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!



Messy Messy Snow Dough (Playdough) Fun!

I finally brought out the quintessential item that every child loves and plays with – Playdoh!!  Not the branded dough that comes in a tub because they are so expensive and no matter what beautiful colours I had, they all ended up a mucky brown.  That would totally make me cry.

Contaminated Play Doh

Even this, I cannot take.  The contamination!! The colours are never pure again!

So we made our own and it was really really messy.  Be still, my heart.  We got the recipe from Growing a Jewelled Rose and urm… though it says “Snow Dough Recipe”, I kinda forgot to leave the ingredients overnight in the fridge, so they weren’t, urm.. cold.  So not really snow.  But still, the dough part is valid.  Only 2 ingredients and no cooking!  Just corn flour (I mixed corn flour and tapioca flour cuz’ they are so old and mouldy, they’ve probably expired) and I mixed some (also expiring) face moisturizer.  Take note that you do need quite a lot of moisturizer and since I’ve started the activity and then ran out of moisturizer, I was forced to use other things and ta dah!!! I’ve found that shower gel and hair conditioner works too!!!  I was really happy I found a use for the many many soaps and gels that I’ve collected over the years – Christmas gift exchanges and what not.  You know… those really pretty gels that come in beautiful tubes and bottles that you don’t ever get to open them at home because you’ve just gotten a jumbo refill of Shokobutsu and you feel a bit wasteful using them but they are just taking up space in your house anyway.

A pailful of coloured dough

A pailful of coloured dough

*Shameless plug*  My friends, please give me these shower gel and hand lotion thingeys this Christmas!!  I’ve finally found a good use for them!

I don’t really have the proportion, all I can say is, mix the flour and the gel together until you get the consistency you want.  Then portion out the dough and knead in desired water colours.  Because I wanted K to be part of the process (which is a mistake I’m still repenting from), naturally she was overexcited at how good the corn flour feels and yes, it really got all over the place.  The picture below might induce certain uncomfortable heart palpitations for the clean-freak Mother, so be warned.

messy room

Messy messy making of the snow dough.  Hmm.. actually doesn’t look so bad here but the corn flour was really all over the floor.

Anyway, playing with dough is great for little fingers because they need to really press in and mould the dough.  It builds strength and dexterity of the fingers.  Plus, it’s really great fun for the child!  K was sufficiently entertained for a really really long time – like an hour, and she has asked repeatedly if we could do this again.  Certainly, my child.  More dough, you shall have…

K chanced upon this youtube clip of a girl showing how she makes new playdoh dresses for her Disney Princesses.  So since we do not have the plastic Disney Princesses, she said, “Oh!! Nevermind!  I shall make a new dress for James!!”

This is James.

James gets new playdoh dress

Poor James

She didn’t actually make a dress but just stuck bits of dough on him.  But that was okay.  She was play acting what she saw in the youtube video and also making up stories of how James got to be in that beautiful dress.  Stories that make you go, “Wut?”

Cleaning up??  Fairly easy actually!!  I just wiped the floor and swept up the flour with wet wipes (or a cloth, if you are the environmentally conscious kind).  They dry out pretty easily so by then, they were mere crumbly bits, easily swept away.  But the floor felt a bit funny, like soapy… but I figure it’s not a big problem that a good mop won’t solve.

The dough is honestly not very malleable (probably cuz it’s not oily) and so, dries out really quickly.  As mentioned, it’s crumbly so you do need to keep adding more gel/lotion and “wet” it.  After K was done with it, did it all turn a mucky, murky brown?  No!  Because it was crumbly, the coloured pieces do not actually blend together.  It ended up more like a coloured mosaic of sorts.  I’ve kept them in the fridge because they are supposed to be good to play for a few more times.  Next time, I’ll prepare another batch of dough beforehand and ONLY give her 1 colour at a time to work or play with.  After that, she can have the mucky dough to mess up further!!

Crumbly murky dough

Crumbly murky dough

I’ll be trying another sensory play activity with K on Friday.  That one is supposed to be explosive and even messier.  Keep a lookout!

Homeschool: Family Theme – Adult and Young Free Printable

We sure took a long time to cover this theme but I guess that’s alright because its about the journey and not the end destination.  It is NOT about covering syllabus… Eeks… teacher-speak!

I went on this Family theme because for quite a long time now, K has been obsessed with ‘Mei(4) Mei(4)’.  Like a younger sister.  Which she does not have and will not have… at least for quite a long time.  It’s quite funny how she pretends play with this MM – feeding her, bathing her and using her as an excuse, e.g. “MM wants to eat sweets.  Can I have 1 more?”  or “MM doesn’t want to sleep.  She still wants to play.”  She really scares my mum sometimes when she says, “MM is sitting there looking at us.” *points to the empty sofa*  Shudder.  Creepy much.  So sometimes, for the heck of it, I’ll scare her too… like when she sits down somewhere, I’ll say, “Hey!  You’re squishing MM!!”  Then she’ll hop up in horror.  Okok.. I’ve been told NOT to encourage her anymore.

So here goes for the theme of FAMILY!

1. Family Tree (Theme)
It’s not very nice but it serves the purpose!  Tried to teach her the family relationships.  She still gets confused – who’s papa’s papa, who’s mama’s papa etc but she’s getting it.  She likes pasting her name in thickets and gets some practice spelling and picking out the letters in her and her brother’s names.

Who's who in the family?

Who’s who in the family?

2. Word Building (Language)

K knows her letters and sounds pretty well now so I’m trying to move her to combine sounds together.  It’s still pretty hard for her because she can only identify the beginning sounds and tends to leave out the middle and end sounds.  They say if that’s the challenge, we need to give her more practice by playing games like “I spy with my little eye… something that ends with ‘p’ “.  Then she has to pick out an object that ends with the ‘p’ sound.  Practice, practice practice!  But I did try out an activity once or twice with the Large Movable Alphabet.  She got distracted real quick after the second attempt.  She’s probably not ready for this.

Word-building with Large Movable Alphabet

Word-building with Large Movable Alphabet.  All the words here are phonetic words (words which follow the letter sounds), save the names.

I also wrote out the Chinese words of the various family members on flashcards and just repeat.

3. Adult and Young Cards (Cultural)

These cards were printed and laminated with the intention to use over and over again.  I showed her the adult and told her the specific name of the young and got her to repeat.  Simple.  It was nice as she went around asking us, “What is the name of the mama cat?”  “What is the name of papa bird?”  “What is the name of mama dog?”  “Urm… let’s just call her dog for now.”  I didn’t want to teach her the word b**** in case she goes around misfiring on people.

4. Spooning Beans from Bowl to Bowl (Practical Life)

You love your family by being independent, i.e. feed yourself.  She can feed herself okay, but she tends to make a whole big mess.  I don’t think it’s a matter of control but she just loves the sensory feel of noodles, oil, rice all over her hands and mouth.  Gross.  Anyway, I hope this helps her be more mindful of spillage while scooping.

K's spooning up a storm!  But to her credit, she managed to pick up every single bean and put them back into the bowl at the end.

K’s spooning up a storm! But to her credit, she managed to pick up every single bean and put them back into the bowl at the end.

4. Household Chores (Practical Life with Math)

Of course, we love our family by helping each other out.  She loaded up the laundry, scooped the detergent (and spilled so got her to clean up) and pressed the buttons, which was her favourite part.  She pegged the clothes.  She scrubbed the corridors and baked (sort of.  I did most of it).

Washing clothes

Washing clothes

Pouring and mixing ingredients

Pouring and mixing ingredients

Cutting out Hello Kitties from cookie cutter

Cutting out Hello Kitties from cookie cutter


Cinderkyra scrubbing the corridors

Maths was kinda incorporated into these activities, e.g. measuring out the ingredients with a weighing scale, what the buttons on the washing machine meant etc.

5. Praying and Character-building

We spoke about why we pray to God – He is our family and He loves talking to us.  Just this week, the Hubs got really sick and usually, K would kick a fuss if Papa wasn’t the one to make her milk, bathe her and put her to bed.  So I told K, “Papa is not well.  We love him by letting him rest.  Let me make milk for you, ok?”  Those 2 nights, she was really compliant and sweet and let me do everything for her (like she’s doing me a favour right??)  But it showed that she understood and though I’m her second choice, she was willing to compromise to show love to her daddy.  Really proud of her.

Plus, having the chance to put her to bed these 2 nights was nice… It’s been a long time since I did it and it was nice not to be rejected for once.  And we played and we read the bible together and discussed stuff that happened in the day… real nice.. 🙂  It felt great to be commanded, “Mama, you are well.  So YOU come over and switch on the air-con.  YOU stay here and take care of me!”  Urm… alright….

So that’s it!  I am sharing the Adult and Young print-out cards if you are interested.  It’s great if you have a colour-printer and laminator cuz I’d hate for my teaching materials to be bent or destroyed in 2 uses.  Couple of ways to use these cards over and over again:
1. Show and teach vocabulary.  This is a cow.  The baby is called a calf…
2. Matching and pairing activity.  Pair the adult with the baby.
3. Memory game.  Flip those cards over and find the matching pairs.
4. Sorting activities.  Big and small, adult and young.
5. Match your 3D, plastic farm animals with the 2D picture cards.  Helps the child move from concrete to abstract representations.
6. Use the picture cards for word-building.  Choose the phonetic words first, e.g. hen, lamb, pup(puppy), dog, cat, duck, pig…  Ask the child, “What sounds can I hear from the word ‘pig’?”  Let the child pick out the letters and you can rearrange it in the right order, then read it out loud together.

If you want the printable, simply subscribe to the mailing list.  The download link will be in the confirmation email.   You can’t find a Adult and Young free printable anywhere else because there isn’t anymore now!  I’m the laziest person around.  If there were, I’d have printed it and not created one myself.  Appreciate if you avoid sharing it amongst your friends.  Please direct them back to my site!  More freebies coming up soon! (Pictures are from morguefile).

*This is the first time I’m sharing stuff over the blog.  Let me know if there’s a problem with the download link!*



Chalking up Fun!

Scribbling with chalk

Scribbling with chalk

Not sure if I’m doing this homeschooling thing right, but I realized that the great thing about it is that I can take things slow at K’s pace.  Just relax and not have to hurry her through the tasks at every moment.  To be honest, today wasn’t really planned because… well, I kinda failed to so I just tried to make up something in the 5 minutes eating breakfast.

I brought her out to the corridor to just doodle with chalk, since I had to buy a whole big box when I only needed 1.  Anyway, I drew her a hopscotch and made her jump to the square that bore the number I shouted.  She was quite thrilled!  She was even more excited when she shouted a number and I had to jump.  With Z in my arms, I hopscotched and he was quite amused at being jiggled.

During clean-up time, I got a pail of water and a brush and showed her how to scrub the corridor and the chalk off.  She was super happy running barefoot in the corridor, playing with the brush and water.  I was pretty surprised she really scrubbed seriously and thoroughly!  This was something I wanted to do more with her – giving her more practical life activities so that she’s busy with her hands and body.  She took her own sweet time to scrub and scrub and I was happy to let her.  It was nice to just be in that moment with her, observing her and encouraging her, instead of whipping out my phone and “do other stuff”.



Think I should give the little Cinderkyra more chores to do!

Do you believe in giving children age-appropriate chores around the house?  How bout rewarding them with money for chores they do?  Interesting to hear your responses!

Preschooler Makes: Strawberry Ice-cream Cake (No-bake)

My exams are finally over!!  It has been too long since I sat for 2 papers in a day and writing till I had blisters on my fingers!  After having been so high-strung after 2 weeks of intense studying, after it’s over, you know you just get that deflated feeling.  It wasn’t ecstasy or supreme joy; it was just… deflated.  Like it’s all over.  That’s nice.  It’s now time to get back to a ssslowwerrr pace of life.  That explains why I haven’t been posting much or writing anything!  But I was working on a new project which I will unveil real soon!

Anyway, wanted to share an activity I did with K and Z 2 weeks back in the June holidays.  It was part of our homeschool thing before the exams took over my life and I’m finally blogging about it.  K loves watching “I Can Cook” on CBeeBies and she watches the same episodes again and again (because I only recorded those few).  There’s a recipe she said she wanted to try – Strawberry Meringue Ice-Cream.  Looking it up, I figured it wasn’t too hard so we gave it a go!

I did some modification to the recipe because I balked after I researched how to do a Meringue nest.  WUT!?!?  No way was I going to go through so much effort.  Who cares about the meringue, just substitute with ice-cream!  Can’t go wrong there!  I wanted to do a cakey kind of base (inspired by google search results which yielded “Strawberry Meringue Ice Cream Cake).  But baking was too hard.. So my no-bake method was to just get a pound cake!!  Mwahahahah…. so clever… *smirk*  When you have butter pound cake, ice-cream and strawberry, it pretty much can’t go wrong.  In fact, it was scrummy yummy!  Tasted a bit like…. Swensen’s ice-cream cake.  Best thing?  Only 3 ingredients!!!  No cooking/baking involved!!!

6 large strawberries (or 10, or 12, or 42, depending on how much you like them)
Half a Pound Cake (I used the cheaper NTUC brand but Sara Lee is good too)
Ice Cream (just pour the whole pint in)

1. Clean the strawberries beforehand.  You can get your child involved.  Show her how to scrub the strawberries.

2. Using a fork, hold the stem with your non-dominant hand and press down and mash the strawberries with dominant hand.  This activity is good for strengthening little fingers.

Mashing strawberries with a fork.  Trains strength and dexterity in fingers.

Mashing strawberries with a fork. Trains strength and dexterity in fingers.

3. With clean hands, mash up half a pound cake.
4. Mix the pound cake and strawberry puree.  Lay them in a container.
5. Pour ice-cream on top.
6. Serve and enjoy!!  Or freeze and enjoy later!

strawberry ice cream cake

Almost finished! Just add ice-cream and serve!

And what was Z doing??  Was he screaming away?  Nope, he was quietly sucking on a strawberry!!  He was a happy boy… for 5 minutes.  I mashed up some strawberry so he could explore, taste and smell it too.

Z tasting, smelling, touching, squishing strawberries.

Z tasting, smelling, touching, squishing strawberries.

And he also got a taste of ice-cream!  That wasn’t part of his sensorial education but apparently, his sister thought it would be a crime if he didn’t know what ice-cream was.

K feeding Z ice cream

K feeding Z ice cream

There we go!  Will you try this out with your kiddies?  Let us know how it went! 🙂