Montessori practical life activities for toddlers and children: how to incorporate simple activities into your home and life that follow the Montessori approach.
Practical life activities are the foundation of the Montessori Method for toddlers. This work is designed to develop skills needed for everyday living, creating independent, functioning children.
Practical life activities can be quite simple to implement when starting to introduce Montessori at home. The beauty of practical Montessori life is that it involves things already in the home.
Care of the Environment and Care of Self are two areas of practical life that work well when implementing the Montessori Method at home.
Care of the Environment
We want to instill the desire to care for their environment in the child, whether that be their bedroom, their home or their classroom. Involving your child in household chores is a great first step to introduce the Montessori Method into your home. Chores may not be your favourite pastime but toddlers love these activities! You are introducing knowledge and practices that are an integral part of life.
1. Cleaning. Any sort of cleaning is a great activity to have your child participate in – sweeping, dusting, wiping tables, cleaning windows. Ensure the equipment your child will use is appropriately sized, there are many budget-friendly options in child-sized brooms, dusters etc.
2. Prepare food. At first, you want to offer simple tasks such as washing fruit and vegetables, scrubbing potatoes, buttering toast and pouring ingredients into the bowl. As your child develops, the activities can become more complex such as chopping or peeling. You can also add more steps to the process as your child grows comfortable with food preparation. They can fetch the fruit from the fridge, wash it, cut it up, put it on a plate, and wipe the counter.
Having your child involved in the kitchen is helpful if your child is a picky eater. When children are a part of the food preparation, they are more likely to eat the food.
3. Serving food. It’s lovely to have your child learn how to serve food whether for themselves or others. This can start as simply as taking their plate to the table for the younger child and increase in steps as the child develops. Your child can practice setting the table, putting food on a plate and taking dishes off the table after a meal.
4. Trips to the supermarket. Some children thoroughly enjoy being in the kitchen, involved in food preparation and serving. Think about involving your child in the shopping too. They can contribute when making the shopping list, help find the products at the store and pack away the groceries once you get home.
5. Laundry. Your child can help by putting clothes into the laundry basket, loading and unloading the washing machine, adding in the soap, and folding and packing away the clothes afterwards.
Care of Self
Care of Self is all about giving the child the opportunity to learn to care for themselves. We want our children to have the ability to be self-sufficient. These are tasks that may often be overlooked, but given time, your child will adore having the autonomy and skills to do more independently.
1. Choosing clothes. Many children are thrilled at the chance to choose their clothes. You have the responsibility to set your child and yourself up for success. It would not be advisable to have your child’s entire wardrobe available for them to choose from. A good rule of thumb is to use the child’s age as the number of options available to them. If your child is two-years-old, give them two shirts and two shorts to choose from. If they are three-years-old, three shirts and three shorts and so on.
Secondly, you only want to give appropriate options. Think about the weather as well as your child’s capabilities, as the natural next step to choosing one’s clothes would be to dress oneself.
2. Dressing oneself. The child should be dressing themselves in clothes that they are capable of handling. A one-year-old trying to do up buttons on a shirt will feel discouraged. But a three-year-old may be at the stage where they are practising how to do up and undo buttons, in this case, it is the perfect opportunity for them to have button shirts to dress themself.
3. Washing hands. For younger children, washing their hands under the water is a great first step. As they develop, add more steps to what they do on their own. Turning on the tap, reaching the soap and turning off the tap can be introduced as the child becomes proficient in previous steps.
4. Brushing teeth/hair. Children enjoy seeing themselves in the mirror, giving them the chance to brush their teeth and hair. Brushing teeth can be practised in stages, first just brushing teeth, and then adding the toothpaste to the toothbrush.
5. Blowing one’s nose. A simple but necessary life skill. It’s so important to learn how to properly blow one’s nose and how to dispose of that tissue appropriately. The stages to practise would be blowing their nose, then later on they can fetch a tissue and throw it away.
Keep in mind that at the beginning of introducing any new task, it will take your child longer than if you were to do it for them. Trust the process and give your child the opportunity to practice and develop the required skills.
Make sure the activities you introduce are age and ability appropriate. As the child progresses you can add more steps to the activity.
Give your child only the required amount for the task at hand. Whether that be dish soap or butter for their toast.
Look out for ways your child can help. Children love to be involved and continually adding new ways to include your child around the home is essential. There is opportunity for constant growth and development.
You get to spend more time with your child! Chores are often thought of as taking away quality time with your child, but by involving them, you gain that time back while completing your chores together and guiding your child in learning.
Another bonus is that all these activities develop coordination of movement, fine and gross motor skills, independence, language, concentration and midline crossing.
Practical life activities are tasks that we do every day. By involving your child they are learning from a young age how to do these things successfully. Introducing the Montessori Approach and Practical life into your home can be done successfully and smoothly. Follow your child’s interests to guide you as to where you can involve them around the house and you will quickly see the multitude of benefits.
For more about the Montessori approach for toddlers, click here.