Among the category of material called “practical life”, the exercises named “taking care of the environment” are used to develop the small child’s manual dexterity and to develop his autonomy towards the environment.
Among these exercises, you can find:
– how to clean brass objects,
– how to clean a mirror,
– how to polish shoes,
There are other exercises in this category that I will present later on such as how to: clean a table, clean a chair, sweep the floor, use a feather duster and set the table.
Please remember that for all exercises involving practical life, you are required to use real products, glass recipients and so on… Therefore, you must be careful and need to watch the child while he is doing these exercises.
These exercises are meant to prepare the child for mathematics because they teach the child that things have to be done in a certain order and not just in any random way.
1. How to clean brass objects
Necessary material: A brass object to be cleaned, a basket, a product used to clean brass, a little sponge, a piece of cloth to make the brass shine, a waterproof tablecloth and an apron.
Presentation of the exercise:
1. Take the tablecloth and the basket to the table. Place the tablecloth at the center of the table. Place the basket at the top left of the tablecloth.
2. Get the object to polish and place it in the center of the tablecloth.
3. Put the material in a horizontal line in order that the child knows the sequence he will have to follow during the exercise.
4. Unscrew the lid of the little jar containing the product and put it next to the basket.
5. Take the sponge and dip it slowly into the product, holding the jar in your left hand.
6. Press the sponge on the border of the jar to let out any exceeding product.
7. Take the object in your left hand.
8. Apply the product to a limited surface patting it softly.
9. Look at the surface change and compare the clean surface to the unclean one.
10. Look at the dirty spots on the sponge.
11. Polish the object completely from left to right and from top to bottom.
12. Take a piece of cloth to shine the object.
13. Shine the object by a round trip movement around the object, from left to right, from top to bottom (direction used when reading or writing) until the object is dry and clean.
14. Show the black spots on the cloth used to polish.
15. Put the material back in the basket as found at the beginning.
16. Put the brass object back in its place.
17. Clean the dirty spots made on the tablecloth.
18. Put the basket back into place.
All of these exercises of practical life have to involve a possibility of self-correction. For this particular exercise, the correction is cleaning the product left on the object or on the tablecloth when the exercise is done.
The goals of this particular exercise are the development of: order, eye/hand coordination, concentration and independence.
The indirect goals are: to learn how to polish an instrument, the preparation to writing (hand dexterity), to learn how to follow a sequence of activities.
You can then suggest to your child to clean and polish other objects, to polish furniture… to clean a mirror, to clean the windows of the class…
This exercise is perfect for children from age three to six. Even if children have never attended a Montessori class, even in primary school, they will like to do these exercises. Don’t forget that for children, what really counts is the action, not the goal. What I mean by this is: a child can clean a mirror several times but what counts is the action of “cleaning” and not to clean the mirror!
These exercises can easily be done at home. You will find that children usually love to do them!