Montessori Practical Life Activities

The more I delve into practical life activities, the more in love and amazed I am at how – you guessed it – practical they are!  Essentially, they are life skills that we teach so that our children can be increasingly independent and self-reliant.  When they are independent, they learn to take personal responsibility and they generally feel more confident about themselves and what they can do. I am constantly surprised at what the kids can do for themselves, if only we bother to clearly state our expectations, guide them through how ever many times they require to see the examples, give them room to make mistakes and give correction, and step back to see their proud looks on their faces!

I’m gonna share the 4 areas of Montessori Practical Life so you can have a pretty comprehensive guide to follow.  Definitely, you are encouraged to add on any and every important life skill you think you’d want your child to master should they not be in the list – e.g. cooking, baking, using tools… whatever your child may be interested in!

Fine motor skills
1. Transferring with a spoon –
– bowl to bowl
– bowl to 2 equal bowls
– bowl to 2 unequal bowls
– bowl to 3 bowls
– bowl to 3 unequal bowls
– bowl to bowl with indicator line

2. Dry Pouring –
– jug to jug
– jug to 2 equal containers
– jug to 2 unequal containers
– jug to 3 equal containers
– jug to 3 unequal containers
– jug to container with indicator line

3. Wet pouring
– jug to jug
– jug to 2 equal containers
– jug to 2 unequal containers
– jug to 3 equal containers
– jug to 3 unequal containers
– jug to container with indicator line
– jug to container with indicator line using a funnel

4. Transferring
– water with a sponge
– water with a turkey baster
– objects with tongs / tweezers / escargot holder
– objects with chopsticks

5. Pegging
– clothes pegs
– paper clips / hair clips
– peg board

6. Folding and unfolding napkins / origami

Gross Motor
1. Rolling and unrolling a mat
2. Carrying an empty tray
3. Carrying a table or chair
4. Walking on a line
– carrying objects

Care of Environment
1. Sweeping
2. Cleaning / dusting / scrubbing
3. Opening and closing boxes
4. Screwing and unscrewing caps
5. Nuts and bolts
6. Locks and keys
7. Threading and beading
8. Cutting paper
– straight lines right through
– straight lines (which end in the middle)
– wavy lines
– snowflakes
9. Cutting fruit and vegetables
10. Polishing

Care of Self
1. Combing hair
2. Dressing frames
– zips
– press studs
– large buttons
– small buttons
– velcro
– buckles
– shoelace
– tying bows (ribbons)
3. Bathing
4. Going to the washroom
5. Brushing teeth
7. Wiping face
9. Blowing nose
10. Braiding / plaiting

Social Grace and Courtesy
1. Greetings
– shaking hands
– saying thank you, please
– inviting someone in

2. Interrupting
– saying ‘excuse me’
– may I

3. Silence game (being still and silent and listen to the sounds in the environment for a time)

For every activity, it’s ideal if you can place all the required materials on a tray so they are organized and the materials complete.  When the child is older and familiar with the activity, he can go pick out what he needs for himself – that takes pre-planning and organization of the child’s thoughts, which are higher level skills.  Demonstrate the activity once, making sure to detail the steps and hold his or her attention as best as you can. Then allow the child to try.

For the first few times, the child will make a mess, not be able to do it well but don’t be discouraged!  It takes multiple demonstrations on different days. And only later when the child knows what to do, can you leave the child to complete the activity for himself.

Case in point – K transferring beans with a spoon
K has been doing this activity since… forever.  Since she can hold a spoon.  Since she was 16 months (ooh.. managed to dig up old photos), she has been scooping, making sure she held the spoon with a pencil grip each time.

spooning 16 months

Oh my gosh! So young!! And looks so much like Z! Trying to grip the spoon and transfer macaroni. This was probably at least 3 (or more!  I can’t remember) attempts of introducing the activity to her.  Apology to friend and daughter who got pictures put up on the blog.  😛  At least I gave them nice smileys!

spooning at 35 months

K at 35 months – not that she can’t scoop but sometimes, she just wants to make a mess! Training concentration and perseverance! Pick up ALL the beans!

35 months sprawling beans all over the floor

Just 2 weeks later, also 35 months, giving me a heart attack when I saw this scene after cooking lunch when I left her to her own devices.  It was a “RAWR!!!  WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!?” moment.  Had to supervise her picking up the beans one by one – by hand. I think it was good training for me too – trains patience…

My point is, I haven’t got a perfect Montessor-ized kid (sounds so wrong) and the online videos tend to show perfect examples of children following your instructions to the T, giving the impression that it was their first time doing the activity and they just got it!  And when you don’t see it happening to your child, you wonder what’s wrong with him/her, or you.  I honestly doubt it’s like that in real life.  It often takes many repetitions for the child to get it and many more practices for them to get it right.  Just let them pick the activity and they will keep repeating it until they have mastered it.  Don’t need to force them to do with they are not interested.  Leave it and introduce the activity some months later and they may be ready for it then.

If you’re interested in downloading an excel file with all the activities with suggested age, please subscribe to the blog and the download link will be in the confirmation email.

For current subscribers, scroll all the way to the end of your email and there’s a download link too!

Have fun with your little ones!  I guess… don’t be stressed about their learning or progress and just enjoy the process of discovering new and exciting things with them – even something as small and common as beans!



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