Introduction to Practical Life.

The process, not the product is the point of the activity…encouraging children to think and ‘do’ for themselves.

There are so many benefits to Practical Life activities. These exercises build the foundation for everything else that follows.


The traditional work of the family is referred to in Montessori as practical life work. It is the single most important area of an education for life

Practical: means basic, useful, purposeful; life means way of living.

Practical life Exercises are just that, they are Exercises so the child can learn how to do living activities in a purposeful way.

Meaning and Purpose of Practical Life

The purpose and aim of Practical Life is to help the child gain control in the coordination of his movement, and help the child to gain independence and adapt to his society. It is therefore important to “Teach teaching, not correcting” (Montessori) in order to allow the child to be a fully functional member in his own society. Practical Life Exercises also aid the growth and development of the child’s intellect and concentration and will in turn also help the child develop an orderly way of thinking.

Exercise Groups

Practical Life Exercises can be categorized into four different groups: Preliminary Applications, Applied Applications, Grace and Courtesy, and Control of Movement.

In the Preliminary Exercises, the child learns the basic movements of all societies such as pouring, folding, and carrying.

In the Applied Exercises, the child learns about the care and maintenance that helps every day life. These activities are, for example, the care of the person (i.e. the washing of the hand) and the care of the environment (i.e. dusting a table or indoor sweeping).

In the Grace and Courtesy Exercises, the children work on the interactions of people to people; encouraging their social development.

In the Control of Movement Exercises, the child learns about his own movements and learns how to refine his coordination through such activities as walking on the line.

Reason for Practical Life Exercises

Practical Life activities prepare the child for reading (left to right) and for writing (preparing the hand).Practical Life activities help the child to develop control and coordination. After these skills are learned, the child can then take command of his/her mind and body and therefore can direct his/her own activities. Practical Life activities give the child experience in focusing his/her attention. In order for a child to find out how to do it for his or her self, they need real things to concentrate on. The foundation of character and social behaviour are built from the skill to concentrate. Practical Life activities help channel the child’s activity constructively by giving them motives for activity. There is always a reason to do what they are doing. Therefore the child will have purposeful actions throughout his/her entire lifetime.

Practical Life skills help build:

  • Self-confidence through pride of accomplishment.
  • Establishes independence.
  • Assures development of initiative.

Characteristics of Practical Life

Because Practical Life Exercises are meant to resemble everyday activities, it is important that all materials be familiar, real, breakable, and functional. The materials must also be related to the child’s time and culture. In order to allow the child to fully finish the exercise and to therefore finish the full cycle of the activity, the material must be complete.


Children have for eons shown an interest in daily life through make-believe cooking and cleaning. It was one of the pivotal discoveries of Dr. Montessori that, given the chance, children usually choose real work over imaginary play.

Allowing the child to participate in the daily work he sees going on around him is an act of great respect for, and confidence in, the child. It helps him to feel important to himself and to those around him. He feels needed. 

We can empathize if we think about the difference in treatment of a stranger, perhaps a dinner guest in our home, who is served and waited upon, compared to that of a good friend who is welcomed in our kitchen to talk and laugh while we prepare the meal together. Children don’t want to be the guest; they want us to help them to do it themselves. Practical Life exercises must be mastered so that the child will develop to their fullest potential and take their place in the history of our world. It is our role as caretakers of the adults of tomorrow to entice the child to work with purpose in everything they do!