In Montessori classroom, the Practical Life Activities are the first activities the child is introduced to the Montessori environment because they can immediately satisfy the children's inner needs and desires. In this area, it allows children to do the things what adults do everyday, for example cleaning, dressing or greeting people. As we know that children construct their knowledge by themselves through their life experience. For teachers, we need to organize a purposeful activity that content their experience from their daily life. From Dr. Montessori observation, children's needs are not the fantasy experience, but real-life experience that help children work well and adjust their real environment. Through the training of Practical Life, children learn to take care of himself, environment, social grace, control his fine and gross muscles with eye-hand coordination. The practical life exercises are included two important links for a child. The first is between home and the outside work because the exercise use many materials and tools that are found at home. The second link is between the child and nature. Also this environments are part of the curriculum patterns. It includes threefold developmental purpose on the physical, psychic and intellectual development. It encourage self respect and the growth of confidence, important to later learning through: -learning from the know to the unknown, the simple to complex. Why the Practical Life activities are totally engaged?
There are 4 different group of Practical Life exercises:
1. Care of the person (dressing, undressing, bathing, combing etc.)
For young children, before they can reach out to the environment, they need to build themselves, to take care of themselves. For adults, we need to set up an environment that help them do not dependent on their parents, but they can do these things by themselves.
2. Care the environment (cleaning washing polishing gardening etc.)
At this section, these activities are provided learning process for children to learn to manipulate the environment around. They learn that they are only a part of environment, they should respect environment around themselves.
3. Movement (pouring squeezing twisting sorting art activities, large muscle etc.)
All exercises are attractive to the children because they move. Movement possess a fascinating interest when the muscular and nervous apparatus responds to exercise, especially for young children.
4. Development of social reaction (greeting offering accepting apologizing thankin
Human are social animals and each group has his own social context. In this section, it is to create the man he will become in order to maintain or adapt in his society.
Because the Practical Life is the entrance for the child to the Montessori class so that he may develop obedience, freedom of his inner-self, and respect to environment and other people. Consequently, there are ground rules in the Montessori classroom for the child. The integration with the prepared environment and the directress indirectly prepared the child to perfect himself. More specific aims can be sought through different exercises. Some exercises have preparation for handwriting reading or acquiring good habits of hygiene as goals. There are many which address the social needs of the individual such as providing the means for smooth social behavior or for socialization purposed like contributing to the common good. While others provide therapy for psychic deviations in some children.
As in all our life activities we have goals or aims. The more far reaching the aim the more likely we are to achieve our goals. Maria Montessori has promoted four developmental aims which overlap into an area of Montessori teaching and are best known as O. C. C. I.. To achieve these goals the child must be free to pursue perfection of a task through repetition. These aims are central to all exercises for the following reasons.
Maria Montessori observed that children need order at a specific sensitive period in their development. If not provided during this period the opportunity is foregone. The child is systematically categorizing their world. Thus, a routine is very important as well as a place for everything and everything in its place. A sense of calm provides the child an opportunity for orderly self construction.
Both large and small muscle development is assisted through the precise presentation of movement. Attention to movement is not instinctive but planned voluntary actions. Repetition provides the child with opportunities for perfecting these movements.
The child who laboriously scrubs a table and attend to the details of their work is laying the foundation for calm effortless concentration levels for creative thought patterns.
We all want to be masters of our own fate. Only through accomplishments which are self motivated do we gain the joy of learning The independent activities we adults take for granted are major hurdles in the child's drive for independence.
To give an opportunity to exercise and co-ordinate body movement is one of the aims of the exercises of Practical Life activity. Movement is so important for the young children; children need to move. "Through Movement, he acts upon his external environment and thus carries out his own personal mission in the world. Movement is not only an impression of the ego but it is an indispensable factor in the development of consciousness, since it is the only real means which places the ego in a clearly defined relationship with external reality." (3) When we observe how children develop their own mind, it is obvious that it comes from his movement, especially for young children. Young children develop their own intelligence through movement within an environment. Movement is a great factor for mental development and it is an essential part of life. For a young child, he always move and uses movement to extend his understanding. It will help him develop his mind and further thinking. The activities in the Practical Life area provide opportunities for the children to build up their abilities to concentrate and to gain control over their movement. Through daily activities, it provides for both gross and fine motor central and give children opportunity to move purposefully.
In Practical Life area, the environment sets up is not isolated, but it is related to each different area. For example, the development of "Order", "Concentration", "Coordination" and "Independence" are important for mathematics mind. Order is the basic foundation of Math because we can not do any Math without sequence. Concentration on the task is so important on Math to develop logic thinking and problem solving skill. Children need to eye-hand coordination to do the math worked, too. To development thinking and problem solving skill is one of our educational goal to students. As we know, when we starts everything with left to right and top to bottom it is a preparation for children's reading and writing in Language area. Writing is dependent on mind and hand because in order to write properly, the hand must be able to draw signs. At Montessori classroom, children have long been repairing the hand and eye cooperating for writing for example, movement activities. During each exercise, naming the activity will help children oral language growth.
If we thinking for a moment of how a baby explores the world, we may find out that he builds his knowledge by touching, feeling, tasting and seeing. It is the way of the child's learning. In Practical Area, it involves lots of sense activities, such as sorting by colors, shapes, scrubbing work polishing work food preparation, etc.. Especially for cooking provides a great enhancement of the senses and is perfect for development of alongside the sensorial material. Also, food provides a very good opportunity to look at the changes in eating habits throughout history, and different culture. Children be introduced to climate through food- how different climates determine the food growth and how natural environment affect the availability of food. These activities are related to Cultural area. We can see that Montessori curriculum is not divided into isolated subjects, but encourages an interdisciplinary approach. It encourage the children to make connections which will widen their knowledge, understanding and appreciation of their world.
It is obvious that directress is the dynamic link between the child and the prepared environment. The directress in Practical Life area needs to provide the materials for the child. She needs to prepare and maintain the environment. She must also observe the child, noting the child's level of concentration and spontaneous repetitions. She must provide the exercises that meet each child's inner needs. She must provide the presentations needed in as unobtrusive a manner as possible. Knowing that her interruptions are equivalent to repression, she must interrupt only when a child exhibits destructive or disruptive behavior. She must observe the child who lacks coordination, the ability to initiate action preparing them in a "negative sense by eliminating their uncontrolled movements, so that the child can begin concentration and repeating becoming even more independent in making free choices until what interests him is starting, doing and finishing a task of his own choosing".(4) Besides above, a directress should herself act properly, because children may imitate her as a model, and these small lessons they take them, too. Therefore, one should always remind himself to act as properly as he possibly can.
The child conducts the Practical Life Exercise for the sake of working through the processes, rather than for the sake for their results. But if you are directing a group of children, the products of the Practical Life Exercises eventually become useful to the small Montessori community in which the child is working. For example, the painting table is kept dean by children practicing scrubbing a table top, and so on. Sooner or later, the children realize that they need to take responsibility for their own behavior and environment around them. When he/she has learned this reality, and is ready to adjust the human society.