The Practical Life area contains activities which are designed to show the child how to undertake every day activities in a purposeful way. Presentations such as pouring, sweeping, and buttoning all develop his/her concentration, coordination (of gross motor and fine motor movements) and independence. Mastering these tasks comes with repetition and allows the Montessori child to feel more and more accomplished in his/her goal of adapting to and orienting himself in society. There are 5 main areas in the Practical Life Area:
1. Preliminary Exercises
The basic movements the child learns while carrying a tray, unrolling a mat or opening bottles. Once he has mastered these actions he can then be shown new activities with ever increasing challenges and levels of difficulty.
2. Care of the person
These activities are designed to give the child a greater sense of independence and achievement in his life, both at school and at home. Knowing how to wash his hands properly, zip his coat, tie his laces and prepare a snack unaided will ingrain in the child an enormous sense of pride.
3. Care of the environment
Care of the environment exercises are presented in tandem with the care of person exercises. Activities such as washing a table, sweeping the floor and setting a table can all be carried out at home, as well as in the classroom and are thus repeated often. The pride the child feels when taking care of himself is now extended to caring for the classroom and school environment.
4. Grace and Courtesy
While seemingly old-fashioned, the idea of demonstrating how to greet someone, how to say please and thank-you, and how to cover your mouth when coughing is an often overlooked aspect of modern-life. The best way to help the child in learning and adapting to society is by our Grace and Courtesy lessons. They are entertaining, simple, quick, and teach the child how to act on special occasions, or in the classroom, and they are to be taken very seriously by us. Every adult in the classroom should abide by them at all times, and act as they want the child to act. We should at all times show the child the same respect as we do for adults. In the Montessori classroom these person to person interactions are taught from the child’s first day in school. In fact, the Directress can turn most occurrences in the classroom into an opportunity to share a new grace and courtesy lesson. The eager child will learn to show patience while waiting his turn: the unstable child will understand to apologise if he bumps into his peer.
5. Control of Movement
As a whole, the practical life exercises all aim to improve the child’s co-ordination. The control of movement exercises were developed to further refine the child’s movements. The walking on the line exercise is a lesson in mastering every movement within the child, but it also teaches the child to be aware of his body and movements in relation to the people and objects around him.