Practical Life: From Hand Washing to Entrepreneurship

Practical life is one of Montessori education's core components, and it’s one of the vital elements that make it stand out from other models. The work comes in a variety of forms, too. Guides give direct lessons, children are afforded time and space to practice, and much of the learning is built authentically into the daily routine.

What practical life looks like throughout the different stages of childhood is where things get interesting. Read on to learn a bit about the skills we teach at various ages and how you might implement the practice at home with your own child.

Toddler environments

  • Food tasting - In lieu of a traditional snack time, many toddler classrooms include tasting opportunities. This includes a formal sit down with all the children at a table and incorporates teaching children how to pass serving dishes or serve one another. The fun and routine of regular food tasting allows toddlers to try a variety of foods and flavors that they may not have otherwise.

  • Table setting - To prepare for food tasting, children take turns helping to set the table. This is a skill that toddlers are fully capable of (with a bit of guidance) and allows them to contribute to the group while building a sense of confidence.

  • Window washing - The funny thing about young children is they love to clean. For adults, a task like washing windows is just one more tedious item to check off the list; for kids, it’s an exciting new adventure that makes them feel grown-up. Toddler guides provide children with the necessary tools, they give a brief lesson, and allow the children to practice.

  • Sweeping - As you might imagine, there are plenty of spills in any classroom! One of the first ways many Montessori guides teach children to sweep is to tape off a small square on the floor. Children are meant to sweep debris into the square to make it easier to then collect with a dustpan and brush. This is something you can try at home, too.

  • Folding napkins - Folding laundry may seem like an endless task, but when your toddlers want to help, let them! Small, square items, like napkins, washcloths, and dish towels, are perfect for small hands to practice with. Demonstrate wordlessly with one or two, then give them a pile to work on. You will be amazed at their intense focus and ability.

  • Handwashing - There are specific Montessori lessons to teach a child to wash their hands. This is an especially important skill for them to master now, and parents can easily demonstrate and guide children through the steps at home as well.

  • Pouring activities - The opportunities for pouring are endless. Montessori environments may provide children with small trays complete with prepared pouring activities. This may include a small pitcher and a bowl that water can be transferred between.

  • Plant care - With guidance, toddlers may begin to learn about basic plant care, including watering.