Montessori Practical Life at Home

Montessori Practical Life at Home

Imagine this:

You wake up and get dressed while your 4-year-old makes you a cup of coffee. Happy and refreshed, you prep breakfast – your children dress themselves in the meantime. Their things are packed for kindergarten, they put on their shoes, help clear the table and efficiently wipe up some spilled milk in the process.

In the afternoon, they tidy up their toys after they’ve played with them, brush and feed the dog and then ask if they can help you with the laundry. After dinner, you all do the dishes together and then enjoy a movie in the living room that was dusted just a few days ago, before the kids get tucked into the beds they made themselves that morning.

Sounds too good to be true? What if I told you it might just be attainable?

Do your Kids Help with Chores? Here’s why they should:

Chores are household tasks done for the benefit of the whole family. They include cleaning, tidying up, laundry, cooking and looking after pets to name a few.

Most of us have this idea that chores should be shared among family members. In reality, this works out more or less well, but here are a few good reasons why your kids should definitely help:

Character Building

Doing chores fosters a sense of responsibility (the moral obligation to act correctly and independently, Oxford 2021). Children start realising the work needed to keep a household running and see the effects of their actions.

They learn that certain things need to be done even if they’re not particularly fun and begin to build a healthy frustration tolerance. Doing chores also develops self-esteem: children feel important, needed and take pride (eventually) in contributing to their happy home.

Developmental Benefits

Dr Maria Montessori was one of the first educators not only to realise the developmental value of “chores” – or what we call Practical Life – but to implement it in her education.

Her book The Montessori Method has pages upon pages about the exercises of Practical Life and “gymnastics” (basically motor skill exercises covering everything from walking and gardening to speaking). Because her writing is flowery at best and convoluted at worst in this book, here’s a little summary of the benefits of Practical Life:

  • Exceeding motor coordination (how could it not, considering they move with purpose so much)
  • Perseverance and attention to detail (some chores take longer to finish or are more complex)
  • Concentration (they have to sustain attention on a single goal for increasing amounts of time)
  • Spatial awareness (moving things around does that)
  • Vocabulary (there are so many objects to name!)
  • Muscle tone (developed through all the purposeful movement)
  • Social awareness (achieved through helping others)
  • Visual acuity (such as figure-ground perception, like when you have to identify what’s dust and what’s shelf)

All of these skills and traits are vitally important for later learning. One study by Marty Rossmann (2002) found that children who did chores were significantly more likely to be successful, sociable and happy in their 20s.

Now, you might think “This is all good and well, but…”; maybe you’re worried that they’re too young, that they will break things, or that you’ll have to do it all over again anyway, so what’s the point!?

Fear not! There are easy ways to get your kids to help with chores (I’ll include a whole section on “real” Montessori Practical Life as well!).

For extra reading, check out Practical Life Starts At Home -

How to Get Your Children to Help With Chores

Use our Good Habits cards to jump into the chore-discussion.

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Start Young

This might sound like a no-brainer, but children under 6 are actually developmentally at exactly the right age to help around the house. We’ll use Dr Montessori’s stages of development to explain this a little bit more:

Age of Order (0-6 years)


  • Is learning everything for the first time, doesn’t know any better (yes, chores are fun!)
  • Developmentally driven to move – perfect outlet in purposeful, movement-rich activities like cleaning


  • Feels confident and like they’re an important member of the family in a world that’s not really made for them

Method – How do I do it?

  • Give “yes” tasks that they can do themselves (see below for a list of ideas!)
  • Isolate and pre-practice individual skills (like wringing out a cloth, closing the cupboard door) to make the process smoother
  • Work with consequences, not punishments
  • Avoid rewards at all cost!

Age of Imagination (6-12 years)


  • Likes to understand why, likely to argue
  • Feels they have mastered the in-house chores and needs bigger responsibilities


  • Can really start to comprehend the complex process that is running a household

Method – How do I do it?

  • Give more responsibility
  • Isolate & practice more difficult aspects, such as speaking on the phone, making a list
  • Consequences can be a little more abstract, such as taking away privileges
  • Involve them in making a chore chart

Age of Imagination (6-12 years)


  • Focus is on social group
  • Family may be seen as “holding them back”, or being unfair
  • Looking for belonging and social purpose


  • Realistic preparation for adult life

Method – How do I do it?

  • Involve them in planning chores
  • Discuss consequences for not doing them & follow through
  • Be patient

Age of Imagination (6-12 years)


  • Independent, often moving out
  • Often wants more support than they let on
  • Focus is on establishing themselves as a useful member of society, finding their reason for being


  • Ultimate independence
  • Self-confidence
  • Easier separation from family

Method – How do I do it?

  • If they moved out: stay out of it but let them know you’re there to help
  • If they live with you: treat them as adults, discuss who does what when and stick to it


So, when you start them young, it’s all they ever know and it’ll be a normal part of their day. If your children are already older, use the tips above to get started.

Avoid Rewards at All Costs!

Many articles will advocate for sticker charts and allowances. This is inherently flawed, even dangerous, for one simple reason:

When your children move out, no one cares about stickers. They won’t be getting any. From anyone (and they shouldn’t). So where will they find motivation to do “dreaded” chores?!

By giving rewards for chores, you permanently ruin a good 1-2 hours of every day for the rest of your children’s life.

Why? Because they’ll forever associate daily household tasks with something negative, something they had to be coerced to do – and that’ll make it really hard to ever find pride in keeping their living space clean and neat.

Work with Consequences Instead

Consequences are logical or natural results of actions. They’re easiest to start off when kids are young but work at any age.

Children must know what consequences are; as they get older they can be involved in agreeing on consequences.

For example, a natural consequence of not cleaning your room is that it gets dirty. Unfortunately, your children may not be as appalled by this as you. So, you need a logical consequence and a valid argument for it:

“1) You can find things easier and play better in a tidy room. 2) Untidy, messy rooms breed bacteria and are unhealthy. Therefore, you need to clean your room. Until your room is clean, you can’t do anything else.”

This obviously has a few implications.

  1. You have to be supportive. Doing something you don’t want to is tough, and it may take some time for your child to convince themselves to do it. Throughout this, you need to stay loving and warm but firm.
  2. The task has to be age- and ability-appropriate (see further down for some lists!). Your toddler can’t clean the whole room by themselves, but your teenager can (if they know how to dust, etc.).
  3. You have to reinforce a) the reasoning and b) the feeling of accomplishment when it’s done. Help your child understand your argument (don’t discuss it to death but explain points they may struggle with). When they’ve done the task, give authentic encouragement, like
    1. Wow, your room is so clean! It feels so good to be in here.
    2. I see how much effort you put into straightening your shelves. How does it feel when everything is so neat?
    3. I know this was tough for you. I’m proud that you persevered. Look around! You’ve accomplished so much. You can feel proud, too.

Involve Them in Planning

Have a chore chart. Rotate chores, barter and trade them. Practise telling each other how you feel. Make it okay to ask for help when you’re tired, sick or in a bad mood.

Help them find joy in tasks, even if you or they don’t like them. It may be awful to do the dishes, but you alone made it possible that the family can have the next meal. You might not like cleaning the toilet, but it smells so fresh and keeps everyone healthy – what an amazing contribution!

That way, they will grow up not hating their home life. They will feel proud and accomplished and independent when their home is clean, tidy and organised. They will be more efficient, waste less time looking for things and live a healthier life.

So, to help you get started, we’ve collected a list of age-appropriate chores for kids as well as Montessori Practical Life ideas.

Chore List for Different Ages/Abilities

  1. Chore Chart by The Spruce (do stay away from the rewards!)
  2. Age-Appropriate Chore List by Child Development Info
  3. Chores by Age (Focus on the Family)

100+ Montessori Practical Life Ideas at Home

A side note for clarification: Practical Life includes all activities that are necessary to live from day-to-day. All chores are Practical Life, but not all Practical Life activities are chores, as you can see below.


Montessori Practical Life ideas - cleanliness


Montessori Practical Life ideas - order



Montessori Practical Life Ideas - conversation

Other Great Reads

  1. Implementing Practical Life at Home - GuidePost Montessori
  2. Montessori Practical Life Ideas - The Montessori Notebook
  3. Montessori Practical Life Ideas at Home During the Pandemic - Institute for Child Success
  4. How to Encourage Your Children to Clean Up a Spill - How We Montessori
  5. Activities for Children's Development in Lockdown - Montessori Training UK

Before You Run Off…

I really hope this article helped you! I’d love it if you would comment, ask a question, share it with your friends or tag us when you share on social media.

Remember that depending on how you handled things up to now, implementing Montessori Practical Life at home and getting your kids to do chores may not always be smooth sailing.

Start off small. Involve your family in your thought processes, share your feelings and celebrate the little wins. You’ll get there!

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