In the Montessori method, activities that are carried on as part of daily life in the home are referred to as “practical life.” Practical life work should be just that: practical. Useful, meaningful work that really makes a difference in the environment or for the family.
For parents of toddlers, it can sometimes be difficult. Zipping up one’s own jacket is useful and meaningful, but it sure can be inconvenient to do it on toddler time when you’re already late for an appointment. That one moment of haste can turn into a big ripple-effect power struggle for the rest of the morning. I fully admit it: it happens. But when there is time (and there’s often more than I think), say on a sunny Sunday morning, I try to use it to really engage with my little guy and give him the time and space he needs to develop confidence and independence in all the many activities we do through our days.
This weekend Jasper and I did some practical life work together in our garden, as we added compost to the straw bale cold frame in one of our raised beds, where we’ll soon have baby spinach and kale popping up like crazy. That is, as soon as the snow stops falling long enough to plant the seeds.
Helping in the garden is a wonderful way to participate in the rhythm of the home. It allows Jasper to engage with the season, learn about the natural life cycles of plants and other garden-dwellers, and to contribute food to our table. A practical life activity such as preparing a snack can actually begin weeks and months ahead of time, with the planting of a few seeds.
Our Sunday morning garden work included: scooping using different implements, pouring, transferring, and carrying a bucket. With lots of repetition! I loved watching Jasper watch the compost slide through the holes in the bottom of this little pot.
It was work that needed to be done, and I truly appreciated the help.
How does your child participate in the practical life of the home?