When we look at children from the viewpoint of Dr. Maria Montessori, we come to understand why children love working with their hands. The secret lies in the fact that children need to exercise their muscles to develop physically and mentally. The Practical life exercises are designed specifically for this. While they exercise their muscles, their brain is working to comprehend what’s going on with the material in hand and this in turn develops cognitive abilities. Having mastered certain skills, children become more independent and less reliant on adults.
What we need is ultimately for children to be able to do things on their own. Be it taking care of themselves or just learning to manipulate themselves in a particular environment, children gain immensely by working with Practical life materials.
For example, when children work with materials that allow them to master the skills of opening lids of bottles or containers, they are fine tuning their finger dexterity skills as well as gaining skills that help them to be more independent. There are so many things and objects in the environment that have different versions of opening and closing mechanisms – it could be a door, a cardboard box, a drawer, a bottle, or a Tupperware. The teacher can vary the exercises according to the age group, introducing new skills.
Practical life exercises teach self-care, care of environment, care of pets and social grace and courtesy. What good is education without children getting a good foundation in learning to be courteous, showing respect towards others, toward the environment and in turn, receiving all the respect that they deserve?
The skills gained are meant for life and therein lies the essence of Montessori Practical life exercises!