“Any child who is self-sufficient, who can tie his shoes, dress or undress himself, reflects in his joy and sense of achievement the image of human dignity, which is derived from a sense of independence.”(Maria Montessori, The Child in the Family)
One type of practical life exercise is the set of activities known as care of self. Care of self can be thought of as any activity that aids the child in becoming independent in their abilities to take care of their bodies.
The dressing frames are key materials in the care of self for children because they allow them to practice skills such as buttoning, using snaps, buckling, tying bows, and lacing. These are all essential skills for dressing themselves, but in addition to these, lessons are given on skills such as nose-blowing and putting on winter overclothes. Hair and teeth brushing, face and body washing, and other grooming activities are important self-care activities children can learn at home. Children feel particularly accomplished when they care take care of these things for themselves, independently.
Feeding oneself is another example of Care of Self. Food also brings people together, and food preparation is a great opportunity for children to use the skills they’ve learned to make and share food. A child might use tongs to select a piece of fruit, a knife to slice it, and then toothpicks to move each piece onto a plate. Then they use their grace and courtesy skills to ask children politely if they would like some food. In this way, Food Preparation is both care of self and care of community. The other children get practice in grace and courtesy by responding respectfully as to whether they would like some food. Then when the child is finished, they practice care of environment skills by cleaning every part of their food preparation task. All of this is possible because practical life activities build upon one another.
Next week I’ll delve more into care of the environment, and how this is one of the most social aspects of Practical Life!