Practical Life for the Holidays

The holiday season is nearly upon us, and no matter how you celebrate, this time of year is often steeped in family traditions. The foods, smells, decorations, songs, and gifts echo in our memories for a lifetime. As a parent, it can be magical to experience the holidays through your child’s eyes; everything is so exciting and full of wonder.

Many families involve their children in preparing for special days and celebrations. By doing so, you may already be engaging in what Montessori refers to as practical life, or the teaching and practicing of skills that a person will use to get by in their everyday lives as an adult. Practical life covers a wide range of skills, but this time of year is ripe with opportunities — and not just for the preschool crowd. Check out our ideas below!

Caring for the Self

As with everything, it’s important to consider where your child is developmentally, what their interests are, and set your expectations accordingly.

  • Choosing what to wear

Special occasions call for special outfits. It can be fun for parents to pick out adorable clothing for their small children, but it’s also nice to involve kids in the process so that they are able to share in the fun and develop a sense that their opinion is important. Younger children (toddlers, preschool-aged) might benefit from being able to select from two or three choices that you have found ahead of time.

Older children enjoy (and deserve) to be more involved in selecting their own clothing. It can help to talk about what you’re looking for ahead of time and what your expectations are. If a family occasion calls for something more dressy than jeans, let your child know. Remember that choice is important, but so are limits. Be open-minded (this can be even more challenging when your teenagers are developing their sense of self through style), but it’s okay to let your child know that you have the right to veto an outfit. Ultimately, it all comes down to finding something you can both appreciate and that is appropriate for the occasion.

  • Practicing hygiene

There are two main opportunities in this category this time of year: practicing hygiene in social situations and taking advantage of extra time at home together to teach new skills.

When it comes to actions like using a napkin to wipe ones’ face at the dinner table, toddlers will find this new concept fun and exciting, but even your elementary-aged child may need some reminders and practice. Although your children are likely experts on the following by now, it doesn’t hurt to remind them what to do when they need to cough, sneeze, or blow their nose around others.