It’s Thursday, so that means another Montessori Practical Life lesson from Beth Holley.
Today we’re discussing how to present dry pouring to children, which helps prepare them for later “wet pouring.”
Pouring from one vessel to another may seem like a basic skill, but this actually requires an advanced awareness of physical quantities called “conservation.” Conservation (in child development terms) is when children are capable of understanding that the amount of something stays the same despite changes in appearance — this is why sometimes a child might try to empty an entire pitcher of water into a cup, because they do not yet fully understand conservation. It is a developmental milestone that cannot be rushed, so if your child is not fully grasping conservation yet, just move on and come back to this lesson when they are developmentally ready.
Today we’re continuing our practical life series with pouring rice. The child practices pouring dry goods like rice or lentils in preparation for pouring liquids.
If you’ve followed our practical life series so far, you’ve probably noticed that the practical life activities are introduced in a gradual way, e.g., pouring rice before pouring water, pouring water before table scrubbing or cloth washing. The child is given the chance to practice prerequisite skills, hopefully setting her up for success in the more challenging activities that follow.
Let’s look at the presentation for pouring rice.
How to Present Pouring Rice
Direct Purpose: to develop the movements needed to pour rice without spilling the grains;
Indirect Purpose: independence and concentration.
- two small glass pitchers of the same size, preferably clear, with one 3/4 full of rice (we used the leftover barley from our barley rainbow bin instead of rice this time)
- a child sized tray with a slight edge for grasping.
Age: 2 1/2 – 3
1. Invite the child to a lesson. Demonstrate carefully carrying the tray to the table, keeping it level, and putting it down softly. Orient the tray so that the full pitcher is on the right.
2. Sit with the child. Say, “Watch carefully while I pour some rice.”
3. Handles should face out directly to both sides. Grasp them with your thumb on top and one or two fingers through the handle.
4. Lift both pitchers simultaneously, raising the right one with the rice higher than the left.
5. Center the right pouring spout over the empty left pitcher. Pour until all grains are gone. Exaggerate looking into the pitcher to see that all grains are gone.
6. Gently set the pitchers down, placing the full one again on the right, and turning the handles out. Invite the child to try.
Points of Interest:
- Does the child center the spout?
- Does she avoid clinking the pitchers together?
Note: If the child spills any grains, use this opportunity to show picking up the individual grains one at a time with a pincer grasp, using your forefinger and thumb. This step is great fine motor practice! Also, I prefer to use a tray darker in color than the rice, so that the child can see the spilled grains. Any dry grains will do to pour between containers, such as lentils or bulgur wheat.
The earliest practical life activities are offered to children as young as two and a half. This age works for the sake of process, simply enjoying the challenge of filling little containers. The slightly older child, say four years, will begin to notice the goal or reason for a practical life activity. Whenever I noticed my older children using the pouring materials in a “slapdash” fashion, I increased the challenge of the pouring activities and/or encouraged a more obviously purposeful work, like preparing and serving food. Let observation be your guide in deciding what to present.
(The white pitcher is from a thrift shop and the orange pitcher is from Montessori Services.)