I’d like to reveal a peek into the depth of the Montessori pedagogy through demonstrating a simple piece of work in our Practical Life area - Wood Polishing. Names of materials from left to right are: apron, oilcloth, tray, (non-toxic) polish in a glass dropper bottle, dish for polish, dish for cotton ball, finger mitt, and buffing cloth.
If you have been immediately captivated by this beautiful set of materials, imagine its “enticement” to a young child! And our first goal has been achieved - to use beautiful materials to call to the child.
But why on earth does my child need to learn how to polish wood? You may ask. You are absolutely right. We are not concerned whether children master the knowledge of how to polish wood either. However, we do care deeply about all the benefits the young child may derive from this activity (unknowingly)! Let me explain.
When we present the Wood Polishing work, we first introduce the materials, show the child how to carry each piece to the table, and how to set everything up. We precisely name each piece of material as we go, providing a wonderful language opportunity to learn a series of new words! We then present how to carry out the activity in a sequential way. Lastly, we show how to clean up, replenish, and put the materials back on the shelf. This process of removing from shelf, setting up, working, cleaning and putting away alone is hugely beneficial for the young mind to build the impression of beginning, middle, and end - the pattern of thoughts and sequencing. Through practice, the child internalizes the steps involved in the entire activity, aiding their building of memory.
While polishing, the child uses repetitive circular motions on the wooden object, which improves their coordination of movement as well as finger strength. This is so important as it prepares them for future writing with a pen. As they see clear results of their work (i.e., wooden object becomes shiny), they are encouraged to continue. The child begins to concentrate for longer and longer periods of time. The ability to concentrate is key to any intellectual learning and pursuit, and we are very careful and deliberate to cultivate and protect that in even the youngest child in our environment.
To prepare this work set, our guides (teachers) hand-sewed the apron, finger mitts, and buffing cloths. The entire set is color coordinated to help the child easily identify the pieces which go together (aiding children’s independence in performing the activity). We also carefully considered the age of the child that may be using this work and ensured the size of each piece is appropriate for the child’s small hands to manipulate. Wooden, glass, fabric materials are chosen over plastic as much as possible to cultivate the appreciation for quality and beauty, as well as love for a natural environment.
This is just a very brief introduction to some aspects of the Practical Life activities. There is so much more to this area, let alone other areas in a Montessori environment. If you are curious about how your child will benefit from our bilingual Montessori environment, I am happy to meet and share more. Schedule a tour.