Preparing Children For Life

People often ask us why we have practical life activities in the Montessori environment. How are these related to the child's development, they wonder.

At one level, these activities are great for building fine motor skills, understanding sequential processes and developing concentration in young children. However, we must remember that practical life activities must eventually be PRACTICAL! They have to help equip children for real life.

When our 6-8 year olds stay in school overnight for sleepovers, they put all that practice in practical life activities to use. The children are responsible for planning the dinner menu (they decided on salad & sandwiches), purchasing the groceries, doing the actual cooking (with minimal adult assistance), serving dinner, and cleaning up after.

Speaking as adults, we very much enjoyed the hospitality!

Free play in Montessori


While some may think that Montessori environments place a premium on “work”, it is important to remember that free choice can include an option to choose free play at appropriate times — much like these children have chosen!

Research shows that free play in schools has numerous benefits linked to children having an outlet for their energies, building physical capabilities, as well as an unstructured opportunity to build social skills in group settings.

As the great child psychologist Jean Piaget once said, “It is through game playing, through the give and take of negotiating plans, settling disagreements, making and enforcing rules, and keeping and making promises that children come to understand the social rules which make cooperation possible."

The Toddler's Sense of Dignity


We often forget that children don't automatically understand how to do some self-care tasks (blow their nose, comb their hair, wash their hands) that adults assume are easy. Remember: children really WANT to be able to do these things well & take care of themselves.

This wonderful extract from Dr. Montessori's book The Secret of Childhood, details the deep sense of personal dignity in young children:

“One day I decided to give the children a slightly humorous lesson on how to blow their noses. Since after I had shown them different ways to use a handkerchief, I ended by indicating how it could be done as unobtrusively as possible. I took out my handkerchief in such a way that they could hardly see it and blew my nose as softly as I could. The children watched me in rapt attention, but failed to laugh. I wondered why, but I had hardly finished my demonstration when they broke out into applause that resembled a long repressed ovation in a theatre. I had never heard such tiny hands make so much noise, and I had no idea that such small children would applaud so enthusiastically. It then occurred to me that I had perhaps touched a sensitive spot in their little social world.

No one really teaches them how they should blow their noses. When I tried to do so, they felt compensated for past humiliations, and their applause indicated that I had not only treated them with justice but had enabled them to get a new standing in society. Long experience has taught me that this is a proper interpretation of the incident. I have come to appreciate the fact that children have a deep sense of personal dignity.”