The Practical Life activities in a Montessori classroom are designed to be purposeful work that lead the child to an understanding of his environment and how it works. These activities are appealing to the young child as they resemble everyday activities the child has seen adults complete. The Practical Life Area of the classroom encompasses: Care of the Environment, Care of the Person, Grace and Courtesy, and Control of Movement activities (fine and gross motor).
At Trillium, we spend a great deal of time, at the beginning of the year, on the introduction of fine motor work. Built in to these activities are the additional goals of helping the child increase his attention span and follow a sequence of steps. These indirect goals help prepare the child to handle more complex activities in other areas of the classroom.
Our fine motor shelves focus on three basic skills: pouring, squeezing and spooning, each increasing in complexity as the year progresses.
Beginning large pouring with handles
Beginning squeezing: grasping q-tips
Beginning small spooning
At first, each skill is taught in isolation until the child has become proficient at it. Then the skills can be combined to lead to more advanced, longer sequenced work.
Making Corn Bread involves spooning, squeezing, and pouring
Due to the importance of learning these tasks, we have designed a sequence that allows for natural repetition to occur. Weekly we change the color theme of the shelf, drawing the child back to these exercises to refine his movements.
Fine Motor Shelf – Red
Fine Motor Shelf – Green
Fine Motor Shelf – Yellow
Fine Motor Shelf – Blue
The aesthetic appeal draws the child back to the shelf with the purpose of developing order, concentration, and coordination of movements during these first few weeks of school.
Because these activities resemble those that the child has seen in his environment it is important that they contain items that are real, breakable and functional. We gradually introduce glass into the environment, as the child becomes more proficient with his movements.
Spooning and pouring rice with ceramic bowl/pitcher
Spooning pasta with ceramic bowls
Focus is also placed on the practical/authentic nature of these exercises as well. We take time to help the child understand the real purpose of each activity to sustain his interest. The child takes great pride in accomplishing these activities while building his fine motor skills as well as learning to keep his environment beautiful.
Seemi holds a Master's degree in education, and an AMS Early Childhood credential. She has twenty years of experience in Montessori as a teacher, school administrator, and school owner. She is the founder of TrilliumMontessori.org.