The materials used in the Exercises for Practical Life have the following characteristics;
- They are familiar everyday objects, likely to be found in the home, the infant will have seen them being used and will be able to use them outside of the Children’s Home. They reflect the local culture and social environment, this helps her to increase her independence, adaptation and contribution to her social group.
- They are psychically appropriate in that they are objects found in real-life, not fantasy and they are recognisable; they have a realistic appearance which is connected to their purpose.
- They are designed specifically to fit the child’s proportions, so that they can be used precisely and build her confidence in her co-ordination.
- Before use each object is tested for it’s efficacy, so a child does not lacks confidence because the jug she selects doesn’t pour well or the screw top is stiff for an adult to use.
- The materials are come from natural sources, for example wood, metal, ceramic, glass, cane and other natural fibres.
- They are attractive in colour, shape and form whilst being simple, they are not decorated so as to distract from their utility. The child is to be enticed by the exterior beauty only to become more attracted to it’s utility.
- Materials are differentiated from each other to show their use, no materials are multi-purpose so as to give clear orientation to the child, for example cleaning cloths may be marked with symbols to show which one is used to clean the chowki and which one is used to polish the brass.
- There are complete set of materials for each activity, no materials should be borrowed from other sets, so that each set is ready to be used by a child.
- The materials should be made from different materials, though items from each set should be made from the same substance they may vary in terms of colour, size and texture to allow for comparison and interest, for example the child may pour beads into different coloured and size bowls, but each bowl should be made from the same type of material.
- Apart from a few elementary activity sets each set should be singular, so that if two children want to use the same material they must negotiate, this strengthens their will, choice, independence, social and decision making capacities.
The display of materials, at eye level and within arms reach, offers a silent invitation to the child to select whatever object is stimulated by her developmental urges and her will. The objects are kept on low, open shelves in a consistent place to build on the child’s tendency for order and to allow her to find and return the objects she chooses independently. Sets for related activities are kept together and in developmental succession, this chronological order allows her to see how she is progressing, for example from pouring large grains to smaller ones, and in their order of use, for example, the broom is followed by the brush and then the floor cloth. Objects are displayed near to where they would be used, just like in an organised home, the brushes to clean shoes may be kept where the infant leaves her shoes, but not too close, however, the brass objects would not be found stored next to a stack of brass cleaning cloths, instead the cloths would be kept with other cleaning materials. This not only simulates the real life environment but allows the teacher to observe more clearly if using the cloths is a developmental activity or an unthinking reflex.
The Directoress is responsible for ensuring that the materials are in a consistent order, are clean and complete, damaged or incomplete sets must be removed until they are repaired.
The purpose of the materials is to help the infant to establish contact with her environment and allow her to develop her useful actions to fulfil her responsibility towards her local environment. The Directress must be aware of the child’s needs and sensitive periods, her motor abilities and intelligence.
Timing of Demonstrations
The phase immediately after a new class is begun or a group of new learners are admitted is known as the Period of Adjustment, during this phase the Directress will use stories, songs, and activities such as threading beads, puzzles and matching pictures to encourage the development of a cohesive social unit. Once the children have orientated themselves to the new routine and people the Directoress will begin to demonstrate the Materials of Practical Life for Elementary Movements, to help further establish a relationship between the children and their new environment, after these have been learnt she will continue to demonstrate activities of increasing complexity.