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8 Montessori-Style Preschool Activities You Can Do at Home

Little girl playing with sponges and soap in a kitchen sink.
FamVeld/Shutterstock

Montessori-style projects are creative and fun, helping stimulate your child’s independence, confidence, and self-motivation. Here are eight easy and explorative activities you can do today.

The Montessori education believes that learning should be student-led, allowing children to work at their own level and pace. This, coupled with the guidance from dedicated teachers, stimulates your preschooler’s cognitive, emotional, social, and physical development. No wonder so many parents love this learning style!

If your child’s preschool is currently closed, or you’re just wanting to implement the Montessori philosophy at home, then here’s a great place to start. These activities are merely a launching pad, allowing your child to blast off to whatever topics and areas she craves most. Follow her lead. She’s the director of her learning experience, after all.

Water Play

Playing with water is a great way to explore the world around us. Children learn crucial lessons about floating, sinking, measuring, and cleaning. There are many ways to incorporate water play into your daily routine, which go beyond the usual playing-in-the-bathtub routine.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Scrubbing: Your child can learn about textures by playing with different scrub brushes, sponges, and cleaning rags. They can scrub toys, floors, rocks, even pinecones.
  • Watering plants: Buy them a child-sized watering can or let them go at it with the hose. We suggest setting the hose to “mist” to avoid an unexpected water fight.
  • Bubbles: Squirt dish soap into a bowl, bucket, or pitcher full of water. Let your child mix it with a whisk, watching as the bubbles come to life.
  • Dishes: Your child is never too young to help with basic kitchen chores. Set them up at your sink with a footstool or a standing tower. Have them start with plastic, metal, or wooden plates, cups, and bowls. It’s okay if they just “play” with the dishes and the water—you can pop everything into the dishwasher later.
  • Measuring: Use measuring cups to transfer water between containers. Count how many cups it takes to fill a bucket versus a small bowl.

Creativity with Food

Yes, little kids can help with food preparation. Just make sure to keep it fun, creative, and play-based.

Struggling with picky eaters? Well, we’ve found that when kids help prepare a meal, they’re more likely to want to eat it. Although this may not work for every kid, especially really young ones, it’s worth a try!

Here are some activities you can try out in the kitchen:

  • Spreading: Your child can spread dips, peanut butter, jelly, and hummus onto crackers. Don’t worry if it all falls apart, it’s part of the learning process.
  • Cutting: Let them use a butter knife to practice slicing soft fruit like bananas.
  • Peeling: Start peeling an orange, then hand it to them to finish.
  • Squeezing: Why not make your own lemonade? Get them to squeeze the halves by hand. It’s okay to make a mess!
  • Dehydrating: Watching fruit change from regular size to crisp shrunken slices is fascinating. Plus it’s easy for a young child to handle a dehydrator because there’s not the same fire risk as regular stoves. (Still, adult supervision is always good.)
  • Blending: Have your child pick things to put in the blender. You can operate it for them, but have them practice pouring it into cups. They may change their food choices after trying a blueberry-ketchup-pickle smoothie!

Outdoor Exploration

Playing outside doesn’t have to be limited to going down slides, swinging, and playing tag (although those are great activities, too). There are endless opportunities to get your kids to spend more time outdoors.

Here are just a few of our favorite activities:

  • Gardening: Having your children participate in growing their own food helps develop a wonderful life skill. Mark off one area of the garden as their own, having them pick their own seeds.
  • Puddle play: Just because it’s raining out doesn’t mean you can’t go outside. Get some colorful rain boots and go puddle jumping!
  • Treasure hunts: Make a list of things they need to find—such as a leaf, a smooth rock, a yellow flower, and so on.
  • Outdoor art: Coloring on rocks, making pinecone crafts, pressing flowers into a scrapbook, painting with mud—the possibilities are endless.
  • Musical wall: You can hang a variety of stuff outside—pots and pans, old forks, tin cans, chimes, even metal plates. Get some sticks and start making music.
  • Stick family: Find a collection of sticks and give them names. Find a spot in your yard to create their home, with a pile of leaves for their beds, a circle of rocks for them to do their cooking, and some acorns for them to munch on. Check in on your stick family every day.

Life Skills

Little boy practicing buttoning his shirt.
myboys.me/Shutterstock

The Montessori philosophy interweaves practical skills into freestyle play. This gives your child a head start on becoming a functional, confident, and independent individual.

It’s okay to still do things for them like tying their shoes. But if there’s anything they can do by themselves, let them. Just make sure to allow enough time for learning new skills.

If you’re currently stuck at home due to the coronavirus quarantine, now’s the perfect time to patiently delve into these activities!

  • Dressing: Start with picking one item at a time. For example, putting on pants. Keep working on it, encouraging your child to do more by himself. Then move on to putting on shirts. Definitely watch videos that offer real life tips.
  • Washing up: Make sure to include general hygiene into your daily schedule. Here are five videos that teach about handwashing and germs. You can also have your preschooler wash his face with a cloth, scrub his toes during a bath, or use a bath brush to get those hard to reach spots like his back.
  • Recycling: Your child can help rinse out old containers, put them in the bin, and even help you wheel it out to the road. Talk to him about why it’s important to reuse and recycle stuff.
  • In case of an emergency: Preschoolers can start learning basic information, such as their home phone number, their address, and how to call 911.

Basic Math

Don’t worry about making a big deal about teaching numbers, addition, and subtraction. By incorporating basic math skills into your child’s free play, she’ll start to grasp the general concept.

  • Sorting: Start by sorting toys, books, or any collection of objects into piles. You can do big versus small, round versus square, and so on. This helps them start thinking about dividing objects into categories.
  • Arranging: Your child can create a lineup of objects, going from biggest to smallest.
  • Number cards: Print number cards, spread them out on the floor, and then have your child place the accurate number of marbles (or chocolate chips) below, next to, or on top of each card.

There are countless Montessori math activities to explore if you need more ideas.

Artistic Expression

Kids love to create art. Hand them paper, markers, stickers, stamps, glitter, and glue, and no matter what, a masterpiece is sure to emerge.

We suggest placing a few art supplies in a craft tray or basket. This will help focus your child’s attention on one or two mediums, such as working with stamps or Play-Doh. This is especially helpful for toddlers who may feel overwhelmed by an unlimited supply of art materials.

Here are 8 art tray activities to try out for the coming week.

Don’t worry if your child colors out of the lines, if he only draws with blue, or if he can’t cut perfectly. Try to let him express his artistic ideas however he wants to, without interfering. Unless it’s painting the walls—it’s okay to say no to that.

Fine Motor Skills

Who knew little kids can use real hammers, nails, scissors, and knives? It’s scary, but with adult supervision you can teach them how to handle all sorts of things.

Now don’t go handing your child a huge hammer or a butcher knife. You want to start off with smaller items, such as blunt scissors they can easily hold and manipulate. A butter knife or a dull paring knife will work. And, look into getting child-sized tools, ones that actually function but are easy to manage.

Watch this short tutorial on how to teach your child how to hammer nails. But please, don’t forget that these activities need constant adult supervision, no matter how many times your preschooler demands she can do it by herself. Sure, let her try, but don’t leave her alone with these materials.

Here are some other fine motor skills to explore:

Scientific Experiments

Little girl engaged in scientific observation of a sunflower's growth.
Mama Belle and the Kids/Shutterstock

Learning about the world, gravity, physics, the planets, and other cool scientific stuff has never been more exciting. Just keep exploring, seeing what parts of your daily life you can turn into an experiment.

  • Flower project: Use food coloring and a few jars of flowers to see how they absorb water and change colors.
  • Moon activities: Teach your child the phases of the moon with this fun educational activity.
  • Sink or float: Talk about which items sink and which float. You can also time how long it takes for certain objects to reach the bottom.
  • Life cycles: Your child will learn about the cycles of life, such as metamorphosis.

The great thing about adapting a Montessori learning style is that education is everywhere. It’s in the napkin your child’s folding for dinner. It’s in studying the snail sliding by your window. It’s watching bubbles pop. Take these little opportunities to expand your child’s learning, even right at home.

Jill Chafin Jill Chafin
Jill Chafin is a freelance writer, aerialist, dancer, food enthusiast, outdoor adventurer, and mama, based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Read Full Bio »

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