Free Downloads! 

Click here!
(membership required)

Not a member?
Signup (It's free)

Entries in Montessori practical life (16)


Amazing Halloween Snacks

Halloween is soon upon us. In fact, less than a week away!

We totally agree with Montessori schools that choose not to "celebrate" Halloween in the classroom. But let's face it...Halloween is a historical tradition, especially in the USA.  Given that, here are some fun, healthy snack alternatives, for those AFTER SCHOOL parties.

You can always incorporate some of these creative snacks into your classroom "anatomy" theme, right? Click on photo and enjoy!!



Toddler in the Home...

What to do with a toddler in the home? The possibilities are endless! Trudy and John Shepard, co-administrators of UMA, enjoy time in the kitchen with their 2-year-old grand daughter, Awa Shepard Thiam. Be sure to read about the developmental benefits at the bottom of the page!





Scooping, Wiping:

The Joy of Bubble Beating!


So what's happening here, besides a whole lot of FUN?!

Direct - Development of... 

  • Independence
  • Concentration
  • Hand-eye Coordination
  • Large/small motor movement
  • Order
  • Self confidence
  • Joy of learning through exploration

Indirect - Understanding of..

  • Spatial relationship
  • Size and volume

Preparation for... 

  • Math (measuring)
  • Writing (muscular control)
  • Reading (eye-hand coordination)
  • Vocabulary (empty, full, wet, dry, squeeze, pour...)

Locks and Keys

Thanks to Ann Lardizabal, UMA student from Santa Rita, Guam, who shares this original hand-made project - matching the key to the lock. 

Lock and unlock



Helping Each Other

The children always delight in helping to care for the environment. Here is one way to make sure everyone gets a turn in the Montessori classroom.

This chart lists daily classroom responsiblities with assigned names and can be posted on the wall. This, by the way, also prevents the classroom animals from being over fed by too many eager helpers!  

Tasks Indicated:

  • Count Total (how many children)
  • Crumb Catcher (cleaning up snack crumbs)
  • Dusting Shelves
  • Fish Care (may be other animals as well)
  • Laundry
  • Lights (turn off when leaving to save energy)

For the non-readers in the classroom, you may post a photo of the child next to his/her name for easy recognition. 


Crayon Sharpening Exercise

Kelly Mannning of Horseshoe, North Carolina shares her original project for her UMA Practical Life assignment. 


  1. Large Tray
  2. Smaller tray holding: 
    • 3 different colored large crayons with marked lines (permanent marker used)
    • 1/2" painters brush
    • Small folded cardstock "dustpan" (for picking up spilled shavings)
  3. Small bowl holding large-holed pencil sharpener
  4. 3 small jars, marked with colored sticker to match crayon color

Point of Interest:

  1. Colors of crayons
  2. Creating shavings
  3. Seeing the colorful shavings inside the glass 

Control of Error:

  1. Black line on crayon
  2. Colored sticker on jar
  3. See-through glass jar to view the color of the shavings


  1. Order of procedure
  2. Decision making
  3. Hand-eye coordination
  4. Fine –muscle skill
  5. Building upon prior work of opening jar lids
  6. Building upon prior work of sweeping
  7. Independence with skill of sharpening writing/drawing apparatus
  8. Concentration
  9. Self confidence
  10. Satisfactory and appealing work cycle
  11. Indirect Language: left to right movement
  12. Indirect Sensorial: color recognition/matching

What I learned from creating this original project:

I shopped around trying to find a pencil sharpener with a clear container so the child could see the color of shavings more clearly, but I was unable to find one.  Also, it may take several tries to find a sharpener that will sharpen the crayon easily and not cause the tip of the crayon to break off in the sharpener- that could be very frustrating and we don’t want children putting their fingers in the sharpener.  From my trials, it seems that when you can place the crayon straight into sharpener it rarely, and for me, never broke off.  It takes a lot of working the process through to make sure that the work cycle is successful.  I also found that the sharpener had to have enough empty space around the actual blade and the side of the container that holds the shavings so that the shavings could fall down off the blade easily.

 What I learned from demonstrating this activity:

I learned about the importance of emphasizing and slowing down each step of the exercise.  I have to take a breath and wait for those spaces of time to let her take in the enticement of the activity.  I had to work out the work cycle many times before I showed her so that the demonstration would go smoothly.  It is surprising how much thought has to go into all the steps to clearly and simply achieve the desired results. 

What I learned from the child's responseEven though this seems like a simple activity, it was very appealing to my almost 6 year old daughter.  Since I demonstrated this to my own child, she saw some of the process of creating this work she and was completely drawn to it.  I would leave it on my worktable and she would come and tear the paper of new crayons and prepare them by marking them with the black line.  Once I came back to it and she had the whole pack of crayons ready to go!  I didn’t expect her level of interest and participation.   We enjoyed a lot of conversation about how wax works and melts during our extension exercises. I am truly understanding the value of the many steps in a single piece of work and how challenging it is for the child to think through the steps to complete the whole process.  There is a lot of reasoning skills that the child is faced with.

Final note:

Because she is older, we went on to some extension crafts that she really enjoyed.  First we placed shavings on contact paper and then she learned how to peel and stick the two together.  We also melted some shavings in between two pieces of wax paper with an iron and when cool she cut them into shapes of leaves that we had previously collected.  

Thanks for sharing, Kelly!


How to Swaddle a Baby


Choosing a life-like and life-sized doll is important when placing this activity on your Practical Life shelf. Although the demonstration sheet, below, states the targeted age level as 6-9, one could confidently place this in the primary-age classroom as well.

How to swaddle a baby (step-by-step visual instructions):

How to diaper a baby...with a cloth diaper (preferred) and with disposable diaper:

The demonstration sheet, contributed by Kaori Fujita:


Practical Life: Folding Socks

The natural basket and the colorful socks make this a very inviting exercise for the Practical Life shelf.

Check out the demonstration sheet, with a fun "sock-folding poem":(see below)

©2010, United Montessori Association. All rights reserved

Practical Life Ideas

On Saturday, April 24th, we participated in the PNMA Spring Sharing Fair at Spring Valley Montessori School in Federal Way, Washington. We will be sharing pictures and demonstration sheets of many creative activities over the next few weeks, but first...some pictures of various general Practical Life materials. It's always fun to see what other Montessorians put on their Practical Life shelves!

Buckle shoes and lace shoes...nailed into a wooden board:



Pouring Lentils:


Small antique coffeepot and cup for pouring:


Tweezing and sorting (by color) tiny beads with tweezers:


Green Rice with measuring spoon and funnel:




Practical Life: Cotton Ball Transferring

Here is a fun exercise to place on your Practical Life shelf!

"Cotton Ball Transferring with a Strawberry Huller"

...........................(The little duck is a soap holder with suction cups)........... This is an excellent activity for developing:
  • Hand-eye coordination
  • Pincer grip for writing
  • Concentration
  • Order
  • Self confidence
And it looks SO inviting! Thanks Karen Dixon!

Original project by Karen Dixon, UMA graduate

Edited by UMA
©2010, United Montessori Association. All rights reserved.

Practical Life Original Project: Hammering Nails into Play Dough (of Clay)

Lori Wallin, UMA student and teacher at Briarwood Elementary in Bowling Green, KY, shares her Practical Life original project. Enjoy!

Title: Hammering Nails into Play Dough (or Clay)


1. Wooden tray 
2. Child sized hammer
3. Home made Play dough in airtight container with dots on the side to indicate where nails go:
4. Roofing Nails
5. Small basket to hold nails
6. Sponge

Steps in Presentation:

1. Ask child “May I show you Hammering Nails?”
2. Remove tray from shelf with two hands
3. Place tray on table 
4. Pull out chair using two hands
5. Sit in chair
6. Use two hands to pull chair up to the table
7. Point to next chair to indicate where child will sit, left handed children to your right, right handed children to your left.
8. Wait for child to sit
9. Hold container with one hand, pull on lid top with dominate hand to remove the top 
10. Hold the top in two hands and place on the table to the right of the tray 
11. Pick up hammer by placing one hand under the head & the dominate hand around the middle to lower section, and say “hammer”
12. Place hammer back to original position on tray (this action allows the child to feel the weight of the hammer prior to actually using it, with one hand)
13. With dominant hand, point to first dot on left side of container, facing you
14. Point to dot on the immediate right of the first dot and continue pointing from left to right, to the end of the dots
15. Point to first dot on left one more time
16. Using your dominant hand with a pincer grasp, remove one nail directly below the head 
17. Hold the nail by the first dot on the left side of the container to emphasize placement 
18. Place the nail in the play dough in using a pincer grasp matching the first dot on the left on the container and change grasp to non-dominant hand
19. Carefully hammer the nail into the play dough leaving head sticking up slightly for easy removal
20. Repeat with the other nails, moving from left to right across the container in same manner
21. After hammering the last nail, lower the hammer into the open hand while maintaining grip with the dominate hand
22. Replace hammer onto tray in it’s original position using two hands
23. Starting with the left nail point to each nail & the corresponding dot on the container fashion to emphasize nail placement 
24. Place one hand on container to stabilize while using your dominate hand and a pincer grasp remove the left nail by placing two fingers directly below the head & pulling up on the nail
25. Place the nail in the basket
26. Repeat going from left to right until all nails are in the basket, 
27. Using one hand hold on to the container, poke holes left in play dough with the dominate hand to smooth out play dough, moving from left to right 
28. Using a pincer grasp, pick up any play dough that may have fallen from the nails or container & replace it back into the container
29. Using two hands pick up the container lid
30. Flip your hands over to place the lid on the container
31. Hold the container in one hand and use your dominate hand to seal the container
32. If a new child say “Watch where I place The Hammer and Nails on the shelf, so you can find it.”
33. Using two hands scoot chair away from table
34. Stand up
35. Using two hands scoot chair back under table
36. Using two hands pick up tray and replace on shelf

Exercise Variations

1. Use wood board 
2. Use Clay
3. Screws and a screwdriver

Age Level

2 1/2 to 4

Point of Interest

1. Hammer
2. Nails
3. Colored play dough
4. Nails in the play dough

Control of Error

1. Nails sticking up out of play dough 
2. Hammer hitting fingers
3. Arrangement of items when finished
4. Dots on the side of the container
5. Consistency of the play dough to keep nails upright
6. Size of the nail heads for aim with hammer
7. Equal number of nails to dots


1. To increase fine motor skills
2. To increase print directionality from left to right and top to bottom
3. To increase eye-hand coordination
4. To increase respect for the environment by cleaning up when finished
5. Self confidence
6. Independence
7. To learn to use a hammer and nails