A. In choosing cleaners appropriate for the different exercises, care
must be taken to select those that are non-toxic if taken internally. Cleaners
that are sprayed must not be used, as it is harmful to breathe air containing
droplets of these cleaners. Household spray paints also must not be used
with children around, for the same reason. The best cleaners for the job
should be used with this provision in mind.
B. All tools, cloths, sponges, and utensils must be attractive and
of good quality.
C. Brushes, brooms, knives, etc., must be of the right size for the
child's use. But they should not be toys. All tools must function well.
D. Everything must be kept clean. For example, brooms need washing
E. There must not be more than the basic minimum. No one can choose
from too many projects, or be orderly when there are too many things.
F. The exercises taught must be done in the way the children see them
done in their own homes. In each country there are variations in the tools
and the methods used. For example, in England, a long handled hair broom
is used. In Africa, a hand brush of straw or twigs is used and the women
stoop double when sweeping. Although each method is equally good, it would
be unrealistic to teach the children the method of a country they do not
II. Setting Up
A. The practical life area must have a place for everything within
reach of the children. For example, hooks to hang the brooms, dust pan,
mop, duster, and aprons should be within easy reach of the children.
B. The practical life area is best arranged near the sink, as water
is needed for some of the activities. There should be a double sink as
there is in a modern home in the United States. It is important that the
child have just the things he sees used in his own house.
C. In setting up a classroom, provision must be made to practice all
types of housework the child sees done at home. Furniture of all types
must be chosen with various surfaces. In this way, children can learn to
clean some plain unvarnished wood, some polished, and some painted surfaces.
In the same way, things used in the class must include some made of
brass and silver so that children can learn how to polish brass and silver.
These objects must serve a useful purpose in the school so children feel
they are doing important, real and necessary work. These materials should
not be provided in the room only as exercises, but to serve other useful
purposes as well.
In addition to cleaning various types of furniture and fixtures, children
need to learn to wash various types of fabrics. Aprons, dusters, dish towels,
etc., should be chosen so different fabrics are represented like linen,
denim, cotton, etc.
III. Presenting Activities - Guidelines
A. For all practical life activities, teacher and child should wear
aprons and roll up their sleeves. A child wears a plastic apron and rolls
up his sleeves when he does any exercise using water or polishes. The plastic
apron will do for all of the exercises except for the cooking activities.
For these he should wear a clean white apron.
B. The child is always shown how to work without making a mess. The
child should stand a little away from a table or sink so as not to lean
his stomach on a wet surface and get the apron wet and soapy. The child
is also shown how to clean up after an exercise and is encouraged, but
not forced, to do so. A child is shown how to put material away, rinsing
and drying where necessary, and how to hang up the apron. If he has spilled
water, or made any mess, he wipes it up. It takes some children a little
while to get used to cleaning up if they have not done so in their own
homes. The teacher can give any help the child needs. They are helped and
encouraged to be orderly but never forced. A good example is needed so
the teacher must cheerfully join in and do her share.
C. When giving a lesson, the teacher will point out the directions
on the cleaning agent container to the child. If there are directions written
in red, she will tell the child that these are most important and should
be read first. For example, perhaps it says, "Do not use near an open
flame." The teacher explains that the liquid must be volatile and
what might happen should the direction be ignored. Naturally she does not
frighten the child and assures the child that it is perfectly safe to use
it in the school as there are no open flames there. If it says, "Shake
the bottle well.", this is done (the child having previously been
taught how to shake a bottle). When certain measurements are involved,
these must be adhered to. In this way, the child learns to work correctly
and to make the best use of the cleaning agents.
D. Preparation for presentation - Practice each activity enough so
that you feel very secure with the material. This security will enable
you to be flexible in your presentation with each child. Flexibility is
the key. There is no right or wrong way to present. Some ways are simply
better and more efficient.
E. Purpose - The purpose for demonstrating materials is for the teacher
to reveal to the child the possibilities for learning inherent in a particular
activity. The teacher acts as a catalyst to get the child involved in an
activity, and is the integrating link between the child and the material.
The key is to provide this link through the medium that the child is most
likely to absorb - quiet demonstration. Demonstration combined with complex
language may leave the child confused; whereas nonverbal demonstration
allows the child to perceive more readily the possibilities for learning
and skill development inherent in the material and to focus on the interest
other than the teacher.
1. Give lessons in a relaxed, happy, gentle manner.
2. Model courtesy, quiet and graceful movements, enthusiasm, zest for
learning, a helping spirit, and a positive and pleasant attitude about
3. Show the children how to perform each exercise, using as few words
as possible and demonstrating as you limit movements to only those that
are essential. Keep the lessons short and simple.
4. Follow a flexible sequence when introducing exercises.
a. Invite the child. Tell him what you are going to demonstrate.
b. Take the child to the place where the material is stored.
c. Carry the material to the work area.
d. Demonstrate the activity.
e. Show the child where to return the material when the activity is
completed. Tell the child s(he) can now use the material whenever s(he)
5. Make sure children are aware of potential danger and safety requirements.
a. Show the appropriate use of tools which minimize chances of harm.
For example, in cutting, the child should be shown the dull and sharp side
of the knife and proper use.
6. When directions are involved, such as silver polishing, read these
with the children.
Observe children at work to determine when activities need to be simplified,
when the environment needs to be modified, and what is currently catching
the interest of your children. Remove activities that are no longer being
1. Watch to see if a child uses the material appropriately. Make a
mental note when a lesson needs to be reintroduced or demonstrated. Repeat
lessons as needed. Expect that the children may need periodic demonstrations.
The teacher would not disturb the activity of the child at the point of
the observation. S(he) would reintroduce the activity at a "neutral"
time. This is a sensitive way of protecting the child's ego and zest for
learning. We never want the child to feel defeated.
2. Appreciate the concentration, the mastery, and the work that goes
into performing the simplest of tasks. Do not interrupt when a child is
concentrating. The child who is involved in learning a skill will practice
it over and over because s(he) is acting to develop an ability - not to
get the job done.
3. Periodically ask yourself: Are the materials being used in constructive
and useful ways? Do they facilitate the development of a skill? Are they
realistic? Are they purposeful, and do they lead to independence, personal
and social responsibility, and development of self esteem through increased