Montessori Monday 23 2013-14
Hand Washing isn't just a hygenic requirement of the Montessori classroom. It's one of our most popular activities. Nested among the Practical Life materials, the formal Hand Washing lesson includes a small stand, on which a basin and lovely pitcher rest. The child is invited to fill the pitcher with fresh water, pour it into the basin, soap his or her hands and lather them up, rinse them in the cool water and dry them with a soft cloth. Afterwards, the child tidies up all the components of the material and leaves them ready for another child to enjoy.
While it may seem a pedestrian chore (and, indeed, while some of us have a very hard time getting our children to wash their hands at home!), Hand Washing in this presentation is actually quite appealing to the child. While his or her hands are getting cleaner, the real appeal is in the sensorial experience of the washing, of noticing the soap bubbles or the changing texture of his or her skin, of feeling the lather between the fingers or watching the water stream from the pitcher held high. Presented here, the lesson supports the child's growing concentration, his or her attention to detail, his or her coordination in carrying the cumbersome materials, and his sense of order in returning the material to its original condition. While washing our hands may be something we do every day, Hand Washing in the Montessori environment is an advanced material, requiring the extended attention and concentration that is built over some time.
You can, of course, integrate this same set-up at home. A beautiful basin and pitcher, a fresh bar of soap and a warm towel will undoubtedly take longer than a quick squirt of hand sanitizer before dinner, but the benefits are far greater than the number of germs removed!
Catherine McTamaney, Ed.D.
Christopher Academy Alumna