I am so excited to have Beth Holley back for another Montessori Practical Life Lesson Plan.
Today, we are focusing on the Spooning Exercise and it’s variations.
In our previous post on practical life skills, we mentioned attracting your child’s attention by a clear presentation, in which you use precise movements. We suggested that analyzing the steps in an activity creates clarity. You can show the main subdivisions of a task by slightly pausing between steps.
Your slow and careful movements will also convey respect for the materials. Just as we show taking care of all the people and living things in our environment, we show taking care of all our material things.
We can’t assume that the child knows what it means to “take care” of items. We must take the time to show what this means: carrying or holding objects in a particular way, walking carefully with items in our hands, placing them gently on the table or rug, handling things one at a time, if appropriate, and so on. Each time you present a new activity, these points of interest are reiterated, and an atmosphere of care is cultivated.
Our next write–up on spooning from one container to the other offers another opportunity to balance items on a tray and to lightly handle breakable objects (bowls).
How to Present the Spooning Exercise
Direct Purpose: to develop the movements and hand control needed for manipulating a spoon;
Indirect Purpose: independence and concentration.
- two identical bowls, one of them ¾ full of a grain, lentils, or fine beans (here we used dyed barley);
- a child-sized tray with a slight edge or lip for grasping, 12” or less in width;
- an appropriately sized spoon
Age: 2 ½ – 3
1. Carry the tray containing the spoon and two bowls (one with beans) to the table and gently set it down, such that the beans are in the left-hand bowl.
2. Sit, then pick up the spoon with your thumb on top and middle finger supporting the handle.
3. With the opposite hand, steady the left-hand bowl full of beans.
4. Scoop up a spoonful of beans and pause over the bowl.
5. Slowly move the spoon over to the center of the empty bowl, lower it, then tip the spoon such that the beans slide off.
6. Repeat until the first bowl is empty. You may show tipping the left-hand bowl toward you to scoop the last remaining beans.
7. Put the spoon down on the table.
8. With two hands, place each bowl above the tray, and look at the tray and table to see if any beans have spilled. Use a pincer grasp to pick up any spilled beans.
9. Replace the spoon and bowls, and orient the tray for the child.
10. Invite the child to try.
Points of Interest:
- Does the child hold the spoon well?
- Does she scoop a manageable amount onto the spoon?
- Can she balance the beans on the spoon while it is in motion?
- Does she tip the spoon to empty it?
Note: Personally, I try to use grains or beans of a dark color and a tray of a lighter or contrasting color (or vice versa), so that the child can more easily see when the grains have spilled onto the tray (or you can dye the grains as we did here). Though I prefer glass items, plastic trays often give an auditory feedback when beans or other items fall on them.
Encourage your child to repeat this exercise as many times as she likes, then end by showing how to return the tray to its designated place on your shelves. If your child is drawn to repeating this exercise in your upcoming work days, then it is a good match for her needs at this time!
Spooning Exercise Variations
When your child has mastered the basic spooning exercise, you can start to introduce variations!
What about a different shapes of spoon?
Or offering different sizes of bowls, encouraging children to stop spooning grains when they see that the second bowl is filled, which is a great willpower and observation exercise.
And for a real challenge, what about chopsticks?