May at Home: Keeping Children Engaged with Stay-at-Home Montessori Activities

Are you running out of ideas to keep your preschooler happily and productively engaged in stay-at-home Montessori? As this quarantine period stretches longer, we’ve compiled some additional Montessori activities for stay-at-home (in case you missed it, we shared other Montessori at home activities in our previous article). Some of these experiences grow organically out of a family’s days together, and others take a bit of pre-planning.

Everyday Life Is Practical Life

Practical life for stay-at-home Montessori means involving your child in all the tasks of running your family’s household. As you observe your child working alongside you, look for signs of focus and concentration. These will tell you the activity is meeting your child’s developmental needs. Try some of these Montessori at home ideas.

Tip: When you introduce a new stay-at-home Montessori activity, emphasize its beginning, middle, and end. Putting on an apron often signals the beginning of a food preparation activity in Montessori. Putting tools away and tidying up is the appropriate ending.

A preschooler at Montessori Center School uses a wavy chopper to slice a potato.
Chopping vegetables is a useful practical life activity.
  • Chopping: A preschooler can use a “wavy” chopper, with appropriate supervision, to cut up carrots, cucumbers, green beans, and other vegetables.
  • Orange juice: Many young children love to drink a glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice that they prepared by themselves using an old-fashioned juicer.
  • Houseplant care: A little watering can that holds “just enough” for one plant will facilitate success. Later, revive interest by showing how to check the soil to see if the plant needs water. At Montessori Center School, children also use a small damp sponge to carefully wipe dust from the leaves of houseplants.
  • House cleaning: Dusting is popular with Montessori children, especially using a dusting cloth made out of attractive fabric. A feather or wool duster is an interesting variation.
  • Laundry: Your young child can help you sort laundry into darks and lights; carefully pour detergent into the washing machine (after you’ve measured it out); and remove clean clothes from the dryer, match socks, and fold small items such as washcloths. Transporting his or her own clothes in a small laundry basket offers some “big work” for the large muscle groups.
  • Gardening: Your child may be attracted to “just my size” garden tools for digging, weeding, and planting. Don’t forget right-sized gloves!
  • Grace and courtesy: Certain routines, easily developed at this age, lay the foundation for important social skills. Give fun, impromptu lessons on how to push in your chair, sneeze or cough into your elbow, use a napkin, and so on.

Tip: Use scissors to cut kitchen sponges into smaller pieces that your child can manage.

A Montessori preschooler handles a radish she just picked from the garden.
Gardening is a rewarding experience, whether done outdoors or in an indoor gardening box.

Set Up for Success

The following stay-at-home Montessori activities take a little more pre-planning, but they are all proven winners for interest and learning with preschool-age children.

Tip: Display all the items needed for a particular activity together on a tray or in an attractive basket or box.

  • Window washing: This satisfying work is easy to set up: a small spray bottle of water (with a little white vinegar added if you like), a small squeegee, and a sponge or cloth for the drips.
  • Magnetism: Gather one or more magnets and a selection of small magnetic and nonmagnetic objects for exploration. Swap out the “experimental” objects often.
  • Nature center: Gift your child with an attractive basket or box to hold the “treasures” found on nature walks, along with a magnifying glass.
  • Bird watching station: Place a seat by a window, along with some photos of local birds (you can print these from websites) or a bird identification book. Perhaps include child-friendly binoculars. A backyard bird feeder takes this activity to a whole new level.
  • Pasta or bead stringing: Many young children like to string beads or pieces of pasta on yarn using a large plastic needle. You can even dye the pasta using food coloring!
  • Sewing: After mastering bead stringing, your child may like to move on to lacing cards and eventually to sewing on a button or making a small pillow.
  • Sorting: Give your preschooler a supply of mixed beads, buttons, or even dry beans to sort into bowls by color, shape, or size. Later, add a small pair of tongs for a fine motor challenge. Vary the activity by collecting a set of picture cards or figurines to sort into “living or nonliving,” “land, sea, or air,” or other categories.

Tip: Children who still put things in their mouth—usually younger than about 36 months—should not participate in activities involving small objects (such as beans and buttons) without careful adult supervision.

Preschooler practicing sorting beads as part of stay-at-home Montessori
Sorting beads or other small items helps with fine motor skills and much more.
  • Language walk: A daily walk offers vocabulary galore for your preschooler. Don’t shy away from big or precise words: That large shrub is called a rhododendron. There’s a cardinal in the magnolia. Our neighbors have a dachshund named Tiny. Older children might be interested in writing some of these words, or even writing a story about their neighborhood walk.
  • Language games: With no physical preparation at all, you can initiate a game of “I Spy” or invite your child to learn a song or rhyme that you know.
  • Art corner: A shelf displaying paints, markers, clay, and other art supplies will invite creativity. If you have an easel, rotate it in and out of use to keep it interesting.
  • Make music: Make instruments for a family band. Fill containers with rice or beans for shakers; stretch rubber bands across a shoe box and pluck the strings; arrange different size bottles and show how to blow across the tops for different tones.
  • Water exploration: Turn bath time into science time by exploring items that sink or float.

Tip: When playing stay-at-home Montessori sound games such as “I Spy,” use the letter sound (“sss”) not its name (“ess”).

Preschooler painting on an easel during stay-at-home Montessori
Painting is an excellent stay-at-home Montessori activity for your art corner.

Everyday Learning with Stay-at-Home Montessori

The activities of your family’s daily life, along with the songs, stories, laughter, and hugs that you share, foster your child’s healthy attachment to you. That attachment is the launch pad for a person with the confidence to explore, create, and grow. Stay-at-home Montessori is not about “doing school” at home; it’s about living and learning together all the time, no matter where you and your child happen to find yourselves.