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Wheaton Montessori News

Practical Life: A CommuniTEA Recap

Categories: Coffee and CommuniTEA / For Parents / General Knowledge Fund / Preschool / Spotlight on Our Teachers


Mrs. Carrillo, Primary Classroom teacher at Wheaton Montessori School

At the December CommuniTEA, Mrs. Carrillo spoke about the Practical Life and Sensorial Materials in our classrooms.  Over the next few weeks, we’ll be posting excerpts of her discussion points that she shared with parents at the CommuniTEA.



I’ll begin by talking about practical life, as that is the area that young children (or even older children) entering the classroom are introduced to first. It contains a variety of activities related to care of the self and care of the environment, such as: hand washing, pouring grain, pouring water, dressing frames, food preparation, cloth washing, table washing, mat washing, polishing, plant care, flower arranging, etc. I also introduce children to some other simple lessons such as: using a mirror to check if your face is clean, using a tissue to wipe your nose, how to put your coat on a hanger and zip it up, how to stow away your mittens in your backpack, how to arrange the backpacks nicely in the closet, etc.

These activities are done to directly support independence in a young child. Indirectly, these activities develop fine motor skills; strengthen personal will (I really want to see what is going on behind me, but I am carrying the heavy pitcher of water, so I will resist the urge!), strengthen concentration and intellect (there are a lot of steps to remember when washing clothes or preparing an apple!)






Practical life work is important for all of the children in the classroom. It is the foundation for everything else. There is never a time in the classroom when a child is “beyond” practical life. Younger children work with Practical Life to gain necessary preliminary skills, to have an initial experience of concentration and the pattern of work, to work on controlling their body.


Older children work with Practical Life because they need something familiar and repetitive to process a more academic work, because there is something out of place in the classroom and (as the older helpers) they are internally compelled to tidy it to maintain the beauty of their space, because they have mastered whole body movement and need to hone manual dexterity or fine motor control.


The Practical Life materials are what make further work in the classroom possible.