12 months is a good age to try out some practical life activities. While it doesn't look like much these little moments can add up to something really significant. The child is participating, doing real work, contributing to the family and feeling valued. It might look like playing with the bubbles or playing with the washing but it is so much more, and it's just the start! Here are a few practical life activities we've introduced at or around 12 months, keep in mind many of these he is yet to master.
Care of Self (the person):
- Nose Wiping.
- Brush Teeth.
- Brush Hair.
- Self Feeding with a spoon and fork.
- Drink from weaning glass.
- Begins to undress, lift arms when dressing, take off pants. Participating in dressing as much as possible.
- Begins to use a napkin after eating (clean face, wipe mouth.)
- Sprinkle dried herbs on vegetables.
- Transfer vegetables from chopping board to bowl or put them in a roasting pan/steaming pan.
- Transfer fruit from a chopping board to a blender.
- Transfer salad items from chopping board to bowl.
- Brush oil or butter with a pastry brush.
- Tear fresh herbs.
- Tear fresh greens like lettuce for a salad.
- Pick herbs from the plant or stem.
- Whisk eggs.
- Crimp edge of pie with fingers.
- Begins to mash soft foods like banana, avocado.
- Begins to cut soft foods like steamed vegetables, banana or avocado.
Care of the environment:
- Wiping a spill or wiping the table after eating/drinking, using a little sponge or cleaning cloth.
- Begin to wash dishes in sink with a dishwashing brush.
- Puts laundry in and out of (front loader) washing machine.
- Waters plants outside with a small watering can.
- Begin to put socks from washing onto low hanger (we have a hanger like this with a few low bars that he can easily reach even while sitting down).
- Opening and closing containers - using an open and close basket, a basket with containers for the infant to practice open and closing such as press and flip lids.
If using a chopping board make sure it doesn't slide around, put a non-slip mat underneath.
Model the activity, work along side them or enable them to do an activity they often see you do.
Children's interest and their skill levels vary, I can see that Otto is not interested in the same things Otis was interested in at the same age. Interest and skill level can change dramatically even within a week.
The child's ability to do an activity may depend on if they are walking, once walking confidently I would introduce a broom or mop.
Most of all children are influenced by what they see, I've never shown Otto how to wipe down the table, yet he does it with this exaggerated side to side motion - obviously, it's something he has seen me (or his brothers) do. Children imitate, copy and want to be like those around them.
I don't make a plan and often I don't think ahead but while I am working around the home I am always thinking and questioning can my children be involved and how can I make this activity more child-friendly.
If you are interested in further reading or have a slightly older child you might also enjoy this recent article Our Little Sous Chef at Montessori In Real LIfe (at 14 months).
P.S Don't get too discouraged. Otto still throws a lot of his food. I stay calm and neutral and stop the activity if I can see he isn't interested. He doesn't throw the food when he is interested and engaged. These activities are still useful for an older child, even if you have a two or three-year-old, it's not too late to start with practical life.