Why a Mat is an Important Montessori Material
This is the third installment of the Montessori Materials Series. The focus today is on the first practical life exercises that a child will learn in our preschool program.
In the Children's House, practical life exercises start with the very basic and progress to the extremely complex. Remember that many children begin their education at 2 1/2 years old. These little people have small hands and short attention spans.
Understanding how a Montessori classroom works is the first step towards independence. The Children's House guide will show every new child many things during the first few days of phase-in so they are comfortable in their surroundings by the first day of school when the older children arrive, full of vim and vigor and ready to get to work.
Examples of preliminary practical life work:
Presentation: How to carry things like a cup, a tray, a knife, a large or small pouring pitcher, etc.
Purpose: Little hands have a hard time holding on to things. They need to learn to hold things with two hands without spilling anything. I can't tell you how wonderful it is to see my barely 3-yr-old helping clear off the table. She holds the fork and her plate, scrapes food scraps into the trash, and puts the plate on the counter that she can barely reach. I rarely have to ask her to do this task. She has been doing it every day since she started Toddler at age 16 months. It's just ingrained in her meal-time behavior. This is one of my favorites, obviously.
Related Montessori Materials or Presentations:
How to pick things up without spilling
How to pick up a chair, how to sit in a chair, how to carry a chair or table
How to walk with a mat
How to roll and unroll a mat
Using a mat, tray or table is the foundation of almost everything a child will learn in Montessori. The space that the mat, tray, or table occupies is sacred space. It physically delineates their own private domain and it is where they will place their materials to do their work. No other person can interrupt their work unless the child wishes to interact with you. In many cases, children are doing very interesting work and other children will ask to observe. This is a critical step in the education method because it establishes peer-to-peer learning. What this video did not show (because of length) is how diligently she made sure the edges were perfectly even and how she carefully moved between tables and children to take her mat over by the window where she wanted to work.