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Montessori Material Guide

The Montessori approach encourages educators to "follow the child." This is an excellent approach as it recognizes each child's evolutionary characteristics and needs at each age. Through this approach, educators build for the children an environment that's both spiritually and physically able to meet these children's needs. Because of this, their progress and development emerge as a need to adapt to their environment. Each child needs to give meaning to the world around him. Then he constructs himself about his world. 

Each material you would find inside a Montessori Home deleted has a purpose as well. These materials are scientifically designed to pay special attention to children's interests based on the developmental stages when they enter the classroom. They are also created to believe that when children can manipulate concrete objects, they develop their abstract thinking and knowledge. The Montessori materials give children the chance to explore and investigate in an independent and personal way. They promote concentration, and they allow children to master concepts and skills through repetition. 

The materials can be used and re-used, and the child will learn something new each time. Use the material to promote a single concept; the child's attention must be drawn to that characteristic during the exercise. 

Each toolset consists of different pieces. These pieces show the minimum and the maximum of a concept presented. For example, a set of rods have the shortest and the most symbolic elements, with some few sizes between them to show graduations. This is working with the idea that a concept can be better introduced to a young mind using opposites. 

Tools and materials are designed to be presented in a sequence. It starts with simple and progresses to elaborate, then from concrete to abstract. 

The materials were also designed to form the foundation for more complex concepts to learn in the future. 

The control of the error mechanism is embedded in every Montessori material. This allows the child to work out for himself/herself how to work with it.

 

Properties of Montessori Material for Practical Life Exercises 

Reality-based 

Use soapy water for washing the dishes. 

Use real-life items and perform activities as done in reality. That will defeat the purpose of teaching Practical Life to children. 

Not Limited 

Parents and educators can modify the activities they see applicable to the child’s life, culture, age, and current social situation. Just follow the theoretical guidelines in designing the most appropriate activities for the child. The Montessori Method recognizes that the child's learning needs vary among cultures, environments, and countries. 

One at a Time 

Although parents and educators using the Montessori methods are not limited to a specific list of activities to teach Practical Life, they should ensure that all four areas are given equal attention. Only one of each activity is taught to the child at a time. This helps develop patience in children. The child learns to wait. The child also learns to understand that life is not about instant gratification. Hence, the child will place a higher value on the materials and the activity.  

Self-contained 

Materials for Practical Life activities are placed in the same place. This will teach the child the concept of “everything has a place and a place for everything.” This also caters to the young child’s natural tendency to seek order. The order of things in the child’s environment will also help the child develop order within himself. 

Complete 

The complete activity involves all aspects of the activity, including showing the child how to fix the materials used. This also includes putting back the materials on the shelf or storage area. This also includes inspecting the completeness of materials and if materials are intact. The child is also taught how to re-stock materials, get the supplies, and arrange them. 

Location 

Again, a place for everything and everything in its place is practiced. All food prep materials should be in the food prep area. The food prep activity should be performed in this area, as well. Activities that require water, such as washing dishes, should be performed near the water source. Materials for this activity should also be within the vicinity. 

Sequence 

Make it clear to the child the start, middle, and end of an activity. For example, in food prep, the activity starts by wearing an apron. The activity is then carried out based on the type of food prep to be done. Cue the end of the activity by starting to clean up. End it by removing the apron and putting it in the designated place (in the laundry or hang in the fixed peg). 

Always follow the sequence of events for each activity. This is crucial as children are very keen on order. Changing the sequence can confuse and may be distressing for the child. 

Color Coding 

Color coding helps the child to quickly learn where things should go and what items belong together. Replacing items is also faster when there are visual cues. 

Ribbons, eco-friendly, non-toxic paints, and electric tapes can be used. Materials that come in the same colors can be used, if possible. This includes using plates, cups, and utensils of the same color. 

Functional 

Make it clear to the child the purpose and function of each material. For example, teach the child the specific use of the knife, cups, plates, and utensils. Never allow the child to use the knife to pierce and pick up items or use the same spoon for scooping different ingredients. 

The parent or educator should make sure that the materials can perform its intended task. For example, a knife or pair of scissors should be sharp to slice or cut. If not, the child would think that he lacks the skill to produce the results others could do. The child may also find other items to use, usually inappropriate use of materials. This defeats the purpose of Practical Life. It may also compromise the child's safety, such as using knives for slicing paper because the pair of scissors is too dull. 

Child-sized/Child-friendly Containers 

The size of the materials should be fit for the size of the child. For example, use a sponge large enough for a small hand to hold. Water containers should be large enough for the child to lift or carry. Too large and the child can topple when carrying it. 

Manageable 

Same as the characteristic, the materials should be manageable for the child’s size. Small children should only be allowed to use baskets that they can comfortably carry. Trays should be deep enough to hold things yet the right length and width for a child to hold. 

Proportional 

Again, this is related to the characteristics. The size of the material should fit the intended function and manageable for the child’s size. For example, a bucket should be large enough to hold the items (e.g., water or sand) intended for the exercise yet small enough for the child to carry comfortably. It should not be too small that the child will have to make too many trips to acquire the exercise required. It should not be too big that the child is struggling to keep balance while carrying it. 

Natural Materials 

Items made of natural materials provide more multi-sensorial experiences. Natural materials are also more comfortable to touch and work with. 

Easy to Clean 

Materials should be regularly cleaned and disinfected. This helps to reduce the potential of spreading infections. For example, cutting boards should be washed thoroughly to prevent bacteria that cause food poisoning from multiplying. More often, it is easier to clean and disinfect items made with natural materials. 

Teach the children to clean items after use. This will further help them learn to be responsible for their use and the environment they work in. 

Safe 

Always keep the safety of the child in mind when planning and executing activities. One way to promote safety is keeping materials within the vicinity of the exercise area. For example, buckets for water should be near the sink or water source. The work area that requires the use of water should be near, too. This way, children won’t have to carry water for long distances. This can increase the risk of spills and falls. 

Sharp tools such as scissors should have rounded ends or tips. This can reduce the risk of accidents. Sharp corners such as in tables and chairs should be sanded to round them out. There are products available in the market that can cover these sharp corners for child safety. 

Orderly 

Follow a logical sequence in every step of the exercises. This includes an orderly sequence in presenting the activity, laying out the materials, and performing the exercise; layout the materials in order of use before presenting the steps for the exercise. The same should be observed when putting the materials back in its storage place. 

Cultural 

Practical Life activities should be precisely that—reflective of and applicable to life. These should be appropriate for the child’s cultural background and the environment he grows up in. For example, the child’s home does not use a broom and dustpan for cleaning; instead, they use a vacuum cleaner at home. Therefore, at this point, the child does not have to learn this life skill. Another example is when the child’s cultural environment practices kosher food preparation. This should also be taken into consideration when designing the child’s food prep activities.