According to Montessori philosophy, practical life activities can be broken down into three general categories: (1) care of the environment, (2) care of the person, and (3) grace and courtesy.
The Michael Olaf website notes:
In learning to do such seemingly mundane activities as dressing, dusting, sweeping, preparing and serving food, and fixing or building, work that the child sees going on around her all day long that she learns to use her body and mind for a purpose, to concentrate, to complete cycles of activity, to finish what she started, and most importantly, to contribute to the important work of the family, the social group.
Allowing the child to participate in the daily work he sees going on around him is an act of great respect for, and confidence in, the child. It helps him to feel important to himself and to those around him. He is needed.
For the next few weeks we are going to be focusing on each of the three categories of practical life activities, starting with 'care of the environment.'
Activity: care of the environment (polishing, sweeping, dusting, etc.) - practical life activity.
Age: 26 months
Materials: cleaner, cloth, broom
Kale absolutely LOVES cleaning and one of his all time favourite activities is to walk around the house with a spray bottle of water and "clean" every single surface he can find. So when we decided to work on cleaning his playroom, I knew the challenge would be keeping him contained to one room and focused on the task at hand (he has a tendency to spray, spray, spray - and not wipe, wipe, wipe). However, I think he sensed I was giving him a bit of extra responsibility when I handed over the real cleaner, and not just plain water, as he seemed to want to prove he could handle it.
Before we got started, I listed the things we were going to clean: the table and shelves, the chalkboard, and the floor. When we came into the room I let him choose where he wanted to start and he got to spraying right away. I was surprised when he asked for the cloth so he could polish, without any reminder (this is what I mean by he seemed to want to prove he was responsible enough for the real cleaner).
We moved on to the shelves - taking each material down, naming them as we went - and then wiped those down. The chalkboard was next and upon seeing a clean slate, Kale announced, "oh wow, mama, it's pretty!" Haha.
When we finished polishing, he got his broom out and swept through the room. His kid-sized broom doesn't do the best job and Kale doesn't seem to understand how to get all the dirt to the middle of the room (plus he's easily distracted, picking things out of the pile "ooohhhh, mama, what that??"). I did a quick sweep and he was happy to hold the dustpan for me and then walk it to the garbage.
When we were finished, Kale was clearly proud of the work he did. He didn't gloat or stand back to admire his work, he just gave it a scan, gave a satisfied nod, and walked out saying "I need to clean my bedroom now, mama."
If you're interested in seeing Kale's playroom, you can read my post on the prepared environment.
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