top of page

Practical Life


Watering Plants 


Flower Arrangement


Cutting Vegetables


Hand Washing


Sweeping the Floor

large button frame.jpg

The first learning materials that the child is likely to encounter in the Montessori classroom are those that make up the practical life curriculum.  The aim of this curriculum is to develop the child's skills for independent living and build up their gross and fine motor control and hand-eye coordination.  The activities introduce the children to the cycle of selecting, initiating, completing, and tidying up activities and introduce rules for functioning in the social setting of the classroom.  These activities involve pouring different materials, using utensils such as scissors, tongs, and tweezers, cleaning, and polishing, preparing snacks, washing dishes, arranging flowers, gardening, doing up and undoing clothes fastenings, and so on.  We are helping prepare an individual who is able to move into the next phase of their life effortlessly, not just the next phase of school. So in Preschool, for instance, the children will develop the basic skills they will need in Primary, but also the basic skills they need to use in life.

Practical Life Exercises:

Preliminary Exercises:

  • Walking

  • Walking from one spot to another

  • Sitting

  • Sitting on a chair

  • Carrying

  • Carrying a chair

  • Carrying a table

  • Carrying a mat

  • Carrying a tray

  • Carrying a jug with liquid

  • Carrying and emptying a pail

  • Carrying and passing a scissors

  • Carrying and handling a book

  • Unrolling and rolling a mat

  • Folding clothes

  • Opening and closing

  • Squeezing water from bowl to bowl using a natural sponge

  • Wringing clothes

  • Opening and closing doors

  • Nuts and Bolts: opening and closing objects

  • Spooning and pouring exercises

  • Making a mitt

  • Making a swab

Care of Indoor Environment:

  • Care of Surfaces

  • Sponging up spills

  • Chalkboard cleaning

  • Scouring

  • Dusting

  • Sweeping floors

  • Washing windows

  • Washing floors

  • Washing tables

  • Washing clothess using two different basins

  • Polishing glass

  • Polishing wood

  • Polishing silver

  • Polishing brass

  • Setting a tray

  • Plant care

  • Flower arrangement

Care of Outdoor Environment:

  • Care of birdfeeders

  • Raking leaves

  • Planting

Care of Person:

  • Blowing their nose using a tissue

  • Hand washing

  • Sewing buttons

  • The Dressing frame

  • The large button dressing frame

  • The snap fasterns dressing frame

  • The zipper dressing frame

  • The hook and eye dressing frame

  • The buckles dressing frame

  • The bow dressing frame

  • The lacing frame

  • Opening and closing safety pins

  • Cleaning leather shoes

Grace and Courtesy:

  • Extending greetings

  • Using 'Please' and 'Thank you'

  • 'Excuse Me'

Control of Movement:

  • Walking on the line

  • Making an ellipse for the control of movement exercises

  • The silent game

The characteristics of the Practical Life materials are the following:

  • The materials are real (not a toy) and are scaled down to the child's size.

  • The materials are appropriate to the age of the child.

  • The materials are well maintained, clean and intact.

  • Each material is self-contained.

  • Each exercise isolates a particular movement.

  • Each exercise contains control of error and/or a point of interest.

  • Each exercise leads to another with a greater challenge in an orderly sequence.

  • Each exercise is attractive and calls the child to work.

  • Each exercise encourages repetition.

  • The exercise reflects the child's culture.

Benefits of Practical Life exercises for the child include:

  • Total development through the use of their hands.

  • Improved hand-eye coordination.

  • Spatial awareness development.

  • Refinement of gross and fine motor skills.

  • Inner needs such, as order, are satisfied.

  • Growth in self-confidence.

  • Growth in concentration.

  • Growth of their independence.

  • Help to develop discipline.

  • Development of willpower.

  • Activities to "help me do it myself".

  • Development an inner calmness and fulfillment of other inner needs.

In our classrooms, we ensure that there is at least one three-hour work cycle a day.  This allows children to undertake long periods of uninterrupted work so that they can immerse themselves in the activity of their choosing.

These exercises have a purpose as well as a definite beginning and a definite end.  Working on activities from beginning to end empowers the child as they may see proof of their accomplishments.  Through the increasingly challenging practical life exercises, the children increase their capacity to concentrate, improve their hand-eye coordination, and develop orderly work habits, and self-confidence.


"The child's intelligence can develop to a certain level without the help of his hand. But if it develops with his hand, then the level it reaches is higher, and the child's character is stronger"  (Montessori, 1988, pg. 139)

(1)  Montessori, M. 1967. The Discovery of the Child. New York, USA: Random House Publishing Group

bottom of page