Practical Life Works


February 2016

At this point in our Montessori learning journey, we’ve got little Magpie (2yrs), sweet Bear (3.5 yrs), and Mr. Eagle (5 yrs) all working in the classroom daily. We also have a group of other children coming to join us several times a week for Montessori work. The practical life area gets a lot of use for this age group and I usually change things up every couple of weeks to a month depending upon my observations of the children and their work.

In the picture above on the left we’ve got the housekeeping items for care of environment: (aprons, dusters, brooms, and a mop. On the middle shelf on the top row we have self-care items like dressing frames, hairbrush, tissues, and mirror. I don’t put all of the dressing frames out at once because it takes up too much space but also because many of them are still a bit difficult for the kids yet. And another reason is that it allows me to freshen the space easily, things are fresh by just changing out a few dressing frames every week or so.

On the next two shelves we’ve got transferring and pouring works lined up together, easier ones on top and more difficult ones on the bottom. Then the bottom row we’ve got lacing, stringing beads and opening and closing containers.

The small white shelf on the right is where we keep more care of environment items, mostly for cleaning up spills in the classroom. The dirty towels go in the basket on the bottom of the shelf and the fresh towels go on the top shelf (when I bring in a clean batch I usually have them unfolded in the basket for the children to fold). The middle shelf has the tray with a bucket, sponge, and ready to use towel for cleaning up any water spills in the classroom that will often happen with practical life or even when the children do work with landforms in Geography.


This is our other practical life shelf that sits just on the other side of the round table in the previous photo.  This way our main practical life area forms a defined U-shaped area in the classroom.


This shelf is mostly dedicated to care of the environment with some art related things on the bottom shelf.     On the top shelf is an introduction to flower arranging work.  I will swap out real flowers for the false ones once the children understand the process of the work.   


And now for the details of the individual works…..


This one is a whole-hand transferring work, most suitable for the very young children to practice grasping items with the entire hand.  I put some polished stones in these clear dishes that I got at the local dollar store.


Here is little Magpie doing the work with a lot of attention!  She really enjoys the sound of the stones clinking into the clear dish as she transfers.


This work is a bit more advanced and because the wooden tweezers are used instead of the whole hand.  I also decided to put out two sets together instead of just one for the added element of sorting the marbles by color.  I got this work at a local Montessori shop.


Here Bear Bear is just using his fingers since the tweezers are still a bit difficult for him.  The older students will use the wooden tweezers with this.  It’s quite easy to just make a slight adjustment in order to differentiate the work for your kids.  It’s certainly okay (and inevitable) that children will meet with “failure” in their work, they need the experience of this as much as the experience of success.  However, it’s important to observe the children and their developmental needs at any given time so that we are offering work that is not going to frustrate them unnecessarily.


More transferring, with a large spoon this time.  It’s just popcorn kernels and the bowls are also from the dollar shop, very inexpensive!


A little demonstration for our little Magpie on the proper use of the materials : )


More cheap finds for transferring works…from IKEA this time.


But sometimes things turn out like this when we feel like doing something “different” today!


More works up-close:






Stringing beads – I tie one on the end of the string first so the other ones don’t fall off.  Usually the children will bring it to me and want me to tie it as a necklace for them to wear around for a while. 


Nesting containers, great for practicing opening and closing and ordering by size. 


This is sweeping work.  The child would empty the contents of the container onto the tray and then sweep everything inside the yellow square.  Finally, the contents in the yellow square are swept into the dustpan and placed back into the container. 


These cute little fishies are actually clothespins I found at the dollar store.  For this work the child simply practices pinning the fishes around the outer edge of the clear box. 


This is folding practice.  You may have seen a set like this for sale from Montessori shops, usually the fabric is white with red lines on it.  We used what we had, blue fabric with white thread to show where to fold the cloth.  It has been a while so I don’t really remember but I think probably my mother-in-law made these for us.  Now I realize I should have more pictures of where all the different fold lines are.  Some are single folds, some are double folds, some have diagonal folds.  Maybe it’s a separate post for another time. 


These are dot stickers in assorted colors and sticker sheets to put them on.  Once the child has attached stickers on the circles, she can color in the picture.  You can also use the sticker sheets with dot markers instead of stickers.  My husband made the printouts for us to use in class, you can find them here.


Cheerful Magpie is hard at work with those stickers.


This is a simple and fun tray with stamps and colors for the kids to practice their art skills with.  They use the square metal insets paper that is kept in a separate box.  I like using the small metal insets paper for this because a larger piece of paper is usually too overwhelming for a young child with this type of work.


This is a nuts and bolts work commonly found at educational stores in our area.  However, the original set comes with way too many pieces that it would be overwhelming for the child so I just set out 5 in different colors and shapes for the children to unscrew, match back together and screw back on.  This work is better for is usually too difficult for the very young child because of the motion the wrist must make to do it.  It’s better for the 4-5 year old group.


This peg work is a great alternative to the above nuts and bolts work and is wonderful for the very young child to do successfully. 


Here are Magpie and Mr. Eagle working diligently on some of the works mentioned above. 


Magpie is doing the simplified version of flower arranging here.  I put out an assortment of brightly colored stones for the kids to put into the bottom of the vase since they are not using water, you can see the stones in this picture here.


Last but not least, Cheerful Magpie completes her table setting work!