Washing and Cleaning
A basic premise behind Maria Montessori’s philosophy of early childhood education was that every child is eager for work, even when the work seems like chores to the adult. Through the activities of Practical Life, children not only perform a task; they are also forming foundations on which to organize skills and intelligence. Nowhere is this premise more evident than in Washing and Scrubbing exercises. Through these activities, children develop concentration, become aware of order and sequencing, gain control over their movements, become more independent, and learn to care for their surroundings.
In The Secret of Childhood, Montessori wrote that the human hand… “not only allows the mind to reveal itself but enables the whole being to enter into special relationships with its environment.” Manipulative activities like these engage hands and eyes in a practical task that satisfies the child’s need for purposeful work. At the same time, such activities offer unique physical challenges that help children develop concentration and learn to coordinate their most important “tools”: eyes and hands!
When children begin to internalize the foundations of Practical Life, they seek ways to use their skills and assume broader responsibilities. Preliminary activities that isolate single skills demonstrate children’s amazing ability to handle kitchen tools. Preparing and serving snacks (and even meals) is a natural way for children to learn cooperation and experience community. Where kitchen facilities are limited, create cooking and clean-up areas with a toaster oven, cutting boards, basins, and pitchers.
Community and Peace
Maria Montessori was a citizen of the world. Her timeless and enduring work shows us that children nurtured in body, mind, and spirit, would guide humanity toward a more peaceful world. Dedicating her life to the spiritual renewal of humanity through the child, her vision was based on creating an environment where children could fully realize their potentials as individuals and members of communities. As Montessori wrote in The Secret of Childhood, “It is the spirit of the child that can determine the course of human progress and lead it perhaps even to a higher form of civilization.”
Preparing the Environment
Maria Montessori’s Casa dei Bambini showed that the forgotten street children of Rome in the early 1900’s were capable of learning much more than was thought possible. Their “absorbent minds” were ready for the structured, self-guided learning Montessori came to pioneer. Part of her success with these children came from providing a predictable classroom environment. She saw that they felt secure and independent in the order surrounding them.
Everything in the classroom is part of the curriculum! Child-sized, accessible, and aesthetically pleasing furniture, mats, containers, and materials should be selected with great care to meet the needs of the young, developing child.
Resources for Parents & Educators