Practical Life activities are central to the Montessori classroom and they prepare the child for all other areas in our program. The emphasis is on practicing skills, and for us as well as for the child, the process is more important than the product. Our Practical Life exercises give children the opportunity to refine fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, hand strength, balance, concentration and the ability to do things for themselves. The mundane nature of these tasks in the eyes of adults masks their profound fascination for the children, who are developing rhythms, a sense of technique, and habituated understandings of their powers in the world on which they will rely all of their lives. Primary Practical Life exercises include Pouring, Lacing, Scooping, Flower Arranging, Food preparation, Serving, and Table Washing.
For the young child, Montessori activities translate into meaningful experiences. Their joy in washing dishes, preparing vegetables and fruits for snacks, and caring for their environment, is exciting to children because they feel like, indeed actually become, active, contributing members of their community. The classroom functions dynamically because imitation is one of the child's strongest urges during his or her early years. As the children prepare and serve food to classmates, teachers and guests, they in effect switch sides, enacting conduct that has become familiar from their observation of powerful and loved adults. Enacting the reciprocal in interaction -- taking the role toward others that others have taken toward them -- is at the dynamic core of Practical Life activities.