Dr. Maria Montessori referred to education as an aid to life and she referred to independence as the child’s greatest gift. To foster independence, we offer the child choices and the opportunity to do things for oneself. Whenever the child asks for help in doing a task, such as putting on a jacket or buttoning a shirt, it is important that we show the child how to do this task and then undo it so that the child can have the opportunity to do it for himself. Dr. Montessori stated that, “Every unnecessary help is an obstacle to development.”
Within the classroom, the Practical Life area directly impacts and encourages the child’s independence. The Practical Life area gives the child the opportunity to learn how to care for oneself as well as how to care for the environment.
Materials that we use to aid the child in learning to care for oneself include: the dressing frames (which include fastenings such as buttons, snaps or zipper), hand washing and cloth washing.
Materials that aid the child in learning to care for the environment involve sweeping; mopping up a spill; polishing silver, wood and shoes; and table washing.
The materials in the Practical Life area are crucial for the child's early work in the classroom environment. These materials aid the child in developing concentration, building independence, gaining control of movement and following through with a logical sequence of action.
These activities also prepare the child for his or her later work in the Sensorial, Math and Language areas of the classroom.
Outside of the classroom, Practical Life connects easily to life at home, aiding the child in building a bridge between home and school. There are some very simple ways to help your home become more accessible to your child. Some general principles for Montessori at home are:
Our goal is to help the child to do things by him or herself and it's important for children to have the opportunity to do things for themselves so that they know how capable they are! While it takes more planning, it's much easier and better for the child in the long run.
When preparing a space with the child in mind, we offer low shelving with limited numbers of toys, books and games. By offering a limited number, we're increasing the chance for a successful clean up and also those items tend to get more use. You can store the extra toys, books and games in a "treasure chest". Periodically you can bring the treasure chest out for your child to put in an "old" toy and take out a "new" toy. Rotating the toys creates new interest.
When thinking about an eating space for the child, a small, low table and chair are wonderful to use for snacks. There are some great ideas out there to allow your child to be independent in preparing his or her own snacks such as adding a small pitcher in the refrigerator or a low shelf in the pantry with acceptable snack options.
Including your child in preparing of the meal, setting the table or helping to clear the table, load the dishwasher or sweep the kitchen after the meal is over all help your child to be an active participant in daily life. Offering child sized cleaning tools along with your own is also great incentive. And adding stools by the sinks, in the bathroom or other areas of the house give your child the opportunity to exercise independence.
"All the efforts of growth are efforts to acquire independence. A matter of vital importance to an individual is that he should be able to function by himself. In order to grow and develop, the child needs to acquire independence. When does the child need to begin to do things by himself without our help? The answer is simple. The child needs to do things by himself from the beginning of life, from the moment he is capable of doing things. This urge is revealed again and again by the child. We have so often heard children of a few years of age say: "Help me do it by myself." By helping the child to do things by himself you are helping the independence of the child." --Dr. Maria Montessori.
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