Category Archives: Montessori_practical_life

Book Reviews :: Practical Life, Part 4

In an effort to utilize my librarian background, I am embarking on a series of book reviews, to be published every Friday. These reviews will cover computer programming books aimed at children, as well as reality-based children’s books.

An older brother looks on as his younger brother successfully climbs the mulch tower too!

An older brother looks on as his younger brother successfully climbs the mulch tower too!

The Practical Life book review series continues again this week.  Here are the links to Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. Since practical life skills can encompass how we interact with one another, the stories I have included below focus on character development. Each one of these stories has some sort of moral or lesson that provides a great point for discussion with young children. As usual, these stories do not contain talking animals. In the primary years (from birth to age six, according to Dr. Montessori), young children are trying to determine how the world works. Unfortunately, there are no intelligent animals that speak (besides humans, of course). In my experience, I’ve found that from five years and older, children are ready to explore the difference between fantasy and reality.

Ages: 5 and up
Harper, Jamie. Me Too! New York: Little, Brown & Company, 2005.

Elementary student Grace just wants a free moment without her toddler sister following along. Her sister Lucy’s favorite words (her only words) are “me too!” Finally, after Grace recognizes her own “copycat” ways, she realizes that Lucy just wants to be near her because she loves her. Grace does have a low moment where she terrorizes Lucy’s stuffed animal and gets in trouble for it, but everyone rallies in the end.


Ages 8 and up
Neeman, Sylvie. Something Big. Illustrated by Ingrid Godon. Enchanted Lion Books: New York, 2013.

As a parent and educator, I am often reminded that a child has needs – even if they can’t always express them in a way an adult can understand. This book does a fabulous job of telling the story of “the little one” and his desire to do something big. Unfortunately, “the little one” doesn’t have the words (or know exactly what he wants to do) and “the big one” tries to help, but in helping, the “big one” sometimes hinders the “little one.” This is a story that parents and observant teachers know quite well and in the end, “the little one” helps a trapped fish and “the big one” mentions that that was a very “big thing.” This would be a great book to read on parent night and is invaluable for all teachers to be reminded that there is something big in all of us.


Ages 5 and up
Rosenthal, Amy Krouse and Tom Lichtenheld. The OK book. HarperCollins Publishers: New York, 2007.

It is quite amazing what Lichtenheld can do with a few line drawings and a main character who is literally the word, OK (but turned on it’s side – a stick boy). This silly and yet, affirming book opens with, “Hi, how are you? I’m OK.” While this stick figure does not have eyes or a mouth, he tries many new things and is not very good at these new activities, but he enjoys them all the same. I recommend this book for an older crowd because they need to understand their letters (sounds and names). However, they will also be more able to understand that trying new things and enjoying the process is important, even if that means you aren’t the best.


Ages 7 and up
Rath, Tom and Mary Reckmeyer. How Full is Your Bucket: For Kids. Illustrated by Maurie J. Manning. Gallup Press: New York, 2009.

The co-author of the New York Times Bestseller, How Full is Your Bucket? for adults, has authored a version that children can understand. The story follows Felix, an upper elementary student, who doesn’t let his sister play with him and she wrecks his tower of blocks when she gets angry. So, Grandpa tells Felix that his sister’s bucket was empty. When Felix wakes up in the morning, he sees his own “invisible bucket” and as he has troubles (he spills his cereal, gets made fun of on the bus, bumps into someone), and the water drips out of his bucket and his mood darkens. But, after his teacher asks him to read his funny story to the class and everyone laughs, his bucket starts to fill back up. He realizes that by helping others, his bucket gets filled up too. Recommended.


Books :: Montessori Practical Life Sewing and Knitting

In an effort to utilize my librarian background, I am embarking on a series of book reviews, to be published every Friday. These reviews will cover computer programming books aimed at children, as well as reality-based children’s books.


Sailboat was selected and embroidered by Calum at age 4.5

Montessori Practical Life Sewing and Knitting

Recently, I have been focusing on books that support a child’s development of practical life skills (see part 1 and part 2). This week the focus is on fiber arts, including those items made entirely by hand from natural materials. In a Montessori classroom, sewing is taught in the primary classroom.  It is also featured quite prominently in the Waldorf educational experience.  In a Montessori primary classroom, the young three-year-old may start with lacing cards and progress from learning how to tie a knot to doing hand embroidery with a design of their choosing. Both of my boys have really enjoyed sewing as part of our “unofficial” homeschool curriculum. One of our past projects can be found here .

Montessori Practical Life sewing - practicing cross-stitch

Calum, age 4, sewing an “x” in the squares of fabric.

Ages 3 and up
Beskow, Ella. Pelle’s New Suit. Floris Books: Edinburgh: 2007.
This picture book is quite old, comes from Sweden and was originally published in the early 1900s. It has recently been reproduced and the colorful pictures are gorgeous. This is an easy-to-read, simple story which explains how wool can become a piece of clothing. Pelle (pronounced Pell-uh) has outgrown his clothes and needs a new suit, except there are no stores that he can buy one from. He must enlist the help of his sheep, his grandmothers, his mother, and the tailor to get a new suit to wear. This book is perfect for your eager three-year-old who wants to know how everything in the world works. For storytime, be sure and get the extra large lap edition. This is one of my favorite books to share with children.

Ages: 3 and up
Roth, Julie Jerslid. Knitting Nell. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: Boston, 2006.
This is a sweet, simple story about Nell, an upper elementary student who likes to knit. A lot. She knits all the time and takes her knitting everywhere and while a lot of her friends do not understand why she knits all the time, they accept her for who she is and eventually discover the good deeds she has accomplished (making handknits for the children’s home and war-torn countries). Then, everyone wants to knit. Great, clear illustrations, a perfect introduction to craftivism.


Book Reviews :: Practical Life, Part 2

In an effort to utilize my librarian background, I am embarking on a series of book reviews, to be published every Friday. These reviews will cover computer programming books aimed at children, as well as reality-based children’s books.

IMG_0277As the title of this post indicates, this is the second part of a series where I focus on children’s stories that cover practical life skills. All of the books I recommend are ones that my children have enjoyed and I would use in my own classroom. These books are based in reality, thus children are learning key vocabulary without having to discover if something is fantasy or not. Check out my post on reading for a more in-depth explanation.

I focused on the younger child in the first part of this series, so I have chosen two books that are more appropriate for a slightly older child.  These books will have your children giggling at the silly antics of the characters, while still imparting a valuable lesson.

Ages 4 and up
Redmond, E.S. Felicity Floo Visits the Zoo. Candlewick Press: Somerville, Massachusetts, 2009.
This rhyming story will have children (and parents) feeling sorry for the poor zoo animals as a sniffling Felicty Floo visits the zoo. She brings her runny nose and subsequent illness to all of the zoo animals. Throughout the short text, we see Felicity’s handprints (and thus, her germs) spread throughout the various zoo enclosures. Although the animals do not speak in this story, there may need to be some discussion about how children are not typically allowed into the zoo enclosures with the animals. A sophisticated preschooler should be able to reference their own zoo visits with Felicity’s up-close encounters and recognize the author’s literary license. At the end of the book, there is a catchy little rhyme about how one needs to cough into their elbow and use a tissue to prevent spreading the “floo!”

Ages 4 and up
Pearson, Tracey Campbell. The Purple Hat. Farrar, Strauss, Giroux: New York, 1997.
Our story follows Annie, a young elementary girl who loves the color purple. One day, a catalog comes into the mail and Annie finds a beautiful purple hat. She leaves hints for her family that she would like the hat and after a bit, a package comes to her door and it’s the purple hat. She is so excited that she decides to wear it the next day to school. During a walk in the woods, she loses the hat and is distraught for weeks until the townspeople decide to bring her various purple hats. At the end of the book, her hat is found, but some local birds have been using it as a nest. Annie is thrilled. This is a great book for talking about taking care of items and the importance of community.


Book Reviews :: Practical Life Skills – Independence

In an effort to utilize my librarian background, I am embarking on a series of book reviews, to be published every Friday. These reviews will cover computer programming books aimed at children, as well as reality-based children’s books.

In a Montessori classroom, the guide or teacher, welcomes the young three-year-old into the classroom. It is her mission to guide this young child through the practical life and sensorial lessons during this first year in school. The purpose of these activities is to help the young child to develop concentration and fine motor skills. It seems obvious, but by increasing a child’s concentration with practical life activities, this extended focus will carry over to more “academic pursuits” as they get older. I have found that the home Montessori environment differs greatly from a classroom setting, but a young child is still attracted to the practical life materials. You can find some of our past practical life activities here, here and here.

In the spirit of the practical life curriculum, I have found and reviewed the following two books. Both of these stories will resonate with the young child as they struggle to find their place in the world.

Ages 2 and up
Nakawaki, Hatsue. Wait! Wait! Ills. By Komako Sakai. Enchanted Lion Books: New York, 2013.
This sweet book follows a young toddler girl who desperately wants to interact with a butterfly, a chicken, and a skink. Unfortunately, as is the way of toddlers, the animals all get away from her since her actions she scare them. The very short words emphasize the concept of “waiting” and observing. A great story for youngsters, but an even better story to begin a discussion with preschoolers about the powers of silent observation and self-control.

Ages 2.5 and above
Raschka, Chris. Everyone Can Learn to Ride a Bicycle. Schwartz & Wade Books: New York, 2013.
This two-time Calecott Medal winning artist brings his style to a new book for kids who may be a little apprehensive about riding a bike. His paintings are a bit abstract, but the premise is clear. A little girl wants to learn to ride her bike, and so she progresses from using training wheels to lifting them “up a smidge,” and then taking them off and falling down. The short and encouraging words show that the girl is determined to learn how to ride a bike. My favorite page shows the little girl falling and having to “find the courage to try it again, and again, and again…” Short and simple and perfect for young listeners.

New Books Added – 4/8/2016
Ages 2.5 and up
Carluccio, Maria. I’m 3! Look What I Can Do. Christy Ottaviano Books, Henry Holt & Company: New York, 2010.

This isn’t really a story, but rather a listing of all the things various 3-year-olds can do. “I can sleep in my bed. I can eat with my fork and spoon, and I can drink from a cup.” The simple painted pictures show various 3-year-olds accomplishing these tasks. Obviously, each child will reach these milestones at different times, so be cautious if you have some sensitive children who are concerned that they can’t put on their own pajamas yet. Otherwise, this book will offer confidence to those children who are excited that they can “hang up their coat,” but might still need some help trying new foods.

Practical Life :: Using Real Tools

If you view childhood through the works Dr. Montessori, our goal as parents and teachers are to assist our children to learn how to care for themselves. This is the work of the child. Thus, children as young as 18-months are encouraged to use “real” tools to accomplish their tasks. This can be a scary prospect for parents of young children (and for the record, I didn’t let mine touch a sharp knife until almost 3).


My young four-year-old successfully opening a package

Obviously, I am not advocating that you allow your children to run around with scissors, but allowing them work with “real” tools is very important work. It provides them with dignity. Even our youngest children possess a desire to belong and have pride within their work. A child inherently knows when you are not treating them as equals — when you pass off the “play” knife while you cook dinner. While it is not always an option for my children to assist when they want to, I make sure to be as open to the possibility as I can. Often, cries of “I want to help,” are followed by suggestions of assisting with stirring, obtaining ingredients or cutting bananas with a butter knife (for the very youngest among us).

**Safety Disclaimer ** You know your child. Do not assume that other children are as advanced or capable as your own child. Always supervise your child – especially when they are working with sharp tools and new materials.

My seven-year-old is now so proficient at cutting up fresh broccoli that he takes the leftover stalks and makes carvings — using a very sharp paring knife. (I did some extra observing with that one).


Using a hand saw – October 2012

These pictures were from last Halloween. The boys carved pumpkins and were generally messy – outside – with Dad supervising. If you look closely, you can see that my son’s thumb is colored black. That’s not nail polish…he banged his thumb with a hammer a week earlier while working on a project of his own making. He hurt himself – yes – but he hasn’t done it since and it hasn’t stopped him from continuing to create and use his hammer. You have to observe your child to know when they are ready for new tools, but please do give them a chance. Each child will be different. That’s okay.


The three-year-old used a spoon.

“Who does not know that to teach a child to feed himself, to wash and dress himself, is a much more tedious and difficult work, calling for infinitely greater patience, than feeding, washing, and dressing the child one’s self? But the former is the work of an educator, the latter is the easy and inferior work of a servant.”

-Maria Montessori in The Montessori Method


First Grade…and lots of shelf work

Although we are technically a year-round kind of homeschool family, we did take a bit of a break in July and early August for vacation and some Montessori-material making. But, we’re back at it this week – officially!


We’re working on spelling – and revisiting the “wh” set of letters. My first grader is also ready to learn to “write correctly” as he says. He was never really interested, so I didn’t push much, but he wants to do it the “right” way, so I’m here to help. 🙂

(an archepalego – pronounciation here)

I finally got around to introducing landforms this year. Brown modeling clay and a small pitcher of water is bliss for this kinesthetic learner. Plus, he’s reading the small book I made about them. (Sneaky mama – with the reading).

And, this year, Calum joins us with shelf work. Lots of sorting and pouring.