Discover: Montessori Winter Practical Skill Activities

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 Woodpeckers Crafts, Etsy, Blick Art Materials, 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
  • Tweezers
  • 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.

Our Montessori winter practical skill mini ice melt activity.

Winter Practical Skill Tray #2: Mini Ice Melt

Place a bowl of ice out, accompanied by a pitcher of warm water, a 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!

Our Montessori winter practical skill Pom Pom pinecone push activity.

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.

Our Montessori winter practical skill snowflake threading activity.

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.

Our Montessori winter practical skill snowy tracks activity.

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!).

Love these simple toddler learning activities? Visit our autumn-themed tinker tray ideas for inspiration that’s perfect for another season.

*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 Blick Art Materials, Amazon, Etsy, or Woodpeckers 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!


Amanda Eldridge
Amanda Eldridge

With a passion for cultivating imagination, Amanda aims to help kids and families discover their creative potential through art, play, adventure, activism, conservancy, and community. Amanda has a background in graphic design, environmental design, and art curation. When not playing with ideas and designs for barley & birch, she enjoys working in freelance design, art, and illustration.


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