Practical Life: The Work Rug

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A guest post from Montessori teacher Beth Holley.

In our first post on Montessori practical life skills, we mentioned that the Montessori Practical Life area has a practical purpose and a developmental purpose.

The practical purpose is to help your child improve daily life skills, such as pouring, cutting, or buttoning; the developmental purpose is to foster independence and confidence and to refine motor skills and concentration.

It took many years for Dr. Montessori to reach an understanding of the importance of movement in development, especially movement or use of the hands. There’s a profound connection between purposeful movement and cognitive growth.

Some activities are more comfortably done on the floor, and for these we use a work rug.

Montessori Practical Life Lesson: The Work Mat - teaching children how to carry, unroll, and use the work mat, as well as roll it back up and put it away. The Montessori work mat gives a child their own separate work area for individualized learning

A work rug helps your child to work within a defined area and shows that we’re careful not to step on our lovely things.

We have a lesson write-up for unrolling and rolling work rugs. Once again, you might ask, “Why so meticulous?” We want to foster attention to detail that will be very helpful in all kinds of later work.

How To Present the Montessori Work Rug

Direct Purpose of Presenting the Work Rug: to learn the movements necessary to roll up items

Indirect Purpose of Presenting the Work Rug: muscular control of fingers and hands, independence, and concentration.

Material: a woven throw–rug that will roll up well (we both Ikea throw rugs and these Montessori work mats from Montessori Services)

Age: 2 1⁄2 – 3, or a child new to the classroom

Montessori Practical Life Lesson: the Work Mat - how to present the Montessori work mat to children, and the benefits of using one, including giving children a better sense of responsibility for their work areas

Presentation: Unrolling and Rolling

  1. Carry a rolled rug hand over hand in a vertical position, perpendicular to the floor, close to but not touching your body.
  2. Walk to the desired area and kneel.
  3. Center the rug in front of you and place it so that it will unroll toward you.
  4. Slowly unroll the rug with both hands, moving backward on your knees.
  5. Smooth the rug with the palms of your hands.
  6. Pause.
  7. Say, “Now watch as I roll it again.”
  8. Fold over a thin section of the rug. Do this a few times until the rug is thick enough to roll.
  9. Roll the rug with your fingers, then palms of both hands. Stop a few times to check that the edges of the rug are even. Exaggerate looking at and patting each end of the rug to show this step.
  10. When the rug is completely rolled, carry it as before and return it to its storage place.
  11. Invite the child to try.

Child unrolling a work mat - Montessori presentation and lesson at Sugar, Spice and Glitter

Points of Interest:

Does the child choose an area big enough for her rug?

Does she place it so that it unrolls toward her or rolls away from her?

Does she notice the edges when rolling?

Does she carry it hand over hand?

Note: When presenting your lesson, avoid talking unless necessary. The child should be watching your movements. At other times, begin to attach rich vocabulary to the practical life materials, such as “woven,” “fringe,” or “align the edges.”

If your child now wants to unroll and roll everything, it’s a good indication that you’ve timed your lesson perfectly!

To learn more about Montessori theory, please visit Beth’s blog A Montessori Lexicon, and you can also find her on Teachers Pay Teachers.

Check out the previous Montessori practical life lesson, moving a chair, or our next lesson, how to carry a tray.

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  1. Very valuable lesson. How can we order these work mats. I’m from Sri Lanka. We can learn much more things from this website. Thanks.

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