Practical Life Activities
The practical life area is the central part of every Montessori primary classroom. These lessons help to connect children with the day-to-day activities they have watched members of their family engage in at home, and are eager to try themselves. Children are excited to learn how to zip their jackets, tie their shoes, or prepare a delicious snack. They welcome the opportunity to wash dishes, sweep the floor, fold the laundry, wash the windows, or dust the shelves as they have seen done by adults around them. We must provide children with opportunities to practice and accomplish these tasks independently as a way to help them gain confidence and become self-sufficient.
Practical life includes activities that promote self-care as well as care of the child’s indoor and outdoor environments. Practical life also includes grace and courtesy (how to interact politely with members of the community) and movement activities. Now is a great time to involve your children in practical life. Please do not feel the need to invest considerable time and money to replicate the lessons exactly as they are presented in the classroom. Over the years, parents have asked their teachers, ”where do I purchase aprons? Do I need a bamboo tray? Is that an antique glass spray bottle?” In truth, much of what we offer the children can easily be implemented at home using the items you have right in your kitchen or bathroom closet. The most essential part of offering practical life activities involves showing the child the precise movements needed to complete the task.
Below are a few activities created using a random assortment of materials found around the house.
Care of Self Activities:
The children use these frames to practice buttoning, snapping, buckling, tying, and lacing before these skills are actually needed in everyday life. (When you are running late for a doctor’s appointment is not the best time for a child to practice zipping her jacket). The beauty of the frames is that they allow for the children to repeat the movements needed over and over again until they become second nature.
DIY Dressing Frames: ages 3 and up
Idea: Create an at-home version of dressing activities in your kitchen or dining room.
- Button Frame: Place a dress shirt over a dining room chair to create a buttoning activity.
- Zipper Frame: Place a sweatshirt or jacket over a dining room chair to create a zipper activity.
- Buckle Frame: Place a belt around a shirt or jacket that is draped over a large chair.
- Tying/Lacing Frame: Place an athletic shoe on a SIL-PAD/silicone mat (so that it doesn’t move around) to create either a tying activity or lacing activity.
Other dressing activities your child can practice while at home include:
- Putting on (and taking off) socks, shoes, and rain boots
- Putting on a jacket or coat.
- Putting on mittens or gloves
- Turning a jacket sleeve right side out
- Any part of dressing you have observed to be challenging for your child.
Note: Some children master these lessons very quickly. Others may need more time (and demonstrations) from you. We are not in a hurry; that is why we are practicing these motions in a neutral moment.
Glasses Cleaning ages 4 and up
Idea: I began wearing glasses at the age of 4, and my glasses were ALWAYS smudged. My primary teacher offered me a way to clean my glasses so that I didn’t have to ask an adult for help each day. She offered me a small spray bottle of cleaner, a soft cloth, and a lens cloth to attend to my glasses each day.
A Water Station ages 3 and up
Idea: Create a way for your child to get a drink of water throughout the day independently. Offer a tray with a small pitcher and glass so that your child may pour themselves a drink as needed. Small paper bathroom cups are a great alternative when small glasses are not readily available.
Setting the Table ages 3 and up
Idea: The children enjoy engaging in the daily activities and routines of the family. Learning how to set the table, particularly one’s own place setting, is an important step for a child. Demonstrate how to lay out a plate, fork, knife, spoon, glass, and napkin. Invite the child to try and practice until the layout is committed to memory. Invite your child to set the table each day as you prepare for mealtime.
Orange Juicing ages 3 ½ and up
Idea: Orange juicing is a fun way to introduce a child to food preparation. Children enjoy using their muscles to juice the orange and are excited to enjoy a refreshing drink made by them.
Other food preparation ideas:
- Banana or apple slicing
- Carrot or Cucumber peeling and slicing
- Peeling boiled eggs
- Sandwich Making
Care of Environment Activities
Plant Care ages 3 and up
Idea: Offer your child an opportunity to help care for a plant. Do the plants outside need to be watered? Are there plants that need to be repotted? Are there leaves that are particularly dusty that need to be cleaned? Involve your children in caring for the plants at your home. Leaf cleaning, in particular, is a wonderful at-home activity your children can try independently. Print out the PDF below for a list of supplies, directions, and photos to get your family started.
Window Washing ages 3 ½ and up
Idea: Window Washing is an engaging activity that can be explored both inside and outside. We use a vinegar-based solution with children to ensure their safety. Print out the PDF below for a list of supplies and instructions on how to implement window washing at home.
Wood Polishing ages 3 ½ and up
Idea: Polishing Wood offers children a way to help make trinkets and furniture around the home truly shine. Print out the PDF below for a list of supplies and instructions as to how to introduce wood polishing to your child.
Other ways to involve your child in daily home tasks:
- Dusting shelves or other furniture
- Sweeping (both indoors and outdoors)
- Unloading the dishwasher
- Sorting and loading laundry into the washing machine (with supervision)
- Folding laundry