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Direct Aims of the Practical Life Activities and Curriculum
The Montessori Practical Life Curriculum has five direct aims:
- Concentration -- The child will develop strong concentration skills as he focuses on the task at hand. Concentration is key to observation, an important learning mechanism.
- Coordination -- As the child manipulates the various tools, he will become more coordinated in his motor skills. Coordination allows him to manipulate the pencil.
- Control -- As the child becomes more coordinated, he also is able to exert more control over his actions. Control over the pencil leads to better handwriting.
- Independence -- The child learns the process involved in the activities, which are broken down step-by-step. This way he is able to perform the activities without assistance, thus moving closer to the ultimate goal of independence. The greater his sense of independence, the more likely he will be to independently write.
- Order -- Each activity has a specified order in which it is carried out. Activities are set up on the shelves in a particular order. The young child craves order in his environment. Formation of letters also follows a particular order.
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Hand Transfer Activities
Initial hand transfer activities in the Montessori Practical Life curriculum require the use of the whole hand. Maybe the child is moving manicotti or large pom-poms from one bowl to the next. She may repeatedly thrust her hands into a large bowl of fava or lima beans, picking up a handful and letting them drop.
Later, she will start transferring smaller items with her fingers, such as beads and smaller pom-poms. She may try to place the beads onto a soap dish, or put pegs into holes. Eventually she may try to put fuse beads onto a form.
As the items for transferring become smaller, the child is required to use the pincer grasp more and more, thus strengthening those finger muscles.
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After working with hand transfer activities, children start using tools to transfer materials. She starts using scoops and spoons to move beads, lentils, and rice from one container to another. The tools become smaller and smaller throughout the progression, again strengthening those finger muscles.
She can also start using tongs to transfer items. Early tonguing activities will use ice tongs or chef tongs to move larger items, such as corks. Later, she will use tweezers to pick up rice or to place fuse beads on the form.
Woodworking activities also improve the child's control and grasp as she holds the nail or screw with one hand and the hammer or screwdriver with the other.
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Food preparation is a part of the Montessori Practical Life curriculum. These activities also help prepare the child's hand for writing. For example, as the child picks grapes off a stem, or peels a piece of string cheese, he is using the pincer grasp. He also uses it when using tongs to serve food, or a huller to remove the leaves and stem from a strawberry.
When making bread, the child exercises his hand muscles as he kneads the dough. Precision is required when decorating cookies. Control allows the jelly to be spread on the cracker.
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Practical Life Teaches Writing
Within the Practical Life curriculum are numerous activities using tools that strengthen the child's finger muscles for the pincer grasp. Other activities exercise the whole hand. As the child performs these Montessori Practical Life activities, she is learning five basic skills necessary for learning: concentration, coordination, control, independence, and order.
Montessori Practical Life Activities that Teach Writing
Within the Montessori classroom, there are numerous activities that prepare the child's hand for writing. Initial activities are found in the Practical Life area. More can be found in the art area. Finally, Maria developed a few manipulative activities also used to prepare the hand for writing.