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July 16, 2020

Role of Practical Life in the First Plane vs. Second Plane

Now that Nora is 6-years-old, and entering the second plane of development, I've seen some interesting shifts in her behavior. These things didn't come all at once but slowly over time, but they are there. One big one is her relationship to Montessori practical life work. I think this one is sticking out so much because she is in such a stark contrast to Gus and his relationship to practical activities. 

Gus, at 3, loves practical life work. He wants to help with dishes, he wants to move laundry, mop the floors, wipe down shelves and tables - he's all in. Working along side me, working with his hands, working with water! It's all very exciting. The same was true for Nora at his age. It was all exciting. But, now, it's not as exciting for her. She isn't interested in doing practical tasks for the sake of doing practical tasks. She wants something new - responsibility. 

Three-year-old Montessori child waters plants in his Montessori home with small red watering can. He is deeply concentrated on the practical life work that he loves

Shifting Role of Montessori Practical Life Work in the Second Plane of Development

Suddenly, Nora wants to do it alone. She wants to take over from start to finish. She's asking what chores she can do. In the second plane of development,  there is a greater social awareness, a greater need to understand and fit into the social community. And, I'm really seeing this through practical life right now. "How can I help?" It's no longer how can I get my hands in that water, but where can I contribute start to finish. It's even sometimes doing it without being asked, and without my participation. 

Montessori infographic on the importance of practical life work in the first plane of development

In Nora as a younger child, and Gus now, the attraction wasn't to this need to complete a task. It was to the work itself - the process. It was to the sensory feel. It was to the ability to work with me and learn new language. Gus' joy doesn't come from finishing a work, but from doing the work. Where, Nora, now feels so much pride in a completed task. 

Montessori infographic about practical life work in the second plane of development

Practical Life Differences: Montessori Preschool Verses Elementary

One really strong example of this came the other day with our bird. Nora noticed that his food and water needed to be changed. Without asking Nora took out the water dish, emptied, cleaned and refilled it. Then, went on to the food, changing the old, cleaning, and pouring the new. Done. She excitedly shared with me that it was done for the day and moved on. 

Now, contrast this with Gus, who has been helping me change and refill our outdoor bird feeders. Either one of us may initiate the process, but Gus does most of the "work." But, he never wants it to end. He wants to keep pouring that new food into the containers. He wants to keep scooping. He will even sometimes dump out the seed back into the container so he can do it again. Gus is attracted to the repetition of the process. I don't think he cares at all if those birds ever get their food, he just wants to keep pouring the seed for himself. 

Anyway, it's been another really interesting discovery in the world of having multiple children at multiple stages of development. And, it's a good reminder to prepare ourselves and our environment differently to meet each where they are at. 

Have you noticed a different approach to practical life between your children?  

Learn about the distinct stages of practical life development in Montessori education, using real-life examples of two siblings at different developmental stages and their ever-evolving approach to practical life tasks.


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Me said…
This is interesting. I notice with my kids that when they get to the second plane they are not interested in contributing to much of any practical work unless it is new and exciting. Even if something is new they are only interested until they are mostly proficient- not until mastery. How do you approach work with reluctant-to-help kids? Not having them do it isn’t an option- I have six kids including a high needs baby. We have some approaches that work (basically we divide it up but I let them have some say and how it is divided, but they still have to do their work). But I’m wondering if there is a way to improve this.
Helen said…
So cute smile! I wanted to thank you for this great read for my baby!! I definitely enjoying every little bit of it I have you bookmarked to check out new stuff you post