This site has some nice pictures and ideas for Montessori practical life.
You can do these activities at home. Just rotate different projects every so often. Having practical life activities in the kitchen area at a small table and chair keeps your toddler or preschooler occupied while you cook.
During my teaching years our school always participated in early childhood conferences. We were always confronted about the lack of creativity and the rigid ways Montessori classrooms used their material. For example, I was asked what would you do if a child took some of the knobless cylinders and started to “cook” with them? The trick with Montessori is to have materials for creative play. Instead of using the cylinders for fantasy play, we could redirect a child to use shiny pebbles or some other material used in free play. The children quickly understood what items could be used in free play and what items were used in an academic way.
Montessori classrooms need to have both academic material and material for fantasy play. Art supplies, sand, shells, florist stones, dried beans, seeds, and even pieces of wood make great items for fantasy play.
It is interesting that our students, who always had a rich variety of materials for free play, didn’t use the Montessori equipment for fantasy play.
What I like about Montessori is that she believed in the spirit man. I live in a very religious community and the newest rage is a book called the Purpose Driven Life. Whenever I hear the title of this book, all I can do is think about Maria Montessori. Montessori really believed that we have an inner spirit and a purpose on this earth for doing good. Her ideal for education is based on individual success.
In contrast to this, my public school education was based on the errors and failure of students. You were either right or wrong, depending on one person, your teacher. She was there to mold and form you into her image of you. It was a very “Dewey” experience.
Janet Kierstead writes about the difference between Dewey and Montessori as follows-
Whereas Maria Montessori believes that humans are born with a divine animating spirit, John Dewey believes that no such spirit exists, and that it is society which shapes the child. Their definitions of education reflect this difference. For Montessori, education is a natural process that develops spontaneously in the human being, and formal education assists the child in this spontaneous process.
Much of our education is based Dewey’s behaviorist view of human beings. I think what our public school system lacks is Montessori’s belief in man’s inner spirit.
For Dewey education is growth, and the continuous reconstruction of experience and formal education guides that growth in a desired direction.
Dewey believed that people in charge of education must form the man instead of Montessori’s belief that the child forms the man. Dewey believed that society and its institutions controlled man’s morals, whereas Montessori believed that moral control was internal. I’m with Montessori on this one.
Let your child use different shaped crackers to make a design.
Use peanut butter to “glue” the edges together.
Make a dinosaur, a self portrait, or just an abstract using a large cracker.
A full graham cracker rectangle or a flat bread
Various dried cereal, chocolate chips, raisins, nuts, candy sprinkles, etc. for collage
Pastry brush or plastic knife
Use the honey as paste. Let your child spread the honey with a pastry brush or a plastic knife and then cover the cracker with the edible collage pieces. Let your child tell you about his or her creation.
Children don’t need action figures, ponies, and fantasy toys to play creatively.
Dr. Mario M. Montessori explains that simple, undefined items are best for a child’s fantasy play-
“The less the materials are complicated, organized, or linked to specific differentiations, the more appropriate they are for the goal. Therefore, clay, sand, water, little pebbles, colors, paper (preferably in large sheets) paints, and so on provide excellent opportunities for playing free games, when fantasy is uppermost in the childâ€™s play.”
For example, did you ever buy your baby or preschooler a big gift that came in a box? Did you notice they liked the box better than the toy?
My children always seemed to enjoy the box more than the toy!
Children in the age of fantasy play would appreciate a big box to play in. They love to play fantasy games with just basic , plain materials.
One of the best toys you can buy your child are art materials. I purchased bolts of newsprint paper to tape on the floor,tables or walls for my children paint, draw or color on. Simple painting ideas can make the activity even more fun.
As my chldren got older, they loved using recycled art supplies to make junk yard art.
Art supplies, the sand box, shells on the beach, pebbles on the path, water play in the bath tub, boxes and plastic tubs, all help foster fantasy play for young children.