Exercises of Practical Life are a fundamental part of the Montessori curriculum, and the foundation of the Montessori classroom. These are simple daily activities, which we adults carry out on a daily basis in order to keep and preserve our own environments. These activities include sweeping, dusting, polishing and scrubbing, which all serve a purpose of preserving the environment.
These activities form a part of the adult’s daily life, which is familiar to children. After seeing their parents carry out these projects day in and day out, children want to mimic these actions, and will inevitably offer to help around the home. Whether practicing these skills at home or at school, children will develop in character and individuality.
When adults perform these activities, they do so with a direct aim, but children do these with an inner urge: not to restore or create order, as in the case of adults, but to build up his or her own individuality. This is what we mean by the exercises of practical life.
These exercises of practical life fall under four groups:
(a) Elementary movements- e.g. carrying, holding, and putting down
(b) Taking care of the environment- e.g. sweeping, polishing, and dusting
(c) Looking after oneself or taking care of a person- e.g. buttoning, tying, and hand washing
(d) Grace and curtsy or social relations – e.g. greetings, offering something, accepting something, and apologizing.
The direct aim of the exercises of practical life is to help the child gain independence with these four groups in his or her daily activities. The indirect aim is to help the child to coordinate and control his or her body movement. It is only as a result of this that he or she will have an integrated personality and the development to perform more complex exercises later on in life.