Friday, 22 November 2013

Mopping and Washing Up - Practical Life Activities

'Following the child' is one of those phrases that Montessori is famous for. Simply put, it is meeting the interest of the child with an activity at their level. This week, we had two perfect examples.

My daughter has a strong interest in water based activities at the moment, whether it be washing her hands or washing the dishes, amongst other water activities. These activities fulfil the practical need whilst also giving her meaningful work to do. On this occasion her interest was in washing up. We set up the table together with cloths and a towel under her feet (see photos) and she took over the remaining items needed from the kitchen, one by one, using both hands: dish rack, dish brush, container for water to wash in, small bottle of diluted detergent to squirt and a jug of warm water. It is a good exercise involving concentration, balance and care. She then collected a bowl of dirty items from morning tea in a bowl, and began her work.

Pouring in water
Detergent in child size dispenser
Child size dish brush

For my son, following dinner he had a very strong urge to mop their play area. He packed up his blocks and cars and we cleared their play area of their work tables, snack table & chairs and the play mat. Whilst we were doing this he explained to me "Teamwork mummy, we are doing teamwork". Due to timing, I swept and he collected the dust using the dustpan & brush. He collected the floor cloths he needed while waiting for hot water. He has seen my husband mop with cloths underfoot and this is how he prefers to mop also. We then prepared the bucket, he poured in the water and I the cleaning solution and off he went. No direction or interruption on my part. Once he had completed their play area to his satisfaction, he offered to do the kitchen as well. While he went outside to tip out the dirty water, I went on ahead and swept and collected the dust this time. With refreshed water he continued mopping without loosing any concentration or motivation. Once he was happy with the result we went outside to rinse the mop & bucket. How satisfying!

Sweeping up the dust

The tiles are shiny once again!

Getting more water

Filling up the bucket to rinse mop

Final rinse with clean water ...

and pouring all that dirty water out - job done!

Introducing the child to the right practical life activity at the right time is important. In this example, this is a work that he has done before, but in the first instance can be achieved by observing the child's physical capabilities and interest level, as well as having child-sized materials ready and available prior to presenting it to him. This activity like all practical life activities gives the child a strong sense of purpose and contribution, as well as satisfaction and confidence upon completion.

Most importantly there is no pushing the child to choose a 'work' rather, 'following the child' by responding to his internal need and supporting him.

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