For children in the first stage in development (0-6yrs) practical life is a fundamental component of a Montessori education. For Montessori in the home, it doesn't get easier than to introduce some practical life activities!
Practical life includes life skills to help develop independence, coordination, concentration, self-control, self-awareness, confidence and include:
- Care of Self (food preparation, dressing, washing),
- Care of Environment (cleaning, gardening, care of pets, environmentalism),
- Grace and Courtesy (greetings, manners, social interactions),
- Control of Movement (refining movements, walking the line, moving quietly).
In the early days (toddlerhood) I found it easiest to do my housework if my children had their own tools. I could sweep while they had their own broom and could sweep too. Same with mopping the floor or pegging the washing. I recommend finding child size tools for the child to work along side you (or other care-givers) and then see what interests them, see what they want to do. Some kids love cooking while other prefer to be in the garden or tool shed!
TIP: If ordering practical life materials online look closely at the measurements. Look for an image of the product being used in context, compare to the materials you have at home, or get out a tape measure.
I hope you will find some good ideas listed here! I've added links where I think they will be useful. The ages mentioned are a guide only. To use the Montessori saying - follow the child!
12-18 months + (for a child who is walking)
- Watering Can
- Plant mister
- Broom - indoor or outdoor
- Dish brush (for washing dishes)
- Vegetable brush (for scrubbing vegetables)
- Small cleaning cloth or sponge
- Leaf Duster
- Polishing mitts
- Backpack or little messenger bag
- Apron - consider separate aprons for cleaning, gardening, and cooking
2-3 years +
- Carpet sweeper
- Dustpan and brush
- Washing or clothes line, pegs, washboard
- Gardening tools - rake, hand shovel, shovel, spade, gardening gloves
- Butterfly net, bug catcher or bug viewer
- Window squeegee and small spray bottle
- Cleaning caddy
- Scrubbing brush (for cleaning)
- Dusting brush
- Magnifying Glass
- Lock box or latches activity
3-4 years +
- Flower Press
- Eco-pot maker
- Rain gauge
- Large outdoor (or indoor) thermometer
- Large Calendar
- Composting system
- Worm farm
- Paper making kit
- Bird feeder
- Table top greenhouse, seeder, sprouter or root viewer
- Wood working tools - hammer, wood, nails, eye protection
- Tool box - with tools such as a screwdriver, torch, work belt
- Measuring tape
- Scales (or balance bucket)
- Vases and gardening shears
Don't forget about little stools, chairs, a child size table, or a kitchen helper, while these aren't necessarily practical life materials they are useful and can really benefit the child.
In Australia, Child.com.au has a few practical life materials such a clothes line, and cleaning kit. Art Makes Sense also has a good range of kitchen, laundry, and other materials. Little Kids Things is a good source for little kitchen materials. In New Zealand Montessori Shop has a comprehensive range of practical life materials. If in Europe have a look at Manine Montessori (based in Belgium). In the US try specialist stores like Michael Olaf and Montessori Services. Etsy is good for handmade items like aprons and brooms. Keep your eyes open at Ikea (you can see some of my suggestions here), variety stores, hardware stores and good toy stores as sometimes you will stumble across suitable materials!
The above list does not include kitchen materials which I have listed in my post A list of Kitchen Tools for Children 1 to 4 years!