Practical Life Activities with a toddler and 5 year old.

In the Montessori teaching method, children are gradually introduced to practical life experiences through a highly-structured sequence of activities, designed to give the child the opportunity to practise each discrete skill. When practical activities are taught in this fashion there is a clear sequence of progression and the control of error ( which ensures that the child can see straight away when he makes a mistake) is built in to the activity.

In our homeschool I try to work through these skills discretely and then follow with applying what we have learned to a practical activity in the home or garden.

This week we made popcorn together and the boys chose a spice from a selection by smelling each container – a follow on from our scent bottles activity last week- to flavour their popcorn. We made a savory popcorn with a a quarter teaspoon of salt mixed with paprika – little A’s choice and a sweet popcorn with a half teaspoon of sugar and a liberal sprinkling of cinnamon. Delicious !

As usual we had regular tea breaks in the garden…

We also made a crumble together using some of the fruit from our garden.

During the first part of the week my 18 month old practised his spooning and pouring using the sequence I will outline below . The control of error here was the sound on the tray when the dry corn or water was spilled.

These activities need to be set up for the child to access independently noting the following important considerations:

  1. The equipment must be made from natural materials where possible – glass or pottery has a weight to it which helps to hold it in place.
  2. The equipment must be the same – only varying the volume of the container(s) into which we are spooning or pouring.
  3. Each activity focuses the action from left to right – preparation for reading English.
  4. The spoon is held using the pincer grip – readying the child for pencil control and building up muscle stamina in readiness for writing.

The child gains a thorough understanding of volume when the skills are taught in this distinct way, rather than the traditional set up of sand/water trays which , while great for play, do not teach the mathematics of volume in a structured way which allows us to assess precisely what the child can do.

Activity one – spooning from left to right – one container.

Activity two – spooning from one to two equal containers.

Activity 3 – spooning to two unequal containers

Activity 4 – one container to one container with a volume indicator line.

We then repeated these 4 progressions using dry pouring.

Lastly, we practised wet pouring- again with the 4 different progressions- but this time with a plastic tray.

For our 18 month old I leave a simple set of 6 activities to explore- in the first half of the week I left a selection as follows, progressing from least difficult on the top left to most difficult on the bottom right.

posting lollipop sticks into a container, lacing large beads, putting screws into blocks with an internal thread, stacking cups – a great activity for visual discrimination, a dressing activity using my home-made space cube ( there are buttons to do up on two sides) and a simple shape sorter with just 6 shapes left out – 3 which I know he can already do and three new ones.

Little A is vehicle mad ! Here are the shelves later in the week – from the top a selection of wooden vehicles with different movements to explore, a wooden jigsaw with different vehicles, soft vehicles which all have a different sound when shaken/squeezed etc. , a more complex vehicle puzzle and lastly two wooden trucks which move in different ways – in a straight line and one which pivots.

As always I’ve had a lot of fun both designing the learning , showing the boys each skill and then watching them enjoying their learning and able to become fully-focused on each task.

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