The Practical Life area of the Montessori environment has some basic goals. The activities found in this area of the classroom, provide real life experiences for children. The exercises in Practical Life provide purposeful activity, develop motor control and coordination, develop independence, concentration, and a sense of responsibility. Both large and small muscle coordination and development are involved, helping a child to have control over his movements.
The Practical Life exercises are organized int three main areas: care of the person, care of the environment, and grace and courtesy. The dressing frames introduce such skills as buttoning, zipping, snapping, and tying. Other activities such as hand washing, baby doll washing, and manicuring nails are also consider caring for the person. Under the area of, caring for the environment, are exercises such as pouring, spooning, sweeping, cloth folding, dish washing, and taking care of animals and plants.
Exercises in grace and courtesy consist of things such as walking, sitting, greeting others, manners (please, thank you, and "May I") how to interrupt a teacher or another child ("Excuse me" and tapping a teacher on the shoulder and waiting to be responded to), passing objects, following directions, how to open and close a door, and control of body through silence games. Demonstrate such exercises during circle time involving the children to reinact such exercises. We want the children to develop refinement of social interactions, be polite, and learn respect for others. Grace and courtesy lessons begin with the first day of school and continue throughout the school year so they become a natural part of the environment.
I change the shelves regularly as to keep this area interesting for the children. Young children will spend most of their time in Practical Life area, but older children are still drawn these exercises, and new points of interest are discovered by them, especially if they are 'fresh and new'. I will change things on the shelf to enhance unit studies for the month as well as for the season we are experiencing, and so have chosen to give you some ideas in the same way.
Practical Life Area
Practical Life Area (Water Works)
The exercises have things related to summer. We start school in August, which is still Summer and I just can't do apples when it is not Fall yet. I like the children to experience the seasons as they are just about to change and the duration of them.
Works on the Shelf
This month we begin vertebrates with mammals and we talk about the season of Fall and apples. I put the Fall exercises onto to shelves during the week Fall starts.
Sorting by Color-Apples
Eye - Dropper
Sunflower Seed Tweezing
This is the sensory table that we have in the classroom. I decided to give it a seasonal look this year, starting with Fall. I colored the rice and added some Fall objects. This will stay as it is until the season of Winter is here. This is a large table placed inthe Practical Life area, as it needs to be off a carpeted area. At another school I worked at, a large table wasn't available so I made this work on a smaller scale in a tub, able to be carried. At that time, it was found on the Sensorial Shelf. Depending on your set up, it is acceptable for both areas of the classroom. You can place measuring cups and spoons in the table/tubs as well, which can relate to Practical Life as well.
We continue with Fall and now focus on leaves and pumpkins. We also look at North America, fish, and amphibians in October.
Water Pouring Using a Funnel
Sifting Salt and Rice
Napkin Rolling (felt)
We talk about birds and reptiles this month so some of the works in Practical Life enhance these studies. This month Nutrition is also featured in some Practial Life exercises.
Tongs - Marbles
Tweezing Indian Corn
Leaves on the Tree
Evergreen trees and animal habitats are some of the unit studies discussed during this month.
Snowflakes / Tree
Winter works are found on the shelves during this month.
Sensory Table - Winter Theme
Snowflake Color Sorting
Build a Snowman
Flower Arranging (different idea)
Clothespins - Mittens
Some works relate to the continent of Asia this month. We also begin a unit study on invertebrates, beginning with spiders.
During this month we will look at insects, parts of a flower, layers of the Earth, and visit Europe.
Put and Take
During the month of April we have some Spring things out on the shelf.
During the month of May, some exercises continue to be Spring related, however, by this time of the year, some Practical Life activites can include Baby Doll Washing, Clothes Washing, and Sewing.
Spring Snack Table
Spring Sensory Table
Sewing (step 1)
In step one, children practice up and down movements with a needle and some thread on a piece of Styrofoam. I cut meat trays found in the meat section of the grocery store. If you talk to the manager and ask for a school donation they will often give you a stack of meat trays that can be cut into four squares. Prepare needles with thread already knotted ready to sew up and down onto the Styrofoam cut piece. I like to use embroidery thread. I take the threads and divide them into two piece strand for each needle in different colors, as a point of interest for the children.
Sewing (step 1)
Sewing (step 2)
In step 2 of the Sewing exercises, children continue with up and down movements using a piece of fabric that is placed between an embroidery hoop. A button is chosen to be sewed onto the piece of fabric they chose with up and down movements. I still use pre-threaded needles with embroidery thread in this step.
Care Of Plants (cleaning leaves)
Packing/Unpacking a Suitcase
Bread Crumbs (feed the birds)
Hanging Bats (I also have the children use this mini clothesline to hang Barbie clothes and mittens in the Winter)
Needed, a line about one inch wideonthe floor of the classroom. A tray close by the line with a variety of objects for the children to walk on the line with. Demonstrate first with just walking on the line, heel to toe and heads held up with hands at your side. Children can then carry a bell, a cup with water, a spoon with a ball or marble on it, a bean bag on their head, etc.
Walking the line with a bean bag on his head.