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My Top 10 Practical Life Activities to use at Home and in the Classroom

I love planning and sharing the activities that we explore here at the Daycare. I will be sharing some of our favourite activities that we use in our classroom, but today I will be focusing on my favourite Practical Life activities. These are great beginner activities for the Preschool-Kindergarten age for the first few weeks in your School Year (and can be brought back throughout the year by substituting some items i.e. rice or pasta instead of beans to scoop), whether you have a Home Daycare, teach in a school/daycare, Homeschool or if you want to provide some basic practical life activities to put together for your little one’s in their playroom/play area at home - My Top 10 Practical Life Activities are some great options!

In a Montessori setting, the teacher provides hands-on activities that invite and encourage the children and provide exciting opportunities to explore, learn and grow in an environment where items and materials are at their level and their reach. As the children explore the materials with their teacher, then with a classmate(s) and on their own, they gain life skills and self-confidence, learn how to be independent as well as gain an interest and knowledge in different Subjects, through a variety of topics and themes all about the world around them.

This is a picture of my Montessori shelf at the beginning of our School Year that I have in our Home Daycare classroom. I keep some basic introduction activities on it as well as a few intro Montessori materials. If I have students that are returning from a previous year, I add in a few extra new activities for them to explore and continue adding as they year continues. They enjoy showing the younger children how to use the materials and often like to re-visit those intro activities on their own as well. The second shelf from the very top is our Practical Life shelf. These items are great for learning Life Skills.

1. Sorting Items: The children enjoy this activity and the sorting items possibilities are endless – the Dollar store has great items like themed erasers, you could do mini-animals (by a few sets and they match it), different kinds of pasta, beads, and many other themed items to sort.

2. Clothespins: sort by colour and clip onto an item i.e. bowl. The Dollar Store has lots of cute varieties of clothespins. I have purchased and added ladybug, bunny and frog clothespins to our shelves and for use with many other Montessori activities.

3. Open & Closing Bottles: The children open each item, one at a time, lay them horizontally across in different order from one another, then match the lid to the bottle and re-close it. You could even do this with different sized mini-boxes or mini tupperware items.

4. Scooping and Pouring items: use a variety of different sizes of spoons, one or two measuring cups, variety of different sizes/colours of bowls and many items like beans, pasta, beads, water beads, seeds, buttons, etc. The children learn how to balance items while scooping and pouring, about measurement – how many items can fit into the spoon before they spill over, pouring techniques, fine motor skills, this is a great activity that extends into other activities and skills.

5. Lacing items: great for motor skills and balance – items like pasta, beads, buttons and other items found in the craft aisle are great for these activities.

6. Nuts & Bolts: Once the child is familiar with opening and closing bottles, a great activity is the nuts and bolts. I use a variety of the coloured plastic nuts (these have different shapes to match) and bolts as well as the ones from the hardware store in different sizes. The kids really enjoy this activity as they concentrate and focus on removing, matching and tightening the items.

7. Play Cleaning Supplies: Children love to clean and help when you are cleaning. Having this set in the classroom is great for motor and life skills. The children will often use these items during activity time by sweeping the floor mats, or using the smaller dust pan to clean up some items like beans on the table that have spilled and will use the mini duster (re-placeable feather duster that attches onto handle) handheld one that I added to the set to dust the shelves. I add in an empty spray bottle similar to the one we use to wipe the tables, or you could use a smaller bottle and fill it with water. They really enjoy these items and I also have a mini dust pan broom set for them to use in the kitchen for after snacks and meals.

8. Play Chopping Board and Food Items: This is a great set to have on the Practical Life shelf and includes different varieties of food items for cutting either in halves, thirds or quarters including items like bread slices, pizza, carrots, and chicken (held together by mini pieces of velcro). I alternate usually 2 food items per week. There were a few items that came with this set but you can definitely buy more food items separately, from other sets.

9. Mirror, Sponge and Spray Bottle: This activity is great for a few weeks after exploring the others as it requires a bit more of a grip to hold and push the top of the spray bottle to release the water. It does take some practice, and often one child will use the spray bottle and the other would wipe the mirror with the sponge. Nevertheless, it is a great activity for motor skills, focus, balance and practical cleaning skills. They also enjoy getting to fill up the spray bottle with water and seeing themselves in the mirror too! I put an elastic around the bottle as a guide for the filling up point (as the kids put water in the bottle independantly). After activities and meals, I will put some spray on the table and the children enjoy helping by wiping the table.

10. Folding Basket: This activity is great for life skills as well as it teaches the children how to sort, match and fold items. In the children’s bathroom here at the daycare, they have hand towels that they are responsible for folding at the start of the week and placing under the sink as well as placing new towels on the counter daily. At the end of the day, they put those towels into a laundry basket and at the end of the week, they bring those towels into our larger towel basket. They really enjoy helping and being responsible and this activity closely reflects what they do here at school and at are encouraged to do at home as well.

These activities are great not only because they are simple and inexpensive to put together, but they also teach valuable life skills at a young age, the children are really excited to use them and they are basic materials that can be used for other themed activities over and over by simply adding in/replacing with a few items. These activities can be used at home or in your school classroom. Hope that you have found one or more of these Montessori-inspired activity ideas that we use here at the Daycare to use and bring into your home or school for your little ones!

What is a favourite Practical Life activity of yours, your child or students?

Let me know if you try one or more of these activities by commenting below! Would love to hear all about it!

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