Montessori in a Minute: Practical Life
Updated: May 12
What are Practical Life Activities?
Every Toddler and Primary Montessori classroom has a Practical Life area filled with everyday objects that captivate children and sometimes puzzle parents. Most adults think of school and automatically think of academic growth—ABCs and 123s. So what does pouring rice, learning to tie shoes, or tending to a garden have to do with scholastic fundamentals? The answer is… everything!
Young children want to learn to dress themselves, clean up their own messes, and have hobbies and interests they can tend to on their own. The Practical Life area offers three categories of activities: preliminary shelves, care of self, and care of environment.
Preliminary shelves offer an array of non-specific, everyday activities that build skills needed for care tasks, such as pouring, transferring with spoons, folding, twisting, and tonging.
After children gain confidence in the preliminary activities, they are able to move on to independence-based self care activities. At this stage they work with items like dressing frames with buttons, zippers, and buckles to practice dressing themselves. These works take concentration, patience, and a lot of fine-muscle strength.
When children master some self-care activities, they move on to environmental care tasks. These activities teach children to tend to and maintain their environment in a myriad of ways. They learn how to clean up messes, set tables, and maintain hobbies like flower arrangement or helping their family cook.
The Value of Practical Life Skills
Concentration is the most foundational skill a child needs to master to excel in math, phonics, science, and more. But, especially at the toddler and preschool level, true concentration can be tough for young children to achieve. Montessori leans into a toddler’s natural curiosity about routine tasks they watch parents perform each day and teaches them how to achieve success in those same skills.
Practicing skills like wiping their workspace, completing dressing boards, and transferring items in tiny pitchers builds their concentration, love of order and hard work, initiative, and self-discipline. Most importantly, it frees the child to be independent, to feel a sense of pride and accomplishment at the completion of a task, and be willing to take on new tasks with the knowledge that they “can do it!”
The Montessori in a Minute Series
Montessori schools like Hudson Montessori School utilize specially designed tools, like those found in the Practical Life section, to promote experiential and sensorial learning that students can repeatedly practice at each age level. Often, these tools are self-correcting, allowing the child to check their work and adjust accordingly.
This Montessori In A Minute series regularly explores the unique benefits of these fundamental materials and areas of the classroom.
To learn more about Hudson Montessori School’s interdisciplinary, theme-based learning approach to education in Jersey City, the Montessori philosophy and methodology, or how the school fosters the love of learning for children age 2 to sixth grade, sign up for a virtual tour.