Often, as parents, we are bustling. We’re washing clothes, preparing food, or scrubbing something. Almost as soon as our little ones are able to do it, they volunteer enthusiastically: Can I help? Therein lies the magic of the “Practical Life” component of Maria Montessori’s curriculum: Yes, you can help, little one. It is critical to the survival of an individual and the society as a whole that children watch and acclimate to the demands of the world around them. Practical Life activities simply acknowledge that children have a deep desire to act meaningfully in the world around them. When a child sees her mother scrambling an egg, it’s likely that the little girl will make her way to the cooking area. She sees one of the most important people in her life making food and does NOT want to be left out! What’s the appeal?
To make a difference in her world.
Practical life activities provide a way for children to impact their world in a meaningful and successful way. The benefits of Practical Life activities are manifold. The initial appeal is strong and primal: the child wants to be involved. Montessori recognizes that there is potential for great development in seemingly minor task completion. In a Montessori classroom, you might see a child slicing a banana. It is one of the more popular Practical Life activities in many Montessori classrooms. The child is able to choose the cutting board, fetch a banana, peel it, and slice it. Then, the finale: they’ve prepared and can eat their own snack!
There’s more to it than that, though to a 3-year-old, preparing their own snack to eat is pretty fantastic! Montessori acknowledges that it gives the child purpose, helps her to practice coordination, orderly thinking, and develops her joy in working. It’s kind of magical!
Next time you’re making eggs or slicing a banana, go get your 3-year-old. She will smile and jump right in with you. By the time she’s 5, you will have a bona fide assistant.