If you’re looking for Montessori practical life activities and materials to use in your classroom, as part of your homeschooling curriculum, and/or to support your child at home, you’ve come to the right place!
Also known as ‘real work activities’, these ideas are designed to develop a child’s independence by developing his/her fine motor skills, teaching him/her to follow a list of logical steps to complete an activity from inception through to implementation, and enabling him/her to focus and concentrate long enough to complete the task.
The are so many fun, engaging, and hands-on ways to teach practical life skills to a child, and I hope this collection of ideas inspires you! I’ve included a mix of Montessori practical life activities sets you can buy, as well as ideas on how you can use items you probably already have lying around the house into meaningful teaching activities for your students and/or children.
What is the Montessori Method of Teaching?
The Montessori system is an alternative and individualized approach to education in which teachers introduce lessons and children then decide which materials they wish to work on each day (within limits, of course!). Teachers observe each child closely and are able to provide one-on-one lessons based on the child’s academic abilities and interests.
Unlike traditional classrooms where children experience multiple transitions throughout the day, the Montessori approach to learning allows for long, uninterrupted work periods – one in the morning, and one in the afternoon. This allows children to dig deep into their lessons, rather than just engaging with them for a short time.
The Montessori education system nurtures a child’s mind, body, and spirit, and focuses on teaching practical life skills as well as teaching through the child’s senses (touch, taste, sound, etc.).
What Are the Benefits of Montessori Education?
- It focuses on key developmental stages. Children are given the opportunity to practice specific skills at important times throughout their development to help them reach their full potential.
- It’s highly individualized and child-centered. In a Montessori classroom, all of the material is within the child’s reach, allowing him/her to decide what to work on each day. This allows children to learn at their own pace, and also allows the teacher to observe each individual child’s academic interests and abilities to facilitate one-on-one lessons.
- It helps develop self-discipline. While Montessori classrooms are child-centered, there are still limits imposed by the teachers, which teaches children how to manage their time effectively while also helping to develop other skills, like self-control and self-motivation.
- It’s very hands-on. The material used within a Montessori classroom fosters hands-on, or kinesthetic learning. Studies suggest children learn best when they carry out physical activities related to the material they are trying to learn as it’s more engaging, allows for trial and error, and helps children learn from their mistakes.
- It encourages collaboration with peers. Montessori classrooms are split into age ranges (for example, Lower Elementary includes children in grades 1, 2, and 3) and children are encouraged to work collaboratively. This exposes them to different methods of thinking, allows them to learn from their peers, and provides opportunities to teach their own skills and interests to others.
11 Montessori Practical Life Materials
Whether you’re a teacher or homeschooling super-parent looking for Montessori practical life activities that are packaged and ready to go, there are HEAPS of great ideas you can purchase on Amazon. I personally prefer made-to-order options as they require very little work on my part and can be used together to create all kinds of activities to keep kids occupied and learning. Here are 11 Montessori-inspired practical life materials I love!
Learn to Dress Kits
This cute set of 8 dressing frames is the perfect size to teach kids how to zip, tie, button, snap, buckle, lace, etc.
Montessori Nuts and Bolts Set
There are tons of great nuts and bolts sets out there to help children refine their fine motor skills and develop the muscles in their hands and fingers, but I particularly love this one as it can also be used to teach kids how to match colors and shapes.
Screwdriver, Screws, and Bolts Set
This set offers a fabulous and fun way to help a child strengthen the muscles in his/her hands while simultaneously developing his/her hand-eye coordination. It’s a great set to invest in once children have mastered the nuts and bolts activity above.
Operating a Dropper Activity
This is another great activity to help build fine motor skills in small children. The set includes 2 plastic test tubes with a stand to keep them upright and in place, along with a large eyedropper, 24 color tablets, a sponge, and a tray.
Watering Plants Activity Set
If you’re teaching your students/children about pedagogy, this is a great set to try. It includes a melamine tray, metal watering can, a porcelain dish, and a natural sponge, allowing you to teach multiple practical life skills at the same time.
Peekaboo Lock Boxes
This set includes 6 wooden lock boxes, each with its own geometric shaped objects and metal locks, and allows children the opportunity to place objects inside of the boxes and then learn how to unlock the locks to retrieve the items. As you can imagine, this is a great hand-eye coordination activity! I personally love that the boxes are small enough to be held and manipulated by a child, but feel the price tag is a bit steep and recommend the Melissa and Doug Locks and Latches Board if you’re looking for a less expensive alternative.
Montessori Washing Clothes Activity
How adorable is this set? It comes with a plastic washing board, bucket, water pitcher, sponge and soap holder, soap dispenser and pulp sponge, cloth basket, spray bottle, and hand brush, allowing small children to learn how to wash clothes by hand with supplies designed just for them!
Montessori Basic Child’s Pouring Set
Designed to teach a child how to pour while also helping to refine his/her fine motor skills, this basic set includes 2 stainless steel pitchers, a plastic tray, and a sponge.
Montessori Dishwashing Activity
This is probably one of my favorite montessori practical life activities as I love that it gets kids excited to help clean up after dinner – a chore I look forward to delegating to my daughter as soon as possible! (LOL) This set is very life like, and comes with 2 plastic buckets along with a water pitcher, dish drainer and tray, sponge and soap holders, pulp sponge, soap dispenser, spray bottle, hand brush, and mini dish brush.
Montessori Transferring Activity Set
What I love about this set is that it can be used to teach so many different skills. Transferring the stones from one container to another using tongs helps refine a child’s fine motor and hand-eye coordination skills, and you can also use other props to turn this into a sorting activity to teach a child how to sort by color, texture, size, etc. I recommend purchasing this Fine Motor Tool Set by Learning Resources to use with this activity as well.
Montessori Lacing Set
I particularly love this lacing set as it’s bright and contains 7 shapes and 5 colors, allowing you to incorporate other lessons (matching, sorting, etc.) into the activity.
12 Montessori Practical Life Activities
If you’re looking for Montessori practical life activities you can create at home and in the classroom without outlaying a ton of money, you will be pleasantly surprised at how many different fun and engaging ideas you can pull together using items you either already have lying around the house, or that you can purchase inexpensively from your local dollar store. Here are 12 ideas to inspire you!
Hole punching. Grab a basic hole punch and some paper, and let your kids go wild. Challenge them to see how many holes they can punch on a single sheet of paper, and mix it up with some of these adorable scrapbook hold punchers.
Attaching paper clips. With so many colors and sizes to choose from, you can use this set of basic paper clips to create all kinds of fine motor activities for kids. Whether your kids are attaching paper clips to a sheet of paper, making a paper clip necklace, or picking the paper clips up one by one with a magnetic wand, you will be amazed at how long this simple office product keeps them busy!
Sharpening pencils. I know it sounds basic and silly, but pencil sharpening is another one of my favorite Montessori practical life activities as it doubles as a fine motor and hand-eye coordination activity!
Attaching clothespins. Attaching clothespins to a piece of cardboard is another great fine motor activity, and Pinterest is filled with so many ideas you can try at home and in the classroom to keep your kids and students engaged.
Sorting with utensils. As I mentioned previously, I really love this Fine Motor Tool Set by Learning Resources. It includes a set of plastic tweezers, a scoop, a dropper, and a grabber, and provides so many fun ways to teach kids practical life skills. We like using these with water beads in our house, but the possibilities really are endless.
Cutting with a knife. My daughter had this wooden fruit cutting set when she was a toddler, which I thought was pretty neat, but I’ve learned through the Montessori system the importance of using real tools to teach real skills. There are various knives on the market that cut food but not skin (we like our StarPack Nylon Kitchen Knife Set), and they are a great way to ease kids into this important practical life skill!
Using a fork. I love this utensil set by Melissa and Doug as you can teach kids how to set the table properly, and I love that each piece is small enough for little hands. If you’re specifically looking for ways to teach your child how to use a fork, you can incorporate a small plate and fork-friendly items like styrofoam into this activity.
Dot stickers. The mere act of peeling and sticking dot stickers is a great way to help a child strengthen the muscles in his/her hands, and if you do a quick search on Pinterest , you’ll find lots of great activities to try!
Opening and closing containers. Chances are you have some old Tupperware lying around the house that you’re happy to part ways with, but I have to say I really love this Mini Tupperware Set for Kids as it’s the perfect size for little hands, and I love that it includes a jug and cups so children can practice their pouring skills.
Cutting with scissors. Teaching kids to cut with scissors can be pretty tricky, and I always recommend starting with a pack of playdoh and playdoh scissors. Once your little one has mastered the moves, I recommend moving onto Smart Loop Scissors to make the transition to proper scissors easier.
Grating. Teaching kids how to use a food grater is another one of my favorite Montessori practical life activities, but be careful to supervise so they don’t hurt their fingers! A fun way to incorporate this into your lesson plans is to bake something together as a class/family that requires one or more ingredient to be grated (did someone say carrot cake?!)! Amazon sells cut-resistant kids kitchen gloves for added peace of mind!
Whisking. You’ll be surprised with how much fun a child can have with a metal bowl and a whisk, and if you add a bit of dish soap, you can demonstrate the importance of using strength and speed to create bubbles!
I hope this collection of Montessori practical life activities inspires you to find creative ways to develop your child’s independence. These ideas incorporate fun and engaging fine and gross motor activities that are designed to challenge a child’s hand-eye coordination while simultaneously teaching him/her how to follow a list of logical steps from inception through to implementation. Have fun!
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