Montessori Monday: Practical Life

The child can only develop by means of experience in his environment.
We call such experience work.
—Dr. Maria Montessori

If you have a two year old, you might have heard the following phrase in some form: “Me do it myself!” We are certainly hearing this often around our house these days. Using the Montessori practical life is a great way to fulfill the needs of young children to feel independent.

What is practical life?

Family life is practical life. Small children love to imitate. When given opportunity and encouragement they often choose real work over imaginary play. Allowing children to participate in family work teaches them that we value and respect them and that they are a part of the family. Practical life is generally divided into three areas. I have given some examples for each.

  1. Care of Environment – folding washcloths, dusting, setting their place
  2. Care of the Person – washing hands, zipping coat, pouring own water
  3. Grace and Courtesy – introducing themselves, saying “please" and “thank you”

“The purpose and aim of Practical Life is to … help the child to gain independence and adapt to his society ... Practical Life Exercises also aid the growth and development of the child’s intellect and concentration and will in turn also help the child develop an orderly way of thinking.” - www.infomontessori.com


  • Demonstrate first (Teach by teaching, not by correcting)
  • Break the task into small parts
  • Use everyday activities (washing dishes, sweeping, preparing food)
  • Provide “real” tools

What do they learn?

  • To concentrate and finish an activity
  • Respect for environment, self and others
  • To contribute to the family in a meaningful way
  • Hand-eye coordination
  • Working in a social group

1 comment:

  1. We witnessed the benefits of having done this with V early in his life. He cut some tomatoes for our pasta, using a REAL knife (he is 4). His diced tomatoes were done perfectly, and he was VERY careful with the knife (and of course used it under close adult supervision). He was so proud of himself afterward for accomplishing a very practical task (even though he asked politely to have pasta without tomatoes). I read an article a while ago about how children should be allowed (and perhaps even expected) to do "adult" tasks such as preparing food, cleaning up, folding clothes, etc. It might take longer, but they learn SO much from doing "practical" things with their adult "mentors" :) (aka, Parents)