When applying Montessori at home, perhaps the easiest and most pertinent place to start is with practical life. There is no need to make practical life shelf work in the home. Instead, set up your home to be accessible for your child and invite them to join in daily routines.


What is practical life? And Why is it important?
Practical life includes any sort of work taking care of the surrounding environment (whether that be a home or a classroom). Self-care as well as grace and courtesy are also included in practical life.

Care of Self is an important part of practical life. These routines and habits taught early will last a lifetime. Beyond fine motor development, it teaches a child a greater sense of self-awareness and self-respect as they learn to be independent in caring for themself. Some examples include learning to feed oneself, brushing teeth, washing hands, and getting dressed. Children learn to listen to their own body’s needs and to develop and follow their own preferences and interests.  

Care of the Environment involves learning to respect and take care of one’s surroundings. This can also be taught alongside the concept that the child is part of the larger community of the family, and by caring for their shared environment they are learning to respect others. Caring for the environment could include watering plants, cleaning up toys or materials after using them, setting the table, or washing up dishes after eating. Children develop a deeper appreciation and respect for their surrounding environment.

Grace and Courtesy is the third and final component of practical life. It teaches important communication and behavior skills that aid in a child’s social and emotional development. Some examples could include a child learning to say “please” and “thank you”, how to greet or welcome people to their home, as well as how to politely interrupt when their parent is having a conversation. Grace and courtesy helps to build a child’s self-esteem and independence by helping them to orientate themselves to their environment as they begin to understand how they belong and participate in the greater world.


The Prepared Environment and Child-Sized Tools
As stated above, a great way to begin practical life at home is to start with daily routines that you and your child already do together. Start by giving your child more opportunities to accomplish these tasks independently. This may mean some adjustments to the physical and even perhaps your mental space. 

Creating a prepared environment that is accessible to your child is essential when encouraging independence. You can do this by bringing things to your child’s level, or providing step stools for your child to reach necessary things. In the bathroom, you may create a self-care station for your child on a low shelf or by adding a stool for your child to access the bathroom sink making sure their toothbrush is within reach and a mirror is eye level. During bathtime, you can place a washcloth and soap or shampoo within reach so your child can begin to initiate self-care. When preparing your home environment, think about what things your child needs to access to accomplish their tasks, check if they can get these things without your assistance, and if not make the necessary changes to allow for greater accessibility and independence.  

Providing your child with child-sized tools is another important component. The goal with child-sized tools is that your child can manipulate them with more control and precision, leading to more success and a greater sense of achievement which will continue to encourage their independence and interest in practical life work. In the kitchen, you may have a child-sized whisk or other child-friendly tools such as a vegetable peeler or knife designed for easy and safe manipulation. A child-sized broom and dustpan or mop kept in an accessible and central location can encourage your child to take charge in cleaning up after themselves if they have made a mess. 


Practical Life Activities at Home

To make practical life activities the most meaningful, start by involving your child in daily routines. As your child gains confidence and develops their ability, they will begin to become more independent in these tasks.


>> In the Kitchen

A great way to start with practical life in the kitchen is by inviting your little one to join you when doing simple tasks. Breakfast and snacks tend to be easier and less stressful times in our home, so these were the times of the day when I started inviting my daughters to begin helping out. At 10 months my first daughter started mixing eggs, at 2.5 years she was flipping pancakes on the stove. Start small and simple and watch as both you and your little one gains skills and confidence in the kitchen. 

While many of these activities can be done with a tray, you can also just do them on your kitchen counter or a table. An important thing to keep in mind when setting up practical life is to make sure your child has access to all the needed materials to do the task independently. Also, in the kitchen expect a mess when starting out. Have a cloth at the ready to clean up spills and other messes and remember your child is learning a lot about controlling their body when they spill so be supportive and don’t make a big deal out of it.

Practical life tasks to begin with in the kitchen could include:

  • Scooping with a cup measurer or tablespoon - measuring out ingredients for simple recipes such as oatmeal or pancakes
  • Pouring liquids- make sure to use child-sized cups with a handle and spout for pouring; if your child is new to pouring you can start with very small amounts (ex. if the recipe calls for 1 cup or milk, pour ¼ cup at a time-it also gives your child more practice)
  • Mixing and stirring- when inviting your child to mix and stir, try to give child-sized tools and make sure they can easily reach and see into the mixing bowl; be aware it will be easier to mix only dry ingredients, or only wet ingredients, once combined to form thicker batters some young children do not yet have the muscle strength
  • Lime juice/ Orange juice - place in a tray: an orange/lime half in a container, a manual orange squeezer, a small glass, a spoon, a cloth or sponge for easy cleanup, and optional some sugar (if making lime juice!); of course, this will need to be prepared the day of and can be done in the kitchen or at the weaning table. *For older children this activity can be modified to include cutting the lime/orange in half include a knife and cutting board for this modification
  • Peeling clementine - it is helpful to include a small bowl or container for your child to place the peel in as they peel the fruit; you can also include a small sponge or cloth for cleanup or guide your child to use an accessible one from the kitchen
  • Peeling hard-boiled eggs - provide your child with hard-boiled eggs (quail eggs are perfect for little hands!), a bowl for placing the peeled eggs, and either a plate, paper, or cloth for your child to work on while peeling to make cleaning up the shells easier
  • Cracking peanuts - provide your child with a bowl of boiled peanuts, a bowl for placing the shelled nuts, and either a plate, paper or cloth for your child to work on while cracking the peanuts to make cleaning up the shells easier
  • Crushing peanuts - place in a tray: a jar of peanuts, a spoon to scoop the nuts, a small child-sized mortar and pestle, another jar or bowl to place the crushed nuts in once finished, a paintbrush or cloth to clean out the mortar when finished
  • Washing fruits/ veggies - fruits/ vegetables, a bowl of water, a tablespoon of vinegar pre-measured in a cup, a sponge/ cloth; this can be done at the sink using a Montessori Learning Tower or at a child-sized sensory table
  • Washing dishes- after eating your child may become interested in the process of cleaning up, using a Learning Tower or Step stool invite your child to the sink to help wash their own bowl/plate and utensils


>> Bathroom

  • Washing hands, brushing teeth, and combing hair - can create an accessible space in the bathroom with low hanging mirror, hairbrush, toothbrush, toothpaste, and tissues, step stool to access the sink for handwashing
  • Self-care station - you may choose to create a self-care station in your bathroom to encourage more independence and self-awareness. It may include your child’s toileting necessities such as tissues, toilet paper, diapers, and wipes. Alternatively, it could contain other self-care items such as their toothbrush and hairbrush. 
  • During bathtime, encourage your child to begin washing themselves using a cloth- teach them how to put the soap on the cloth and how to wash starting from their head and working their way down


>> Around the house

  • Window washing/ Mirror washing - place a small spray bottle, a cloth, and optional a squeegee in a tray or low basket
  • Polishing plants - place a cloth and a bowl of water in a tray, you can either place the potted house plant on the Montessori shelf next to the tray or allow your child to take the tray to an accessible potted plant around the house. Read more...
  • Hanging laundry - set up a low hanging wash line for your child, provide them with a small basket of clothespins or hangers to help hang their own clothes
  • Folding clothes - start out by giving simple shapes like cloth napkins, invite your child to help fold their own clothes after its dry


Remember as you prepare any work for your child to follow their interest. Instead of placing an activity out for your child and expecting them to use it, observe their interests first and then invite them to join you while carrying out daily routines. Make sure to observe, then create work based on their current interest and developmental skills. Practical life encourages our children to develop a greater sense of self-awareness, a respect for their surrounding environment, as well as a broader understanding of how they fit into the world around them. As always, we at Goc Montessori hope you found this article useful.


Written by

Góc Montessori

>> Products mentioned in this article: Learning Tower


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