“The exercises of practical life are formative activities, a work of adaptation to the environment”.
Practical means basic, useful, purposeful and Life means the way of living.
Practical life Exercises are just that, they are Exercises so the child can learn how to do living activities in a purposeful way.
Children are very interested in learning to do what we do. They pattern their actions after ours. All the things we do every day -dressing, preparing food, cleaning up, using tools, shopping, talking with others -are fascinating to young children. They watch our actions and desire to imitate them. These activities give a child the chance to put that imitation into action.
Young children have a strong drive to be independent. A child once asked Montessori to “Help me do it myself”. This expresses the young child's inner drive to create a functional person. Montessori created the Practical Life activities to help children accomplish that.
The goal of these activities is to show the actions so that the child can go off and repeat the activity in his own successful way. Montessori says, “Our task is to show how the action is done and at the same time destroy the possibility of imitation”. The child must develop his own way of doing these activities so that the movements become real and not synthetic.
During the child’s sensitive period between birth and 6, the child is constructing the inner building blocks of his person. It is therefore important for the child to participate in activities to prepare him for his environment, that allow him to grow independently and use his motor skills, as well as allow the child to analyze difficulties he may have in the exercise and solve the problem successfully.
Montessori also saw the child’s need for order, repetition, and succession in movements. Practical Life Exercises also helps to aid the child to develop his coordination in movement, his balance and his gracefulness in his environment as well as his need to develop the power of being silent.
Practical Life Exercises can be categorized into four different groups: Preliminary Applications, Applied Applications, Grace and Courtesy, and Control of Moment.
In the Preliminary Exercises, the child learns the basic movements of all societies such as pouring, folding, and carrying.
In the Applied Exercises, the child learns about the care and maintenance that helps every day life. These activities are, for example, the care of the person (i.e the washing of the hand) and the care of the environment (i.e dusting a table or outdoor sweeping).
In the Grace and Courtesy Exercises, the children work on the interactions of people to people.
In the Control of Movement Exercises, the child learns about his own movements and learns how to refine his coordination through such activities as walking on the line.