Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Messy by Design

The "Practical Life" works are meant to be practiced over and over again so that young children develop the skills to be independent.  But as my mentor used to say, "This is a point of arrival, not a point of departure," meaning there's a journey to be made.  And be prepared:  the journey may be a little messy!
The first pouring work uses rice, which is easy to clean up.
Note the lipped tray and sponge...
Yep--that sponge gets a LOT of use.
The tray is small and the work is light.  Part of her job is carrying the materials to her table and returning the materials to the shelf when she's done.

Your tolerance for mess and your children's opportunities to practice skills are linked.  I only learned this lesson after having four small children in a tiny house.  A new friend stopped by my house for the first time and exclaimed, "Your house is too clean to have four children!"  After a while I kind of realized what she meant--if your house is this clean, then where can your children play?  Or work? 

Have you ever noticed that in homes that are as clean and sterile as a hotel the adults do all of the fetching, cleaning, serving, and pouring? We can become control freaks sometimes and forget that our home is THEIR home, too. Now I feel sad when I walk into a home with small children that is lacking the balance of order and a little messiness!

Children who haven't been given the freedom to practice skills--in  homes where messes are verboten--don't learn to do for themselves.  If we want our children to pour their own milk or carry their dirty dishes to the sink we need to provide simple lessons.  Enter the Montessori Practical Life works.

But don't worry--they aren't THAT messy!  Instead of milk or juice, toddlers learn to pour first with rice, then with water.  We make room in our schedule for mishaps (because they are bound to happen), and we show the children how to clean up.  In fact, cleaning up is an important part of the lesson!

As soon as Alleluia sat down with this work she poured WAY too much water into one little cup...
...but it was no big deal. The tray has a lip on it (which contained the water), the sponge was right there, and we have a clean up bucket for learning to clean spills.  Also, there is a well worn rug under her table.  I couldn't care less if it gets a little wet.

1 comment:

  1. This post make me want to head to Goodwill! I got the Montessori Services catalog in the mail so I have a better idea of what I need to collect for practical works.