What is practical life?
Practical = basic, useful and purposeful
Life = the ways of living

You may sometimes hear these activities called ‘areas of every day living’ – that is, exercises children carry out in order to learn how to do real life activities in a purposeful way.

The aims of practical life activities are to:

  • build independence
  • build and refine fine-motor skills
  • build hand-to-eye coordination
  • develop concentration


These are perhaps the easiest Montessori principles to bring into your home environment, and little by little, with increasing control, your child will become more independent


They are meant to represent every day activities, so it is important that the materials are familiar, real, breakable and functional. Montessori saw the child’s need for order, representation and succession in movement. Above all, activities and materials should be appealing for the child to use, easily accessible and aesthetically pleasing.

In the Montessori classroom practical life activities are broken down into categories:

  • Preliminary Exercises – carrying objects, opening and closing, pouring and spooning etc.
  • Care of Person – washing hands, blowing nose, cleaning teeth, dressing etc.
  • Care of the Environment – sweeping, polishing, setting a table, arranging flowers etc.
  • Grace and Courtesy – catching your cough, introducing, interrupting, offering help etc.
  • Control of Movement – walking, silence game, mindfulness etc.
child c

You will need to have a low table and chair for your child to work at and a low shelf to set out the exercises on. These will need small trays or baskets for your child to easily access. Offer your child a wide range of activities; you can change theses weekly, add activities that interest your child, and add new skills you feel they are ready for. Preparing meals and baking are perfect opportunities to develop your child’s practical skills such as peeling and chopping vegetables, and mixing ingredients. Incorporate other tasks in the home such as folding clothes, pairing socks, cleaning, washing up, and setting the table for meal times.

Your Montessori home basic list:

  • Child sized dustpan and brush
  • Broom
  • Small feather duster
  • Basket to contain items for opening and closing, think about different openings, such as a perfume bottle, Chinese popper purse, zip purse, screw top bottle
  • Basket for threading pasta or beads
  • Cutting activity – paper strips and scissors
  • Dry pouring activity – two small jugs with rice
  • Transferring activity – two bowls with child sized tongs
  • Transferring water with a pipette or baster – two container, a small jug for water, a sponge for mopping up spillages
  • Sorting activity – a compartment container, natural materials to sort, tweezers/tongs
  • Russian nesting dolls

Our founder Paula recommends the book ‘The Montessori Toddler’, which will give you many ideas on how to set up your Montessori home.

Have you set up a Montessori home for your child? We’d love to hear from you, get in touch!

About the Author: Paula Woodman

Paula is a Montessori teacher and Forest School Leader who has run the much loved Woodentots Montessori nurseries in North London for over 30 years. Recently recognised as Montessorian of the Year, Paula’s schools offer a unique and rich mix of Montessori, Steiner and Forest School, with child-led creativity at their core.