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We’ve been celebrating Montessori learning all week, and I couldn’t end without hitting upon one of the cornerstones of Montessori education – practical life skills (Not familiar with the concept? You can find a great introduction here from Montessori Guide).
I wanted to share a few simple ideas to help your child practice life skills this winter. None of them take more than 5 minutes of prep, and each requires only minimal supplies you most likely already have at home. Be sure to make your way all the way down to #5 – it was the BIGGEST hit and seems to be a reader favorite too!
For more indoor winter activities, felt and clothespins are all you need for these DIY winter-themed color-sorting, counting, and simple math games. Or let your little one design their own tabletop winter sensory garden.
For these winter practical skill activity trays you’ll need:
Note: We prefer to shop locally or use what we have at home, but this list contains a few Woodpeckers Crafts and/or Amazon affiliate links for reference. As Amazon Associates, we make a small commission on qualifying purchases.*
- Wooden trays like these simple nested trays (you can use BIRCH5 for an extra 5% off at Woodpecker Crafts)
- Bowls, pitchers, spoons, and a towel
- Collected nature items
- Ice and salt
- Pom-poms, pipe cleaners, and bells
- Baking soda
- A small brush or similar
5 Montessori Winter Practical Skill Arrangements
Winter Practical Skill Tray #1: Winter Soup
Set out a tray that has a large wooden spoon, handtowel, and small pitcher filled with water. Place a large mixing bowl and a smaller bowl of nature finds beside it. Invite kids to mix up their own “Winter Soup” (of course, you’ll want to specify that this is purely for play – not for tasting.). If you have them, you can try keeping a few different sizes of pitchers handy and letting little ones experiment with pouring from all of them.
This setup is a wonderful way for kids to practice practical kitchen skills like pouring, using utensils, and cleaning up. If you’re using fresh foliage as we did, there’s also a wonderful sensory element to this arrangement as well. We found two different types of pine twigs we could include, creating a lovely opportunity for textural comparison.
Winter Practical Skill Tray #2: Mini Ice Melt
Place a bowl of ice out, accompanied by a pitcher of warm water, mortar of salt, and a small spoon. Ask kids to explore the supplies and take a little time to observe what happens when they’re mixed. Encourage getting up close and inspecting the ice (you may even want to include a magnifying glass).
This tray initiates the transfer of materials and the use of utensils, as well as being a mini-science experiment to boot!
Winter Practical Skill Tray #3: Pom-cones
Fill your tray with a couple of small bowls of pom-poms (we used two different sizes). Add a pinecone or two (we were able to find a nice variety of shapes and sizes) and a pair of tweezers or small tongs.
Pushing pom-poms into pinecones, then taking them out with tweezers is great for fine motor skill development and another tray that will help little ones learn how to manipulate and best use specific utensils.
Winter Practical Skill Tray #4: Snowflake Build
Put together a tray that has some precut pipe cleaners and small craft bells. This tray will invite them to build a snowflake, so it can be helpful to include a pre-made example, a snowflake that’s half-finished, or a small printed sheet that has snowflake patterns for reference. You can wrap pieces together, or simply stack them into patterns.
Bells present an opportunity to do some threading, so you can include a pre-threaded pipe cleaner and let them investigate the process on their own.
Winter Practical Skill Tray #5: Snowy Tracks
For this tray, cover a printed sheet of animal tracks with some baking soda snow. A small brush (I used an old makeup brush) can be used to sweep away the snow and uncover each line of tracks. This is wonderful sweeping, brushing, and fine motor skill practice as well as the perfect opportunity to learn about winter animals and their tracks. Once the animal tracks had lost their luster, we continued the fun by hiding other small elements in the snow to be found (miniature felt gloves were a popular find).
Of all the trays, this was by far the biggest hit! There was a lot of wonder in the initial discovery of the tracks, and it seemed just as fun to cover them back UP once all the “snow” had been pushed away. I know a lot of people have concerns about messiness when it comes to a tray like this, but honestly, it wasn’t an issue, and baking powder is so incredibly easy to vacuum up (instant carpet freshening!).
*A note about affiliate links: We strive to use simple, earth-friendly supplies that can be purchased locally whenever we can, but sometimes we find the best universally available options, a rare eco-friendly find, or a niche product only available on Amazon or Woodpecker Crafts. When included in our supply list, these products are affiliate links, and if you click-through to make a purchase, we receive a small commission that helps us re-order these supplies!