Overview of the Primary Montessori Practical Life Program

We are providing you with an overview of the Primary Montessori Practical Life Program so that you have a better overall picture of the progression of materials and lessons.

Most children are passionately interested in practical life activities because the activities respond to all the sensitive periods (important periods of childhood development). Practical life activities build a foundation on which the children will grow and carry over into the other areas of the classroom, and over into their everyday life. The Montessori Practical Life exercises respond to the need for:     

  • Order of activities(sequences, routine, hierarchy, a cycle or full rotation of an activity)
  • Movement. All practical life activities involve great movements that are varied and attractive. The variety of movements help the child's self-awareness within the environment and increase the child's acquisition of intelligent movement.
  • Sensorial exploration (sights, sounds, smells, and eventually language).
  • Needs and tendencies are responded to, to help the children adapt so that they can actively participate and grown within their environment.
  • A child's love of work. Practical life activities feed their natural desire to work and play an active role in their environment.

Practical Life Lessons Guide Children

1.  Construction and integration of the child’s personality through their freedom of choice, and through the variety of their choices. Freedom of choice is necessary for the healthy development of the will.

2.  Spontaneous, purposeful activity that is only possible when children are allowed to exercise their curiosity through repetition. It is only through repetition that abstraction is possible. This abstraction brings about a feeling of completion for the growing child.

3.  Development of co-ordination of movement. The child thinks of the activity, wills himself to the activity, and then does the activity.

4.  Development of the physical, mental, and emotional aspects of the child.

5.  Purposeful movement that helps the development of the mind, and a sense of achievement. The development of the child’s mind, movement, and senses will in turn, develop the will.

6.  Concentration. The child will concentrate on completing an activity as perfectly as possible; all activities are intelligible, logical, sequential, and exact. Children will internalize this and try to repeat the exercises as perfectly as possible; all exercises have a motive for perfection.

7.  Orderly work habits. The children need to internalize presentations in an orderly manner in order to reproduce it in an orderly manner.

8.  The practical life exercises develop logical thought through the definite logic in the exercises. There is a beginning, middle, and an end to each exercise.

9.  The exercises give the children a sense of responsibility from the result of freedom (freedom which is a result of co-ordination of movement and awareness of the environment). Children have the freedom and the ability to exercise their will within their environment.

10. Social development. All of the practical life exercises teach the children grace, courtesy, patience, and respect. These elements of social development are re-enforced through the actions of the other children and through the actions of the teacher.

11. Establish a sense of reality, rooted in real activities (nothing is make-believe). Exercises are lucid, logical, and realistic. This helps the children pursue reality. If an activity is not meaningful and purposeful than the mind cannot develop or construct itself.

12. Emotional stability helps the children become familiar with the real world and their environment. It builds self-esteem, and through that, their dignity will flourish. Materials and activities are therapeutic, meaning the mind and body work together.back to top

Scope and Sequence of the Montessori Practical Life area

Before beginning you must observe the child, know what kind of activities they are drawn to, and understand their current skills and abilities. Not all children will be capable of each activity in the order it is shown below. The order below is a guideline only - not a steadfast rule. It is possible to skip over certain activities as long as the next activity the child chooses does not require knowledge/skill that the child does not yet have.  The key is to follow the child and offer appropriate activities according to their abilities. The goal is always to set the child up for success. That's not to say that the child won't have to work through an activity and repeat it over and over again before being successful. The child needs to be adequately prepared for the activity, physically and mentally. And last, but not least, adults must use their own judgment and decide if an activity is safe for the child.

Many practical life activities do not require expensive 'Montessori materials' to be effective. As well, practical life activities will vary from culture to culture. You can read Practical Life Lessons and Practical Life FAQ's for more information. 

Preliminary Exercises

  • walking
  • standing
  • sitting down and getting up from the floor
  • sitting down and getting up from a chair
  • carrying a chair
  • carrying a table
  • carrying trays or boxes
  • carrying a bucket
  • carrying a jug (fill and empty it)
  • opening and closing drawers
  • opening and closing a door


  • boxes and bottles - fitting lids on to the correct containers
  • using tongs (from large food tongs to small ice cube tongs)
  • water transfer: using a baster and moving towards and eye dropper
  • locks and keys
  • nuts and bolts
  • using a screwdriver
  • washing hand at a tap
  • squeezing a sponge
  • wringing a cloth
  • pouring rice

             pouring water #1 - jug to jug
             pouring water #2 - jug to glass
             pouring water #3 - jug to glasses
             pouring water #4 - jug to glasses at various levels
             pouring water #5 - jug to tea cup and saucer

  • spooning
  • whisking
  • egg beater
  • carrying, rolling, and unrolling mats
  • folding cloths
  • paper punch
  • pin poking
  • tweezers

Care of the Environment - Indoors

  • sweeping
  • brushing mats
  • dusting
  • sponging up spills
  • polishing glass
  • polishing wood
  • polishing metal
  • washing a table
  • washing linen
  • sewing on a button
  • ironing
  • folding clothes
  • care of plants
  • flower arranging
  • lighting a match
  • cutting snippets
  • cutting lined paper
  • cutting newsprint
  • pasting
  • making a cord
  • beautifying the environment with Art (endless possibilities for lessons)

Care of the Person

  • washing hands and nails
  • brushing clothes
  • hanging clothes on a hanger
  • cleaning shoes
  • large button dressing frame
  • small button dressing frame
  • snap dressing frame
  • zipper dressing frame
  • hooks and eyes dressing frame
  • buckle dressing frame
  • bow dressing frame
  • safety pin dressing frame
  • shoe lacing dressing frame
  • skate lacing dressing frame
  • buttons with hook
  • blowing nose
  • food prep
  • cutting
  • spreading
  • peeling (carrots, etc)
  • juicing

Grace and Courtesy

  • greeting and introducing
  • offering to a guest
  • giving and receiving compliments
  • making way for someone to pass
  • interrupting someone
  • sneezing, yawning, coughing


  • walking on the line
  • The Silence Game

Additional Practical Life Activities

There are many other practical life activities that can be added that are not necessarily part of the Montessori Training program. This does not mean the activities won't be a delight to your children. Every teacher/parent brings new ideas to the Montessori environment. There are too many possible activities to count. 

If the children show an interest in something, you can make an activity out of it. Some more common activities that are not included in the AMI Teacher Training:

  • clipping clothes pegs on the rim of a box or bowl
  • threading beads
  • pouring water through a funnel
  • using a set of beginner chopsticks for a transfer activity (start with pom-poms)
  • sensory tub (can be changed with the seasons)
  • transfer water from bowl to bowl using a baster, ladle, or syringe
  • using a small grater to make ground cinnamon
  • use mortar and pestle to grind herbs
  • rolling pin to flatten dough
  • using a squeegee

If you are homeschooling your child or wish to introduce your primary students to the Montessori method of sensorial experiences you can purchase our Primary Practical Life Teaching Manual. It includes theory and step-by-step directions on the presentation of each lesson.

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