Life Skills at School

There is a lot to be said for teaching our children the importance and value in being independent contributors at home as far as life skills are concerned. Most children love to feel that their contribution matters and that they can help around the house in various tasks, from chopping vegetables in the kitchen to helping with the tidying up. Our children are no different, and at Wandsworth School, we pride ourselves in providing our children with everyday activities to participate in and complete as independently as possible.
The pre-primary children learn the routines and steps involved in completing a variety of daily living skills, and these are slowly built up to include fetching equipment and packing away afterwards.
The different activities are put together with a multitude of direct aims in place, without the learners even realising the reinforcement that is occurring. The goals spill over into bilateral skill practice, hand-eye coordination, gross motor function, hand and finger dexterity, perseverance, patience and concentration, as well as building the child’s self esteem and confidence. It is also very empowering for our children to learn skills that they can transfer to other environments, and much satisfaction is gained when parents praise the child for their efforts towards a skill, even if it is not mastered independently.
Our older children learn the value in hand washing, wringing out clothing items, hanging and pegging on the line, as well as folding clothing items afterwards and sorting and putting away. They learn about the skills necessary to choose items from a list to pretend shop, and how to pack a trolley. Money exchange will always be tricky for some of our children and learning the denominations of paper notes and coins, is an academic skill that may be too advanced for most of our learners (our children tend to hand over ALL the money, regardless of the size of the shop!). It is nevertheless valuable to practice these steps so that they are able to assist parents and caregivers when they are older with basic activities that will feature in their lives as they grow and desire more independence.
In a Montessori school such as ours, the children have opportunities to work with equipment on the shelves daily, to fetch and carry a chosen work activity, open the box, set it out and complete it before returning it to the shelf where it was found. A learner may choose to complete an activity on the carpet, in which case a mat needs to be fetched and rolled out to demarcate the work area and protect the equipment. Sitting and balancing in different positions is not always easy for longer than a few seconds and we encourage our children to engage in different positions whilst working on an activity.
For our more physically challenged children, one can never underestimate the power of being able to make a choice, no matter how supported the activity needs to be. Expressing an opinion, being able to say yes or no, and choosing one from another is a crucial step on the path to having one’s opinion and thoughts counted.
As a parent and as educators, we understand that we may need to go and do the activity again, or complete it on the sly, knowing that our child is gleaming with feelings of accomplishment. We remember that they are working towards THEIR sense of perfection, and this will not come without lots and lots of practice as they learn to manage and control mind and body, coordinate movements and practice sequencing actions, among a multitude of other learnt skills, to eventual mastery.