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Practical Life - Hair Styling and Painting Nails

Hair styling doll at How we Montessori

Today I want to share two new activities. These are not traditional Montessori practical life activities. The first is hairstyling.

Some educators would find a hairstyling doll more of a prop for dramatic play or hairdresser play. I see it as a real tool to teach children real practical life skills. Hairdressers use hair styling dolls and this is just a smaller version. In addition, hair styling is fantastic for developing coordination, arm/finger strength and fine motor skills.

Above is our hairstyling doll. A younger child could learn to carefully brush the hair, make a ponytail or use hair clips. An older child could learn to use curlers or plait/braid. I recommend presenting the hairstyling doll with real (not toy) tools like a real hairbrush, real hair clips and accessories. 

Some tools and accessories we could present with the hairstyling doll include:

  • child size Hairbrush/Comb
  • Hair Clips/Hair Barrettes
  • Hair Elastics, Spiral Hair Ties
  • Scrunchies
  • Bobby Pins
  • Hair/Head Bands
  • Hair Bows
  • Hair Pins
  • Curlers, Twist Foam Hair Curlers
  • Ribbons
  • Spray Bottle/Mister for Hair Detangler
  • French Braid Hair Loop Tool/Topsyhair Tail Tools - for older children

I tried to find a hairstyling doll that looked like my child, however, I think he would have loved this no matter the skin or hair colour of the doll. It is easier to find a white blonde girl doll, harder to find other variations.  

Options US: Similar Brunette, Similar Blonde, Barbie (with hands), Frozen Elsa Hair Styling Doll, Disney Princess Moana Hair Styling Doll, Target options. Options UK: Similar Blonde, Barbie (with hands). Options AU: Same Blonde Hair Styling Doll, Similar Brunette, Similar Blonde.

Practical life hair brushing at How we Montessori (1)

My four-year-old is generally gentle, but it was wonderful to see how careful he is brushing the doll's hair. He is still learning how to make a ponytail, I didn't realise how difficult it is to learn, it takes practice.

Practical life hair brushing at How we Montessori (1)

I recommend a child-size hairbrush (or comb) as it's easier for the child to use. We also have some hair detangler in the small spray bottle. 

Practical life hair brushing at How we Montessori (1)

Let's take a look at how others have used a hairstyling doll. 

"Hair styling. πŸ’‡πŸΎβ€β™€οΈ Today’s practical life activity involves a key component of Montessori education and everyday life: Care of Self. I thought it fitting to include a mention of this important topic as part of the #MakeMontessoriYours series on culture! Celebrating the beauty and uniqueness of Black hair is an integral part of our culture, a form of self-expression, and a nod to our West African heritage. πŸ‡¬πŸ‡­πŸ‡³πŸ‡¬πŸ‡§πŸ‡―πŸ‡ΈπŸ‡³ There are braids and cornrows to be worn, colored beads to be had, fabric to be wrapped β€” possibilities galore!" - @schoolathomeandbeyond

Here is a hairstyling doll is being used in a Montessori (3-6) classroom.

Strong start hair play
Hairdressing 101 at StrongStart including using rollers! 

Finger nail painting polish at How we Montessori

Let's paint fingernails! A couple of weeks ago Otto noticed one of his friends was wearing nail polish and he asked for it straight away. We've painted his toenails but I like this activity where he can do the painting.  

This is more of a fine motor/art style activity. I recommend using child-safe nail polish or using an old nail polish bottle with children's paint in it. Painting with the little nail polish brush is fantastic for developing fine motor skills, a larger paintbrush doesn't have the same effect. Always store nail polish bottles out of the reach of children. I cut the hands out using the cardboard from a cereal box and drew on fingernails for the child to paint.

In a classroom or childcare setting, we could use premade hand cutouts. I used a water-based nail polish remover to clean the tray afterwards. 

Children's finger nail polish at How we Montessori

Fine motor skills! The child has to be careful to paint the nails only. 

Children's finger nail polish at How we Montessori

When we do this activity again I will present two or more colours so the child has a choice as to which colour/s to use.

Children's finger nail polish at How we Montessori


Montessori Life Pre-primary Facebook Painting Nail Polish on cardboard hand cut outs

Above is Painting nail polish on cardboard hand cutouts at Montessori Life Pre-Primary


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