What is Montessori Preschool? Part 6

The sixth installment in a multi-part series about the history, philosophy and teaching of Montessori education.

Montessori Learning Materials, Part 2—Practical Life Area: Everyday Life Skills

Practical life materials in the Montessori classroom

As every parent knows, a preschool age child wants to be with adults taking part in all the activities that comprise daily life. The Montessori learning materials in the Practical Life area allow the child to do just that. When a child enters the Montessori preschool classroom, or “children’s house,” at 3 years of age, the area of Practical Life offers her a link between home and school. In this area of the classroom the child can undertake the same activities she has been watching adults do, only with utensils made to her size that actually work, such as: polish metal, scrub, empty, sweep, chop, etc. (always with an adult nearby to help if needed, without interfering in the child’s work).


Each classroom has its own kitchen area where children can work


Of course a 3 year old child is more interested in the excitement of scrubbing a table than he is in the objective of having it be clean. The activity helps the child gain control of his gross motor skills and better hand-eye coordination, which will help him accomplish other activities later on.


In the Montessori classroom, the area of Practical Life is divided into 5 parts:

  • Preliminary Lessons (moving objects in the class such as chairs, carrying learning materials, walking without disturbing the work of others)

  • Personal Care (learning how to button, zip, comb one’s hair, tie shoelaces, etc.)

  • Care of the Classroom (cleaning, sweeping, moping, washing, gardening, etc.)

  • Development of Social Relations (sharing, serving food, pardoning oneself, table manners, etc.)

  • Movement (achieving balance, walking in line, the “quiet game,” etc.)


Sometimes it’s difficult for an adult to appreciate the feeling of pride and accomplishment that a child feels in mastering the skills of Practical Life. For an adult, the care of the house and oneself are necessary tasks. The child is in some way attracted to these activities for many different reasons. These tasks are important, creative, full of small achievements and intriguing movements that attract the child’s attention; They are also easy to imitate, the child becomes accustomed to and even fond of doing these tasks, and undertaking them helps guide the child to achieve greater skills in the perfection of his or her movements and concentration.


A proud child looks over his washing


Children are attracted to the materials in the Practical Life area because these activities allow them to function independently in the world of adults. After learning how to button and unbutton, tie shoelaces, and wash hands, the child can spontaneously repeat these activities, working to perfect her abilities, free from the unnecessary intervention of an adult. These exercises correspond to a sensitive developmental period for children in which they are refining their movement and coordination, as well as their great desire to be independent. “I can do it myself” is the young child’s biggest motivation, and Montessori stimulates and supports growth of this independence.


Even the youngest children at the school participate in setting their tables and carrying their own lunch baskets to their place when its time to eat.


Stay tuned for the next installment about Montessori Materials—“Sensory Materials: Exploring the World.”


To see a Montessori preschool in operation, come visit Otoch Paal Community Center in Akumal Pueblo. Otoch Paal welcomes visitors who are interested in seeing how a Montessori center operates. Classes are in session from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., Monday through Friday. Visitors are asked to come between 9 and 10:30 a.m.


How you can help. As a non-profit community-based learning center, Otoch Paal does not generate sufficient funds to pay for all necessary school improvements. Monetary donations and donations in kind are always welcome. Donations can be made directly at the school.

Or more information can be found at: http://montessoriaroundtheworld.org/otoch.html/


The Rotary Club of Fort Collins, Colorado has already raised money for one new roof

but they are still working on raising funds for the second (and last) palapa roof that needs to be replaced at Otoch Paal (for more information, read the Sac Be newsletter from September 2008). If you are interested in donating to the roof project, please contact Ron Rockvam at the email address below.

Are you part of a Rotary Club that wants to get involved? Contact Ron Rockvam of the Foothills Rotary Club at: dvantage@msn.com


Are you associated with a Montessori school that could donate used learning materials for the preschool classroom? Contact Eleonor Bermudez Ferrer, of Otoch Paal, at: leocancun@hotmail.com or Ellie Zucker, parent, at: elzucker@aol.com



Directions to Otoch Paal: The school is located near the back of Akumal Pueblo, on the Northern edge of the town. It can be reached by following the Pueblo’s main street (avenida) to the fourth block on the right hand side of the street. After passing the secondary and kindergarten schools (which are on the main street), turn right at the corner where the kindergarten is located and continue to the next corner. Otoch Paal is next to the kindergarten and the entrance is at the far corner, near the town’s edge.








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