Learning isn’t all numbers and letters. Your toddler or preschooler watches you closely every day — learning how to walk, talk, and interact with the world. They are avid imitators, wanting to brush their own hair and teeth, or even “help” with the dishes and laundry.
It’s easier and faster to want to do everything yourself, but including your child in your everyday tasks is a huge boost for their learning and confidence. Instead of ushering them off to play with toys, plan some Montessori-style practical life activities into your day.
15 Montessori Practical Life Activities for At-Home Learning
Your kiddos will love helping out with these household chores promoting concentration and fine motor skills.
Mix up a little vinegar with water and create your own kid-safe window washing solution. Put it in a spray bottle, supply a rag (and a squeegee if you have one handy) and watch your child spend hours helping you wash your lower windows.
This is the perfect activity for your preschooler! If you have some nice silver, set up a polishing station with a tub of polish and a rag, sponge, or cotton balls. No silver? This activity can also be done with leather, bronze, or wood.
Be sure to set your child up at a table or outside for this activity, and cover their clothes with an apron. Polishing takes a lot of concentration, but that attention to detail will pay off when their objects begin to shine.
Both toddlers and older kids love playing in water. Dishwashing is a great way to combine water fun with their desire to help — resulting in a wonderful activity for young kids.
You can set them up at your kitchen sink with a learning tower, set up a washing station on the floor with a tub on a towel, or keep it mess-free by taking the fun outside.
Depending on your child’s age and maturity, you can use real dishes or plastic. It’s a great way to encourage them to do their part by cleaning up after snack or meal times.
This simple activity is great for improving coordination. Provide your child with a small, handheld sweeper and dustpan, or find a child-sized sweeper they can push around. Then put them to work!
They can sweep up the crumbs in the kitchen, the dry cereal they’ve dropped on the floor during snack time, or the pet hair in the living room. By encouraging this now, they’re building helpful habits as they grow.
Even the youngest of toddlers can help put away their toys. The best way to encourage this? Make sure everything has a place — and that each activity goes back before they move on to the next.
You can go full-on Montessori and create a shelf of activities, with beautiful baskets and trays full of work. Or simply use open tubs to keep everything organized. Your child may need a little help at first, but before long picking up will become part of their normal routine.
Have your child help match socks or fold washcloths for simple ways to include them in your laundry routine. If your toddler is a bit more on the wild side, and every fold is just as quickly undone, you can still get them to help in other ways.
Try asking your child to sort whites from darks. Or have them move things from the basket to the washing machine, washing machine to dryer, then dryer back to basket. The more you ask them to help, the easier it will get.
If it’s a nice day, get outside with these fun Montessori-style outdoor activities.
Help your child connect with nature while promoting healthy eating habits by getting them involved in the garden. They can help you plant seeds, water, or harvest the fruits and veggies.
Don’t have a garden? Grab a small raised bed and start one! Or if your space is really tight, try growing herbs or green onions on a windowsill. Your child will love watching their hard work grow.
Older preschoolers and elementary children can benefit from learning woodworking and basic tool skills. Your child can practice wood carving. Or ask them to help create a new bench or even a platform bed with supervision.
Younger children can practice hammering skills with a child-sized workbench. Or work on tightening screws with a manual screwdriver. These are great activities to increase their focus while refining their fine motor skills.
Fall is a beautiful time to get outside. If you plan on raking up the leaves in your yard, invest in a small rake and get your child to help!
Give them a small area to work on and then finish the job together. You may not get done any faster, but the time spent together is well worth it.
This is a favorite classic Montessori activity. If you have a flower garden or colorful wildflowers in your yard, send your child to collect their favorites.
When they return with their selections, help them clip the stems and ask them to fill a small vase with water. Then watch them arrange a beautiful bouquet.
No flowers outdoors? No worries! Buy some at your local grocer and have your child help you decorate the dining table for a beautiful centerpiece.
In the kitchen
As a parent, it can feel like you spend hours and hours of your day preparing food. Between the expected three meals and two (or three or four) snacks, there’s a lot of food prep.
Cut down on your workload (or at least keep them entertained) by inviting them to help you in the kitchen. With the right tools, your child can cut, peel, or chop fruits and veggies. Or put them to work juicing oranges. If this all feels a bit daunting, start simple and ask them to wash fruits and veggies for snack time.
Baking is a fun activity for children, from toddlers to upper elementary. On top of practical life skills, baking helps your child learn basic math concepts and gives them an early introduction to fractions.
Your child can help you measure flour, crack eggs, mix the batter, and pour. Then pop everything in the oven and wait for your sweet treat to ding. And of course, don’t forget to lick the bowl and spoons. ;)
Learning to pour from a pitcher seems simple, but it requires your child to use some careful coordination and concentration. Find a small pitcher and fill it with water, juice, or milk. Then encourage them to refill their cup at breakfast, or leave it out to encourage independence throughout the day.
Worried about a mess? You can take this activity outside, or use it to introduce another cleaning activity — wiping up spills.
As your preschooler gains independence in water pouring and snack fetching, give them a chance to fix their own lunch or breakfast. Keep it simple by showing them how to make a sandwich. Or encourage them to fix a plate of cheese, crackers, and fruit.
Breakfast is one of the best meals for them to work on (and this can be a huge help on future hectic school days). They can spread cream cheese on bagels, pour cereal and milk, or maybe even scramble an egg with your supervision.
By setting them up with these skills now, you’re giving them knowledge they’ll be able to carry throughout their lives. And before long, your grown-up elementary child may even cook you a full meal.
This classic activity for kids is still one of the best ways to get your child involved at dinnertime. Help them count how many plates, napkins, and forks you’ll need. Then ask them questions to help them determine if you need spoons.
Watch them use math, critical thinking, and fine and gross motor skills to complete this seemingly simple task. It’s a simple way to help them grow in skills and confidence at dinnertime.
Practical life activities promote early learning
Even though you may feel the rush to get your young child reading and counting, practical life activities help them practice the skills they’re growing in their early years.
By giving them space to complete these activities themselves, you’re helping them grow their minds and their confidence. The jobs may not be completed perfectly, but that is its own lesson. The more they practice, the more they’ll learn — and you’ll be surprised by how easily academic learning comes as you move through life together.
Toddlerhood can be full of frustration (for both of you). But with the right activities to fill their day, you can gift them the independence they crave while spending more time together. And that makes for a beautiful day.
If you love these suggestions, don’t forget basic self-care activities too. Read our blog on bringing Montessori home to discover more ways to set up your home for toddler independence here.