Learning Practical Life Skills at School

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“The essence of independence is to be able to do something for one’s self.” -Maria Montessori

In today’s society it seems more and more that kids are entering teen and adulthood without knowing many of the practical life skills needed to be successful in this world.  While many children learn these skills at home there is still a need for schools to play a role in the teaching of these valuable skills. Unfortunately, most schools don’t teach practical life skills anymore like in decades past.  Montessori Schools are different, in that they not only teach these skills, but it’s an integral part of each student’s day.

Montessori Schools are based on the idea that children are naturally interested in activities they have witnessed. Dr. Maria Montessori, who founded the Montessori Method, began using what she called “Practical Life Exercises” to allow the child to do activities of daily life and therefore adapt and orientate himself in his society.

Practical Life activities are the activities of everyday life and they are involved in all aspects of life. The child observes these activities in the environment and gains knowledge through the real experience of how to accomplish life skills in a purposeful way. These activities are cultural and specific to the child’s time and place. Practical life activities help give the child a sense of being and belonging, established through participation in daily life with us. Through practical life the child learns about his culture and all about what it is to be human.

At Main Street Montessori School, a small private school in Central Iowa, these Practical Life Exercises begin in our Primary Class (ages 3-6). The practical life exercises learned here can be divided up into three main areas:

  • Care of Environment – Pouring, spooning, sweeping, cloth folding, dish washing, and taking care of animals and plants.
  • Care of the Person – Buttoning, zipping, snapping, tying, hand washing, baby doll washing, basic cooking skills
  • Grace & Courtesy – Consist of things such as walking, sitting, greeting others, manners (please, thank you, and “May I”) how to interrupt a teacher or another child (“Excuse me” and tapping a teacher on the shoulder and waiting to be responded to), passing objects, following directions, how to open and close a door, and control of body through silence games.

All of these exercises translates into increased independence, improved motor skills, improved problem solving and a greater sense of order.

Main Street’s Elementary Practical Life curriculum is a continuation of the practical life skills presented and practiced in the primary classroom. Skills pertaining to care of self, care of environment and living things, along with grace and courtesy are still important; however, these activities now begin to take the children outside of the classroom and into the greater community. While the activities may change, these skills are just as important in the upper elementary, middle school, and even high school years.

The exercises in Practical Life also serve an important social purpose. Children become more self-aware which helps them develop empathy and sensitivity to others. It is because of this greater sensitivity to others that community service projects are a big part of the upper elementary Practical Life curriculum. Additionally, Practical Life activities help foster self-discipline, self-reliance as well as teaching children how to concentrate and cooperate.

Find out more about how your child can learn practical life skills at school. Schedule a tour of Main Street Montessori School today! Visit www.mainstschool.com or call 515-981-1275.


Thomas Brogan

Thomas Brogan, a native of Des Moines, was the original founder of Des Moines Parent and is a father to a 12 & 14-year-old. In his free time, he likes to explore nature, try new local restaurants, and enjoy life as best as he can.

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