We know that all young children have a lot of knowledge they need to acquire.  In a Montessori school learning is self-driven and is done effortlessly.  When the child is young they busy themselves with washing tables, polishing brass, stringing beads, moving cylinders in and out of blocks, matching colors, dishwashing and even making flower arrangements.  Believe me, the children LOVE this work.  They are completely content and joyful going about their daily activities, being part of a group and knowing that they took part in caring for their classroom and themselves.

washing a chalkboard

Maria Montessori knew what she was doing!  Not only did she figure out a practical life curriculum that children LOVE, design and make real materials at a child size, but also embed preparations for reading, writing and mathematics into each lesson!

Each lesson is shown with a left to right movement of washing, scrubbing or drying.  When a child washes a chalkboard they start on the left side and make strokes across the board (just like when you track a line with your finger in a book).  This happens dozens of times each day with a variety of work: washing a table, washing a mirror, scrubbing an underlay, scrubbing the easel… get the idea.


washing a mirror

When the child is ready they are shown more complex lessons with many steps.  The lesson of dishwashing involves multiple trips to fetch water (some warm and some cold).  Gathering dishes from all over the room then rinsing, scrubbing, rinsing again, drying then replacing in the correct space in the classroom.  Then a whole series of tasks for clean up.  All of which the child does without any help!  This experience helps prepare children for multi-step processes later in math and language.  It aids in establishing sequences which they can call on later when they are working on division and sentence analysis.


Children are also able to work on their fine motor control and manual dexterity within the scope of practical life lessons.

Here children are washing leaves, polishing brass and snapping.  Each child is preparing for holding a pencil and forming letters without even knowing it.  It is amazing to me that these lessons not only give the child a deep sense of satisfaction but also prepare them for what is ahead in such a natural way.

leaf washing