Joshua is 25 months old. For Montessorians the most important activities at this age are practical life exercises which can be easily set up in the home. Joshua has been so interested in cutting, chopping, lifting, carrying, moving, wiping, preparing, sweeping, brushing. You name it, he wants to do it, he wants to be involved. If I pick up the broom to sweep his little hands are grasping for the broom and pushing me out of the way, me do it Mama. If I start preparing dinner his little face is always nearby and I can see him pushing his step stool up to the bench next to me out of the corner of my eye.
Here are a few ideas for practical life exercises – we have been doing so many lately I thought I would share some snippets of our day. Please note that these practical exercises are classified under “care of the environment” exercises. There are other exercises that are considered to be practical life (e.g. care of self) but I am focusing on the “care of environment” area in this post.
Wiping and cleaning table. This is great water play.
Mopping the floor. Joshua is still working on his technique, he tends to drag the mop and broom around with one hand, sometimes two.
Window washing. I did a post on it here. Joshua is getting much better at squeezing the spray bottle.
Squeezing orange juice. This requires a lot of strength, Joshua is still working on this and needs help but he knows that if he wants a glass of juice (a treat in our house) he has to work for it. Cut, squeeze, pour and drink. I love watching Joshua do this exercise, the look of focus on his face is wonderful.
Cutting and chopping. We have a variety of knives and a chopping board for Joshua to support this development. He also practices spreading condiments every morning on his toast. Here Joshua is using a yellow kid safe knife and a first knife.
Washing dishes in a basin the old fashioned way. Part of our daily routine is to clean up the dishes.
Grating cheese – Joshua’s contribution to our dinner. Real tasks in the home for the youngest family member.
This is real participation in the life of the family. To be needed in such a manner makes a child feel very big and important. To be able to do something for oneself brings great satisfaction and a feeling of accomplishment that no amount of fancy toys or gadgets can provide. Throughout history (and even into today) adults give children pretend tools and toys to use. But children emulate adults and want to do what adults are doing. So why provide pretend tools when they can do the work themselves with the correct modelling? Recognising this need, providing real child size tools and adjusting the world made for adults to help children participate in it effectively was one of Maria Montessori’s greatest contributions.
There are many physical, emotional and mental values in work. Through these activities the child learns to be independent. There can be no intelligent choice or responsibility at any age without independence in thought and action. He learns to concentrate, to control muscles, to focus, to analyse logical steps, and complete a cycle of activity.
… It is helpful to begin with one thing, perhaps putting the napkins on the table for a meal, and gradually add to the repertoire of tasks in which the child can participate, and little by little take over.
Susan Mayclin Stephenson, The Joyful Child, Montessori Global Wisdom for Birth to Three
There are so many more things such as sweeping, cooking, vacuuming, scrubbing, pouring, setting a table and polishing that are great activities to set up for your child to work on. We don’t do every one of these every day – that would be unrealistic. But when the opportunity presents itself we make sure Joshua is offered the chance to participate.
We try to do somethine every day, an achievable target. Each builds Joshua’s confidence and self belief and makes him stronger and more independent.