At first, Dr. Montessori saw the need to help the poor children she was working with in Rome to practice good hygiene. But before long, she realized that children were naturally captivated by all kinds of typical “grown-up” and household activities and engaged in these activities gleefully, as if propelled by an inner drive. Often, they would engage in these activities tirelessly and with authentic tenacity and focus. Dr. Montessori quickly noticed that through this constant repetition of motions with both small and larger muscle groups, children were perfecting their coordination, building pre-writing skills (like their pincer grip) and gaining confidence in–and fulfillment from–a particular task.
As you may have noticed in your own home, imitation is one of the child’s strongest urges during the early years. So, too, is the cry of: “I want to do it. Let me do it.” Using the child’s natural inclinations as a point of departure, the Practical Life curriculum (coupled with the proper modeling provided through teacher-led lessons) was developed. This set of classroom activities comprises work in:
§ Control of movement or “dexterity” (small & large muscles)
§ Care of self
§ Care of the environment
§ Grace & courtesy
§ Basic art skills
and is a good link between the classroom and the home. In a Montessori classroom, materials are child-sized, attractive, and real. Lessons are brief and succinct as children will watch and imitate, putting their own personal expression into the activity.
Practical life is a practical, enjoyable and effective launch pad for the rest of the Montessori curriculum and helps kindle a life long journey of joyful learning.