The Practical Life area of the prepared environment is typically divided into four main areas. These four are dedicated to the control of movement, the care of the environment, the care of self, and grace and courtesy. Each of these areas utilize particular, common activities from everyday life which a child is familiar with. This familiarity, in combination with their appearance, breeds attraction, drawing children to these objects. The lessons with these materials seek primarily to accomplish the development of order, the development of concentration, the development of coordination, and the development of independence for the young child, with mastery of the skill itself as only of secondary and incidental value.
Working in practical life becomes the basis for the work that the child will do during the rest of their stay in the Montessori classroom. Cleaning a table, spooning activities, clothes-washing, learning how to listen to a lesson patiently, preparing a work environment, either by taking a tray to a table or rolling out a rug, all serve as ways in which the practical life area primes a child for success in later challenges. Cleaning a table from left to write and top to bottom prepares a child for the direction of writing papers; Spooning activities help to develop and strengthen the three fingered pincer grasp and muscle memory he will need for writing itself; The complex sequences in clothes washing set a child up for success in the difficult mathematical equations that he will later face. Peace conferences and other lessons in grace and courtesy provide them the tools necessary to navigate the very complex social world that can seem at times, overwhelming.
The most important ways that the practical life area prepares the child for success, however, are undoubtedly the development of the four direct aims of the area. A child who can concentrate for long periods of time, coordinate his movements and activities, act independently, and maintain an ordered way of thinking, acting, and maintaining his environment and social circumstance will find it difficult to fail at later Montessori tasks, and, in fact, at life generally.