It may be said that the Sensorial exercises have their obvious value but the exercises of Practical Life are mere imitations of adult life. It must be remembered that most of the activities of the child, including play activity, are inspired by observation. The exercises of Practical Life are formative activities. They involve inspiration, repetition and concentration on precise details. They are a work of adaptation to the environment. Such adaptation to the environment and efficient functioning therein is the very essence of a useful education.
Introduction to Practical Life
One of the first areas the child is introduced to when he/she enters a Montessori environment is the Practical Life area. The Practical Life activities act as a link between the child’s home environment and the prepared Montessori environment. They are the exercises the child sees performed in his/her home environment even before he/she comes to the Montessori environment. These exercises that care for ourselves, for others and for our environment make up the Practical Life exercises. The Practical Life exercises reflect the culture that the child is in; so that by working with the Practical Life materials, the child will be able to adapt to his/her environment.
The 4 areas of Practical Life
- Elementary movements
Elementary movements are also called preliminary exercises. These exercises do not have many complex movements and is given to the child who is new to the environment. They are the basic movements that form part of other movements needed for other exercises.
- Care of the Environment
The child is introduced to many of the exercises he sees performed in his home environment. These exercises, which vary according to the country and culture of the child, and include exercises like sweeping, dusting, mopping, washing cloth, etc.
- Care of Self
The child learns how to care for himself/herself through the exercises offered to him/her under this area. The exercises under this area include exercises for washing hands, unfastening and fastening buttons, ribbons, zipper, etc.
- Grace and Courtesy
This is another important area because the child learns positive social behaviour, enabling the child to adapt himself/herself in society through the exercises. These exercises include ‘How to blow your nose’, ‘How to greet someone and shake hands’, ‘How to sit down on the mat’, etc.
The benefits of Practical Life exercises
The movements of the Practical Life exercises are precise. The exercise consists of a series of movements that make up a complex whole and the coordination of movements. Education of movement is what Practical Life exercises are all about. The coming together of body and mind is inherent in all Practical Life exercises.
- Integration of body and mind
These exercises engage the mind, body and spirit of the child. If there is no integration, the child will not be able to do the exercise.
- Gives purpose
Every exercise in Practical Life must have a purpose and its purpose must be for the development of the child.
Self development in the areas of concentration, coordination of movement, independence, skill and social adaptation.
- Social cohesion
Practical Life exercises help the child in the work of self-creation, thus, laying the foundation for social cohesion in the Montessori environment.