with happiness, purpose and contentment.
When we allow the child to use the same materials that we use, rather than plastic substitutes, the child feels valued and respected. When the materials are beautiful and breakable, the child develops a respect for these materials and recognizes the importance of caring for them. When a glass falls and breaks from the edge of the table at snack time, the child sees the natural consequence of this action. By putting the cup too close to the edge, it fell off and broke. Now the broken glass must be carefully cleaned up and the child learns to keep the glass farther from the edge of the table and to handle it with care.
Practical Life at Home
Offering a Child Choices: By giving a child choices, it helps teach a desired behavior while also showing respect for the child. Rather than telling them what to do or what not to do, you can offer the child two choices, both of which you must be okay with if they choose it. Here are a few examples of choices you can give rather than a demand or order.
Command: —> Choice:
“Put your shoes on” “Do you want to put your shoes on or shall I?”
“Eat your dinner” “Would you like a fork or spoon to eat your rice?”
“Brush your teeth” “Would you like to brush by yourself or have some help?”
Practical life is a perfect way for parents to work with their children on different tasks, hobbies or chores around the house. I think parents often feel they wish they had more time with their child, rather than doing all of the house work that must get done. Parents can re-think this work by finding ways to include your child and work together to complete these tasks. This really is a valuable opportunity to work together! Some examples of working together to do tasks around the house can include:
- helping a child prepare dinner by cutting vegetables with a child safe knife
- having a child collect dirty laundry from each room and putting it in a laundry basket
- having a child help water the plants around the house
- cutting flowers from the garden and letting children put them in vases and display around the house
- having a child help do yard work
- buy child safe cleaning spray and allow the child to clean things around the house such as tables, counter surfaces, etc.
- Keep child’s utensils, plates, cups, and bowls in cabinet or drawer that they can access independently to help prepare meals, set table, clean up, etc.
The options are endless and may look different for each family and in each home!