Practical life exercises are the activities that humans do to take care of ourselves and fulfill our needs. These include cooking, washing, dressing and taking care of our environment, just to name a few.
Practical life is divided into four general categories : care of person, care of the environment (indoor and outdoor), grace and courtesy and movement of furniture.
Depending on the child's age, these lessons will look very different. My 18 month old is learning how to dress herself, whereas my students (ages 8-11) are being introduced to lessons about taking public transit when we go on field trips.
It is so important for children to be involved in these activities. Some benefits of including your child are:
they help the child to understand the world and how things work
the child will be able to follow sequences
they give possibility to solve problems and to prioritize
the child will develop his/her independence
the activities build self-esteem and self-reliance
introduction to language of actions that we couldn’t give in another way, without demonstrating that action (how can you really understand "mopping" without seeing and touching the mop and either observing someone mopping or doing it yourself?).
the child is able to integrate their knowledge, will and movement
The key to practical life activities are that they are PRACTICAL. Your child has been watching you doing these things since birth. All they need are the right equipment, a bit of guidance and the time to do it for themselves.
Some things to remember:
The equipment should be proportioned to the hand of the child, in size and weight.
When you introduce the activity, use slow movements and appropriate language. A good thing to remember when introducing something is: if you move, don’t speak and when you speak, don’t move. This allows the child to focus on one thing at a time.
At a young age, children should have the choice of participating in an activity.
Some lessons will be formal, others will be based on observation or happen naturally (grace and courtesy lessons during a family meal, for example).
Your child may repeat an activity many, many times (for example, cleaning a clean table). They need the repetition to fully master the movements.
As your child's skills improve, you will need to help less and less.
It might help to practice something yourself and really analyze the steps needed so you can explain it clearly to your child.