“A child tries to act like the adults about him, making use of the same objects. His activity therefore will be directly connected with his family and social environment. A child will want to sweep the floor, wash dishes or clothes, pour out water, wash himself, comb his hair, clothe himself, and so forth.”
Practical Life constitutes some of the first lessons that children are given in the Children’s House. The children are drawn to this type of work. Even if the form is different, these lessons are fundamentally connected to the work they see the adults in their lives engaging in.
Practical Life is the work of independence. It begins at home with dressing oneself, putting on one’s shoes, feeding oneself. In the Children’s House the child is given the opportunity to grow these skills.
How beautiful it is to see young children washing their hands, scrubbing tables and cutting vegetables. There is an inherent goodness to these activities. The work is purposeful and consuming; the outcome is measurable and satisfying; the children, as a result, are calm and centered.
Practical Life work expands as the child turns from activities centered around the care of the self (e.g., Hand Washing) to those that encompass the care of the environment (e.g., Table Washing, Sweeping). As young children more firmly develop their sense of self and begin to master those skills which enable them to take care of themselves, they can broaden their focus to include the world outside of themselves. Their interest in the environment is met with Practical Life work which involves them in the care of their surroundings. This is done in a way that builds their sense of ownership of the classroom as well as their role in the community
In Practical Life exercises such as flower arranging and ironing, the child’s care for the environment goes beyond necessities such as cleaning and food preparation and incorporates the beautification of the environment.
Practical Life does not end in the Children’s House. It continues to develop as the child’s relationship to their environment changes. Throughout the year we’ll delve deeper into the many aspects of Practical Life and examine how it evolves as the children move on to Elementary.
Thanks as always to fabulously talented Melinda Smith for her photographic skills.