A Look at Montessori Practical Life
The Montessori Practical Life area of the classroom plays a very important role within a Montessori or a Montessori-inspired program. Montessori practical life materials are the first activities a child is introduced to in a Montessori classroom. One of the reasons for this is because Montessori practical life lessons and the related Montessori practical life activities help support early skill building as well as a child’s desire to be self-sufficient. They provide opportunities for children to learn essential life skills and help them develop physically, emotionally, and cognitively. These activities also promote concentration, self-discipline, and a sense of order. Montessori practical life skills are those that are based on activities that a child see around them every day and that adults tend to perform with ease. In this post we share some Montessori practical life ideas with you.
Practical Life Activities Promote Development in Many Areas
Practical life activities in Montessori offer a wide range of benefits for children. They help with physical development by teaching children how to use their bodies efficiently and effectively. Fine motor skills are developed as children learn how to complete tasks such as pouring water or threading beads. Practical life activities also promote social and emotional development by teaching children how to interact with others and follow rules. And finally, cognitive skills are developed as children learn how to plan and execute tasks.
In addition to promoting development in many areas, practical life activities in Montessori also offer other benefits such as concentration, self-discipline, and a sense of order. These activities give children a sense of purpose and help them feel capable and competent. As they work on tasks and see their progress, they develop a greater sense of concentration and focus. And finally, practical life activities teach children how to be orderly and methodical in their work, which helps instill a sense of discipline.
Key Points About Montessori Practical Life Activities and Montessori Practical Life Materials
Montessori practical life activities generally cover four areas. These include:
Caring for the Self
Caring for the Environment
Grace and Courtesy
Control and Coordination of Body
In the book Basic Montessori by David Gettman, the author describes Montessori practical life activities as falling into three categories. These are — Manipulative Skills, Self-Development and Care of the Environment. This is also a helpful way to divide the different areas of Montessori practical life work.
Montessori Practical Life Activities
Here are some examples of Montessori practical life activities. This is not a full list, however it does provide you with some great examples of the kinds of activities that happen within the area of practical life activities.
- Selecting a mat, rolling and unrolling a mat
- Holding a tray
- Holding a jug
- Carrying a glass of water
- Washing hands
- Washing face
- Blowing nose
- Various types of dressing frames. For example: button frame, buckle frame, snap frame, shoe lace frame etc.
- Polishing shoes
- Putting on and taking off clothes
- Putting on and taking off shoes and boots
- Opening and closing bottles
- Using various types of kitchen tools
- Peeling vegetables or fruit
- Cutting vegetables or fruit
- Greeting another person — saying hello or saying goodbye.
- Shaking hands
- Knocking on a door.
- Sitting in a chair
- Mopping a floor
- Washing a table
- Sweeping a floor
- Pouring, spooning, transferring, tonging etc
- Caring for plants
- Caring for animals
If you operate an authentic Montessori School, a fantastic resource related to all areas of the Montessori curriculum is the Montessori Scope and Sequence that was developed by The Montessori Foundation.
The Influence of Culture on Montessori Practical Life Activities
Around the world, Montessori practical life activities can and should vary from culture to culture and society to society. While there are some Montessori practical life presentations are somewhat universal — for example: pouring, polishing or sweeping — others may need to be adjusted to reflect local culture, habits and/or customs. YouTube is full of all kinds of videos that show examples of Montessori practical life activities in different parts of the world. It is always very interesting to look at how the Montessori practical life activities are similar — yet distinctly influenced from a cultural perspective.
Here are two interesting examples to consider:
This video is from a Montessori school in Hong Kong.
This video is from a Montessori school in the USA.
Montessori Practical Life Quotes
Below are a few Montessori practical life quotes from Dr. Maria Montessori as listed on the Association Montessori Internationale website:
“The children of three years of age in the “Children’s Houses” learn and carry out such work as sweeping, dusting, making things tidy, setting the table for meals, waiting at table, washing the dishes, etc ., and at the same time they learn to attend to their own personal needs, to wash themselves, to take showers, to comb their hair, to take a bath, to dress and undress themselves, to hang up their clothes in the wardrobe, or to put them in drawers, to polish their shoes . These exercises are part of the method of education, and do not depend on the social position of the pupils; even in the “Children’s Houses” attended by rich children who are given every kind of assistance at home, and who are accustomed to being surrounded by a crowd of servants, take part in the exercises of practical life . This has a truly educational, not utilitarian purpose . The reaction of the children may be described as a “burst of independence” of all unnecessary assistance that suppresses their activity and prevents them from demonstrating their own capacities. It is just – these “independent” children of ours who learn to write at the age of four and a half years, who learn to read spontaneously, and who amaze everyone by their progress in arithmetic.” (From Childhood to Adolescence, p. 66)
“A three-year-old educated according to Montessori pedagogy, becomes a master of his hand and undertakes with a joy a variety of human activities. These activities allow him to develop the power of concentration.” (San Remo Lectures, p. 27)
Photos of Montessori Practical Life Activities and Montessori-inspired Practical Life Trays
Below are some different examples of Montessori practical life activities and Montessori practical life trays. Additionally, for programs that are working as Montessori-inspired we have included some examples of practical life activities that are inspired by Montessori.
Searching online you can find a lot of different resources related to Montessori practical life activities. Below are some selected resources that you might find helpful to further understand more about the practical life area of the Montessori curriculum.
Looking for Online ECE Workshops About Montessori?
Through ECE Workshops we offer a number of different online professional development opportunities. Please visit our ECE Workshop registration page to learn more. You can learn more about our Montessori-Inspired workshop by visiting – Implementing a Montessori-Inspired Approach.
A Look at a Montessori Practical Life Album and other Montessori Resources
Many thanks to Dustin Kosek for giving us permission to share this Montessori practical life album. It is for sure worth checking out. As you will see, curriculum links were made to preschool content and performance standards in Hawaii. If you are looking to make curriculum linkages to early learning frameworks or other early education standards in your area you may find this example to be very helpful.
This is a copy of a catalog from Nienhuis Montessori. You can flip through the pages to see some photos of high quality Montessori materials. There is a section on practical life materials.
This parent handout from a Montessori school in China provides a nice overview of how different areas of the Montessori curriculum are presented to the children at the pre-primary level.
Videos on Selected Practical Life Activities
Below are some different videos that we have found on YouTube that provide a helpful overview of selected Montessori Practical Life activities.
Montessori Floor Mat (Rug)
Montessori Dry Pouring
Montessori Water Pouring Activity
Montessori Scooping Activities
Montessori Threading Beads
Montessori Opening and Closing Bottles
Montessori Folding Cloths
Montessori Sweeping Activity Examples
Mopping (mop and bucket)
Montessori Button Frame (Large)
Montessori Bow Tying Frame
Montessori Dishwashing Station
Food Preparation Activities
As you can see there are a wealth of possibilities when it comes to implementing practical life as part of a Montessori or Montessori-inspired program. Remember that some of the activities are more complex than others. They may need to be presented gradually — not the whole activity all at once. Practical life activities should be both efficient and effective. It is always a good idea to try the activity yourself. This will help ensure it is successful and that it flows with ease. Additionally, recognize that there are also different stages that a child and teacher will go through with each of the activities (and for all Montessori activities really.) These include:
Presentation: The teacher gives the child a “lesson” with the activity.
Practicing: The child works on the activity with the support of the teacher.
Mastery: The child works on the activity independently.
In many ways it is the combination of this approach to learning along with the continuum of self-correcting Montessori materials that is a significant part of the magic of the Montessori Method. One look in any authentic Montessori classroom and you will see children at all different stages of their learning and experiential journey. And when you think about it; really that’s very similar to how life itself continues to unfold as we get older. You see, we are constantly being presented with new information/experiences (Presentation), we spend lots of time learning how to work with what we have been presented (Practicing) and eventually we become both capable and proficient related to that information/experience (Mastery.) It is for this very reason that the Montessori Practical Life activities are so very important. In many ways, they are a bit of a gateway to the entire universe of the Montessori Method of education. The beginning of a profound, lifelong learning experience.
Looking for Online ECE Workshops About Montessori?
Through ECE Workshops we offer a number of different online professional development opportunities. Please visit our ECE Workshop registration page to learn more. Watch the video below for further information on our ECE Workshop – Implementing a Montessori-Inspired Approach.
Other Posts We Have Written About Maria Montessori and the Montessori Method of Education
Finding the builders of the future – look in Montessori classrooms
First published in 2019 — updated in 2022