Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Importance of Pouring Water: Montessori Preschool Practical Life Activities

To have a vision of the cosmic plan, in which every form of life depends on directed movements which have effects beyond their conscious aim, is to understand the child’s work and be able to guide it better. - Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind
NAMC Montessori preschool practical life activities pouring water girl using pitcher
To the untrained eye, the Montessori Preschool/Kindergarten (ages 3 to 6) Practical Life activities appear to be, well, child’s play. On closer examination, however, the Practical Life activities present themselves as a highly logical, sequential chain of activities that indirectly lead the child to grander things.

Take the simple task of pouring water, for example. At first glance, it comes across as ‘no big deal’. After all, the child is only pouring water. Take a closer look. Did you realize that the activities for pouring liquids come after the Montessori child has learned to transfer and pour solids? Why?

The Importance of Pouring Water: Montessori Preschool Practical Life Activities

There is a greater chance for error when pouring liquids. Transferring and pouring solids offers an opportunity to practice those skills first with something that is easier to clean up.

Look again. Why are there so many pouring activities on the shelf? The Montessori Practical Life activities are graduated and isolated in difficulty. When transferring water from one container to another, we begin with the largest motor skill to isolate. In this case, we begin by transferring water from one bowl to another using a sponge. The child concentrates on using whole arm and hand movements. Once that is mastered, the child moves on to pouring from one pitcher to another, one pitcher to one glass, one pitcher to three glasses. Each activity introduces a new level of difficulty.

NAMC Montessori preschool practical life activities pouring water girl wringing cloth
So why all the emphasis on pouring? I thought if you knew how to pour water without spilling it, you were finished? The Practical Life activities are indirectly preparing the Montessori child for something larger. There is, so to speak, a behind-the-scenes theme happening simultaneously.

First, the child is preparing for more complex works that require more steps. This builds concentration. Second, the child is now able to pour herself something to drink when she is thirsty. This builds independence. Third, the child is able to serve others something to drink without spilling. This builds coordination. Fourth, the child has learned to evaluate how much water is in the pitcher and estimate how much should be poured into each glass so that they are equal. This is developing a mathematical mind. And last, but certainly not least, the Montessori child has developed small muscle control by moving from a whole hand to a pincer-grip movement. This is an indirect preparation for holding a pencil and writing.

On the surface, pouring water is simply that, pouring water. However, dive a little deeper and you’ll find it is much more. NAMC's Practical Life 3-6 manual offers many activities for developing a sense of order, concentration, independence, confidence, respect for others, fine motor skills, grace and courtesy and self-esteem. See table of contents.
As much as possible, NAMC’s web blog reflects the Montessori curriculum as provided in its teacher training programs. We realize and respect that Montessori schools are unique and may vary their schedules and offerings in accordance with the needs of their individual communities. We hope that our readers will find our articles useful and inspiring as a contribution to the global Montessori community.
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Wednesday, October 14, 2009.

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