- Blog By
Sumita Sen Mazumdar
Principal – Erode KG Campus
The Indian Public School – Erode.
May, 16 2022 | In Blog
Kindergarten is where the foundation of literacy and numeracy is built. Other key areas include self-care, graces and courtesy, movement control, and care for the environment. These largely fall under exercises of practical life (EPL) learning and help a child develop independence, social skills, motor skills, and a sense of responsibility.
EPL activities are considered preliminary to more advanced learning. Exercises of practical life activities for kindergarten children act as catalytic precursors to fostering Executive functioning skills. This profoundly affects not only academic achievements but in later life, success in almost every area because it is this skill that determines the ability to plan and follow through on any task with a successful completion.
As the name suggests, exercises of practical life comprise lessons that introduce children to daily life activities like cleaning up or dressing & eating independently. Children learn sorting, spooning, transferring, fireless food preparation, how to greet people, how to introduce themselves and ask for permission, and taking care of the environment. Activities of practical life are designed to especially develop self-reliance, concentration as well as gross and fine motor skills in an early-years child.
Some of the factors we keep in mind while planning EPL activities for kindergarten children are:
Exercises of practical life activities should be based on everyday real-life needs. For example, we wash utensils with actual soapy water, dry them with a dishcloth and neatly place them on a shelf just like in real life; we use a real knife to cut fruits and vegetables or a grater to grate cheese; we use a duster to dust and a wet mop to wipe. By practicing safety, we learn safety in using various practical items of daily living.
We must remember that EPL activities can vary from culture to culture or region to region, often depending on environmental factors too. For a more globally inclusive EPL experience, we can include activities from other cultures that ensure both variety and challenge in a child’s EPL learning journey.
Learning to wait patiently is an important life skill. Maintaining only one set of each EPL activity in the classroom ensures that children learn to wait for their turn. The EPL materials are thus valued more by the children and treated with care just as they should in real life.
EPL materials in the classroom will occupy their designated, particular space on a shelf. Preparation for the activity is always done beforehand so that everything the child requires to successfully complete the activity is present at hand. This is in line with creating external order to help a child internalize order through their sensitive period of the order, typically characterized by a desire for consistency and repetition. Children will exhibit a passionate need for established routines, often deeply disturbed by the disorder. This is why the environment is carefully organized and everything is kept in its proper place along with carefully established ground rules. If there is anything that needs to be replaced at the end of the activity, we have a demonstration on re-stocking. For any reason, if the EPL activity is incomplete, or has a broken or missing component, it is kept away until replacements are arranged.
Every EPL activity has a marked beginning, middle, and end. For example, putting on an apron can mark the beginning of an activity. The activity itself lies in the middle and the end is marked by cleaning up and putting everything back in the proper place. The right order of things must be maintained, and before a presentation, the material should be laid out in order of use. Activities are ordered from simple to complex, left to right.
Items that are part of an EPL activity should be of a size manageable by an early-years child, neither too big, nor too small. The items should also be fit for the purpose they are meant for. A jar should be comfortable for a child to hold and have enough space to contain all the liquid that is needed for the activity. Peelers should peel and graters grate. If any item fails in its appropriated task, the child tends to locate a substitute that can be inappropriate usage. A feeling may emerge in the child’s mind that they are unable to do the task that others were seemingly able to do with the same tools.
We prefer natural and non-toxic materials over synthetic ones for EPL activities for a better touch-feel or sensorial experience. Natural materials are also relatively easy to clean and be bacteria-free.
While the functionality of materials is an important factor, safety is a priority. Sharp objects must have rounded ends, and sharp corners should be sanded or covered.
Benefits of practical life activities in kindergarten
- Independence and sense of accomplishment at finishing a task
- Children develop a high level of concentration and a sense of order
- Building respect for the community and surroundings
- Improving fine motor skills and especially those needed for more cognitively demanding work like reading, writing, and mathematics.
Exercises of practical life form a major part of kindergarten learning, right from PRE-KG going up to KG-2 with increasing levels of task complexity as children progress through the grades.