Practical activities

First steps

To start with, let's show the youngest children (who are only just 2½), in a precise and ordered way, the physical motions which will help them to make confident progress on their own in their environment: how to put their shoes on themselves and tidy them away, speak quietly, open and close a door, blow their noses, sit down carefully, etc. While the teacher has to show the children these motions every day, the assistant has to do so even more often – not as a form of correction but as an amusing presentation. We suggest that you prepare these physical motions with your assistant. NB: transmitting these motions requires a lot of time. Some children will need several weeks of demonstrations and practice.

Moving around
Putting away a chair
Unrolling a mat
Sitting down

Simple activities

To begin with, we suggest you present 'simple' practical activities which focus on a particular movement - folding, cutting up, pouring out, squeezing, etc. - to give the child a chance to practise. When they begin to master these movements, you can then present more complex practical activities which require several of these movements at the same time.

Clothes pegs
Opening and closing locks
Nuts and bolts
Folding fabric
Folding paper
Squeezing a sponge
Brushing a mat
Cutting up
Pouring into a glass
Pouring with a teapot

Complex activities

This type of activity engages the children enormously, because they have to draw deeply and in unison on different executive skills: they have to retain in their memories a number of stages and order them over quite a long time period; at the same time, they have to draw deeply on their inhibitory control in order to inhibit a range of physical movements and distractions; and lastly, they need to display great cognitive flexibility, because they will of course encounter a few obstacles in the course of the activity and will have to find solutions to them. This kind of 'big project', such as cleaning the table, washing the laundry or cleaning a windowpane, is therefore a powerful catalyst in the development of young children's executive skills – and that is precisely why young children adore these activities: they call on skills which are undergoing rapid development.
We urge you to treat the following presentations as a helpful guide, rather than as presentations to be imitated exactly. Just bear in mind that it is desirable to organise an activity which is practical logical, ordered and precise, with a real-world and intelligent goal which encourages the children to deploy their executive skills in unison.

Preparing to sew
Washing laundry
Cleaning the table
Cleaning a mirror
Looking after plants
Washing one's hands

Dressing frames

Dressing frames are an easy means for the children to practise (as much as they need to) the various daily routines for getting (un)dressed. These activities are therefore a useful complement to getting (un)dressed on their own every day, but should in no way serve as a replacement for that: it is essential to allow the children to get dressed and undressed on their own every day.
You should adapt yourself to the needs of each child: some will need to see you do all the knots yourself before trying it for themselves, while others will only need to see you tie one or two knots – let the child guide you. Needless to say, we also suggest that you present the tying of knots in the way that is the most natural for you personally.

Popper buttons
Buttons 1
Buttons 2

When the child is fully engaged in the activity, don't be afraid to gradually withdraw to let them get on with it on their own. However, during the initial presentations, you'll no doubt have to stay by their side to help them to concentrate and then to help them to tidy away the materials once the activity is over. Explain to them that, from now on, they can use these materials when they like and for however long they like.