Thursday, September 30, 2010

What is Practical Life?

Last time, I promised pictures of some of the practical life exercises that are currently in the Good Shepherd Atrium.  Here they are!  To learn more about why practical life is important, check out yesterday's post, here.  Feel free to ask questions or make comments, by clicking on the word "comments" in the grey box at the end of the post!

Some of our practical life exercises help develop small motor coordination, and teach skills which are "practical" for life!  Spooning, pouring, using the pincher grip, using scissors, and sorting are examples of this kind of work.  Here are some pictures!

This is pouring!  We start by pouring larger dry items, and progress by stages to water and
eventually (with one of the meditations on communion) to wine.

This is tonging - using tongs to transfer an item from one bowl to another.  When setting up practical life we try to use the color of the Church year as much as possible.  This gives the children a visual clue to the liturgical season.  Many of our works are green right now, because green is the color of the Season after Pentecost!

These baskets hold items the children transfer using their whole hand.  They love to examine and hold these beautiful nuts!

With this work, the children transfer water from one bowl to the other with a sponge.  This is great preparation for cleaning up water spilled on a tray.

Some of the practical life materials teach the children ways to care for the environment.  Wiping up spills, sweeping the floor, washing dishes, arranging flowers, polishing silver, and dusting are all examples of practical life which help children to be responsible for the atrium and allow them to function independently.  Because we use "real" materials in the atrium, such as glass dishes and child-sized utensils and tools, practical life enhances a child's respect for the environment and deepens their knowledge of how to care for the things around them.
This is sweeping on a tray.  The children use the skills gained here frequently when they spill other practical life materials! :)
This is a mirror polishing work.  The children in the Good Shepherd Atrium also learn to polish silver and brass.  They find this to be very relaxing work!

The children enjoy dusting the shelves and other materials in the room. 

Here you can see the carpet sweeper the children use to clean the carpets, and the broom and the white square on the tile used to learn to sweep the floor.

This is just a peek at a few of the practical life materials we have on the shelves right now.  There are others, and the activities change regularly to keep the children's interest and appeal to their growing skill levels.


  1. I hope everyone who looks at your pictures walks over to the atrium to see how wonderful it is in real life. The set up makes me mindful of each task and its meaning. Lovely.

  2. Thanks for the thought Hilary! I would be happy to show people around! I also plan to do a photo tour of our atria soon, so stick around! :)

  3. I love the practical life works.

  4. I love the pictures. I have seen these pieces in action but never knew what all of them were. So helpful. Thanks for the visuals!!

  5. the practical life and atrium remind me very much of salesian spirituality which encourages "praying the ordinary life." everything we do in our daily living can be directed toward God. i love the way the space you/catechists create in atrium is approached as a sacred space and the work, the practical life, is a sacred work. it reminds me that we can find the holy in the ordinary and encourages me to recommit to my own work of daily living as a way of prayer. thanks, leslie! i wish my kids could participate in atrium...

  6. I love PL too Deb!!!! Mark - thanks for your comment - it is so nice to have a parent interested in what we are doing in the atrium!!!! tlb- great insight and one I will try to take to heart in my own day to day! It is so easy to feel the holy in the atrium- easier than in the everyday!


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