by Jamey Maclean
Practical life work is very important to a toddler and involves the activities of everyday life. This work can be the task of a child pouring his or her own water for snack or using a prepared transfer work such as a child spooning objects from one container to another that they choose from the shelf.
Through this work a child will gain independence, coordination, responsibility, and concentration. The child will learn how to follow a motor sequence to meet her own needs and desires, which will instill confidence and strengthen her independence. These activities can also be culturally specific and allow a child to learn about their culture and what is around them. Practical life work usually fall under four areas: care for the environment, care for self, control of movement, and grace and courtesy.
Caring for the environment involve tasks such as sweeping, washing a table, rolling a rug, taking care of plants, dusting, and cleaning a mirror or window. Self-care items consists of many of the everyday living skills including toileting, wiping their nose, washing hands, brushing hair, dressing, and undressing.
Eating and food tasks such as preparing food, setting a table, and dishwashing also fall within these categories. While doing these works, the children often learn how to collaborate and cooperate with each other as well as take turns. Practical life work also aids in a child’s control over their movements, eye-hand coordination, and small and large motor skills.
All of the practical life works available in a classroom are reality-based. For example, toddlers learn how to wash real dishes while using real soapy water and a dish scrubber. All of the materials used have an order to them as well as a designated place. It is important for the adult to model appropriate behavior and do small precise movements when teaching a child how to complete a task.
Children are often attracted to practical life work because it involves items and tasks that they have seen being used before. They are then able to become empowered and have a feeling of self-worth from this new skill that they have developed.
Many of these works are centered around the periods of time when a child’s interests are focused on developing a particular skill. With toddlers, it is all about movement, their strong sense to have order, and their desire to work along side an adult. Practical life works allow a child to fill a need while perfecting their movements, developing several skills, and growing as an individual. Toddlers can be great helpers when the opportunity is given to them.
Jamey Maclean is one of the Lead Teachers in MCH's Infant/Toddler Program. You can reach her here.