Practical Life Skills
Being an early childhood teacher I have seen a wide range of children at all different ages, stages and abilities. And I know as a teacher I should promote teaccig your child ABCs and numbers and shapes. I should probably promote making sure your child is completely school ready. And don't get me wrong, those things are very important and please don't take this as me saying "don't teach ABCs or numbers etc", please do!
But I think it can be so easy to get fixated on teaching our children numbers and ABCs and making sure they know these things and we neglect other life skills.
I find it so sad when a child in Year 1 can identify all the letters and sounds, they can read, they can answer math questions easily because they have been taught these nonstop and almost drilled into them but when it comes to getting dressed for swimming lessons or taking off a jumper, they can't do it.
Now please hear me out, I think it's all about finding the right balance. We can't completely neglect teaching the academic but the practical life skills are just as important and they often get overlooked.
In Montessori in the very early years they introduce practical life skill activities. Wherever I have taught in the world i have always tried to incorporate these activities in my classroom. Montessori is all about bringing real world objects into the playroom.
I love practical life skill activities because they promote independence in children. From a very young age it would be allowing your child to feed themselves, drink from a cup, transfer objects from bowl to bowl. I have tried to do this with Asher from when he was very little and yes it is MESSY and it takes so much longer than if I just fed him myself. But in the long run he will be so much more independent and capable of doing things himself.
Practical Life activities promote independence, they develop fine motor skills, they develop a child's concentration and hold their attention, they encourage a child to cross the midline which gets both sides of the brain working at the same time.
When I created my play trays it was with the intention that parents could set up a variety of activities and leave them on a shelf that children could access themselves and be engaged and independent all at the same time.
Some ideas of practical life activities:
- spooning rice from bowl to bowl
- pouring water or beans from jug to cup
- pretend tea set
- crushing egg shells in a mortar and pestle
- a big bowl of soapy water and a hand whisk
- pegging dolls clothes on a washing line
- cutting playdough with plastic scissors
- using tweezers or tongs to transfer balls or pom poms from bowl to bowl
- a basket of bottles with a variety of kids for children to unscrew and flip on and off
- turning pages in board books
The great thing about practical life skills is that you can do all of these with things you have at home.