Hi all, Kowhai has now been open for a full year. As Practical Life is the first area tamariki work in, I felt it was appropriate to update everyone on this classroom area. Practical life isn’t just the two + shelves of materials in each of the preschool classrooms; it is everywhere!
Practical life is to build concentration, co-ordination, gross and fine motor control and INDEPENDENCE! Parents are often surprised by how quickly their tamariki progress in terms of their co-ordination and independence once they start in a Montessori environment. The truth is, it is not us as kaiako (teachers) but the materials and environment which allow your tamariki to flourish. As Jan mentioned in a recent column, in a Montessori environment we try to have higher tamariki numbers and less ‘teachers’ allowing for independence and problem solving. This combined with a ‘child friendly’ environment builds your child’s independence.
The first area tamariki would generally start with is the preliminary shelf in the Practical Life area. This area usually consists of a range of pouring, spooning, threading etc. These materials build the skills and independence for a child to pour their own drink, spoon to feed themselves, thread as preparation for dressing themselves and sewing. On top of that all the materials prepare the hand for writing through building muscle tone and the three fingered pencil grip. From here we have table scrubbing, floor scrubbing, polishing, face washing, cloth washing, hand washing… the list goes on, all materials are designed for the needs of each class. A few years ago I noticed lonely individual socks being left around the class. Did the tamariki know how to roll their socks together to keep them in a pair? No! Tamariki come into this world as a blank canvas, they fill up on knowledge through observing their world around them. Of course sock rolling went out onto the shelf as an activity and no more lonely socks left… well for a little while J
Practical life doesn’t start or finish at school or preschool for that matter. Building your child’s independence, and in turn confidence, happens everywhere. A child friendly environment and equipment are so important – and time! Tamariki desperately want to dress themselves and put on their own shoes and socks. This can only happen if they have clothing and shoes they know how to use. Buckles, buttons, zips, tight clothing are all doable but not until they have mastered the ability to do these actions with the dressing frames or through practicing at home. Until they have, dressing your child in clothes and shoes they can manage, builds their confidence and desire to learn more. Giving them the time to practice and perform these actions independently is vital too. Making breakfast, making their bed, cleaning up and dressing themselves are all tasks children can do (they do it here, why not at home?) but to encourage this independence and lose the frustration / temper tantrums, we must give them the time to complete this independently.
Making themselves a drink or even making you a cup of tea are all tasks that are age appropriate. In the preschool, 5 year olds make tea and coffee for kaiako; can they make you one at home? In the primary, tamariki do baking; can they make you morning tea in the weekends? Sourcing the recipe, finding the ingredients, completing the task from set up to clean up? Making their own lunch, feeding the family pets, doing the recycling and the dishes, hanging out the washing, writing the shopping list, sweeping the floor, vacuuming… These are all tasks which work towards an independent individual, and a happy, content child knowing they have the skills and environment to cater to their own needs and to assist and give to others.