40+ Montessori-Inspired Practical Life Activities for Infants and Toddlers

“When a child is given a little leeway, he will at once shout, ‘I want to do it!’  But in our schools, which have an environment adapted to children’s needs, they say, ‘Help me to do it alone.’  And these words reveal their inner needs.”  ~Maria Montessori

Maria Montessori believed that child development emerges in the form of a continuing quest for independence.  This begins at birth, when the child leaves the womb and is independent of her mother for the first time, and continues through the weaning process, learning to walk, language acquisition, and all the way throughout the rest of her life.  The drive for independence is completely natural in the child, and only in this way can she continue to develop to become an adult.  The young child actively seeks independence through attempting to feed herself, put her own clothes on, and doing everything “by myself!” — as the parent of a toddler, how often have you heard those words???  Montessori created a special section in her classroom to deal directly with this drive for independence, the Practical Life section.

Because the innate desire for independence and personal growth is especially prevalent in the toddler years, it is very important to prepare an environment specifically for these goals and to not get in the way of the child’s work.  Your child needs to be free to choose the work that most interests her at this specific time in her development, and she needs to be encouraged to continue to do things for herself.  Most importantly for parents to keep in mind, your child needs to be given the time to be able to complete an activity on her own.  Hurrying your child along and doing everything for her is really doing a disservice to her development.

I have put together all of the Practical Life activities I have shared on the blog so far by category — those for infants, some for young toddlers, dry transfer works, wet transfer works, fine motor and building hand strength works, pre-writing works, activities to promote care of self, activities to promote care of the home environment, and independence in daily life.  Many of these works can be found in Montessori classrooms, but several are more specific to the home.  The works in the earlier categories will help your child fine-tune the skills necessary to complete the tasks of the later categories.  These activities are suitable for children ages 5 months to about 3 years old.

Beginning Practical Life Works for Infants — ages 5 to 12 months

Introduction to putting objects into and out of containers.  Promotes spatial awareness and hand-eye coordination, palmar grasp, fine motor skills.

Practical Life Works for Young Toddlers — 12 to 18 months

Progression of in and out activities to promote hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills.

Dry Transfer Works — for ages 14 months to 3 years

Repetitive motion works that promote concentration and focus while building fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination.

Wet Transfer Works — for ages 20 months to 3 years

Higher level transfer works which require more care, several steps.

Works for Building Handstrength and Fine Motor Skills — for ages 14 months to 3 years

Assortment of other Practical Life works that build hand strength and promote fine motor skills and independence.

Pre-Writing Skills — for ages 2.5 to 4 years 

Works that prepare the hand for writing.

Care of Self — ages 12 months to 3 years

Ways to allow your child to dress and care for her own body.

Care of the Environment — ages 14 months to 3 years

Ways to allow your child to be an active participant in the care of your home environment.

Independence in Daily Life — ages 15 months to 3 years

A glimpse into life with an independent toddler.

Toddler Getting Breakfast Video

Cleaning Up Lunch Video

This Practical Life Round-Up does not include any of our food preparation activities, which also fall under this category.  A Food Prep Round-Up will be coming soon!