A small child can feel rather big when they have an apron on and a bucket in their hand. Or a broom, shovel or watering can. It's not about inflating their ego but rather giving them purposeful work.
Real. Satisfying. Work.
You know when your child feels it because you feel it too.
The chores of practical life correspond exactly to what children are looking for at this age: an activity that requires their muscular energy, and that can lead to visible results that are useful to themselves and the persons who live with them.
These present a unique opportunity to improve their motor capacities while providing the reward and satisfaction of a concrete results: the child gets dressed, the food is prepared, the table is set for the family or a community meal.
Participation in every day life develops a feeling of worthiness in a person called upon to share it in an active way. Children become not only users of the world in which they live, but also producers.
The traditional work of the family is referred to in Montessori as practical life work. It is the single most important area of an education for life.
It is in learning to do such mundane activities such as dressing, dusting, sweeping, preparing and serving food, and fixing or building-work that a child sees going on around him all day long-that he learns to use his body and mind for a purpose, to plan, to concentrate, to control his actions, to finish what he started.
Allowing the child to participate in the daily work he sees going on around him is an act of great respect for, and confidence in, the child. It helps him to feel important to himself and those around him. He is needed.
We must be easy on ourselves in the home and plan a time when we will enjoy work as well as the children. Begin with just one thing, perhaps putting the napkins on the table for a meal, and gradually add to the tasks in which the child can participate and eventually take over.
I'm not suggesting practical life trays so carefully arranged on a shelf (that rarely get touched in an active engaging home) but brooms, window squeegees, mops, buckets, sponges, gardening tools, cleaning cloths, spray bottles, plants, pets, dustpans, pitchers, tongs, chopping boards, work gloves, wash baskets, aprons, tea towels.
The tools of every day life, demonstrated and accessible to the child, the opportunity for the child to join in, participate and contribute in a real and meaningful way - everyday.