May 27, 2010

Practical Life: It's so................PRACTICAL!!

Practical life activities allow children to practice doing what they observe adults around them doing every day-dressing themselves, cleaning the house, and conversing with people. Many children have been actively discouraged by adults from participating in these types of activities either because adults perceive the children as incapable of participation or because they perceive the child's emerging skills as a barrier to their busy agenda. It is true that as children practice the skills of pouring, sweeping, scrubbing, and polishing, many "messes" will occur and objects will be broken. However, it is only through experiencing feedback from such interactions with the environment that children learn important lessons about cause and effect, controlling one's movements, and cleaning up after oneself. This premise supports the use of real objects that will break if dropped or that will injure if used carelessly.

Following are the four indirect aims of the PL activities:

1. Development of a sense of order

Practical Life activities meet the young child's need for a sense of order by assigning as specific place to each set of materials on the shelf and by demonstrating (through teacher modelling) a specific, organized series of steps to follow to complete an activity. Following steps to complete a task is an important skill to develop for future academic work such as reading, writing and math.

2. Refinement of gross and fine motor skills

All Practical Life activities require good motor skills for their successful completion. By repeating the same exercise over and over, children perfect their motor skills and increase their self-confidence. Additionally, increased motor skills prepare the child for writing.

3. Development of concentration

Young children often have short attention spans and are unable to concentrate on any activity for long periods of time. In order to carry out the complex tasks of many Practical Life activities, children must learn to concentrate on their own work and to resist the distractions of others around them. As children repeat activities, their concentration increases. In turn, increased concentration will help children to focus on the more academic activities in the Math and Language areas.

4. Independence

All Practical Life activities are available to all children at all times. They are arranged so each child can independently select an activity and complete it without an adult's assistance. Developing better skills to care for self and environment allows children to become more independent in all settings. And....increased independence boosts confidence and fuels a child's motivation to try more and more complex academic tasks.

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