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Practical Life for Early Childhood
When children come into the world, their first function is to adapt to their environment so that they may become a member of the human group to which they uniquely belong. The mechanism by which this occurs is one of absorption of all the elements surrounding them, obeying vital inner directives common to all children.
The first elements to be perceived and absorbed into the child’s very being are the numerous levels of order prevailing in their home. The daily activities undertaken by adults in establishing, maintaining and embellishing the living environment; the care of others and the care of self; the ceremony and ritual of hospitality; these are all intensely fascinating to the child because they are aesthetic, logical and understandable. The quotidian rites of everyday existence are comforting and provide a security necessary for the child’s development.
The Exercises of Practical Life are classified under the headings of Preliminary Exercises, Care of the Environment, Care of the Person, Grace and Courtesy, and Movement. There are materials for each of these areas adapted to the children’s size, interests and capabilities. Fundamentally, these exercises are the same all over the world, but distinct in their expression in different societies since they reflect the domestic life of the particular culture where the Montessori environment is established.
The Exercises of Practical Life, which are the foundation of a Montessori environment, provide a sane and wholesome range of activities which allow the children to develop control and coordination of movement, awareness of their environment, orderly thought patterns, independent work habits, responsibility, and many other human characteristics which can only be attained by spontaneous, purposeful work.