Practical Life Skills for the Second Plane Child
Practical Life activities are designed to help children learn the skills of everyday life. In the first plane, Practical Life works are often introduced to children because they find joy in simply completing such an activity. For the second plane child, however, Practical Life works should focus on building skills that meet the child’s needs and allow them to become more independent. Given their social nature and their fascination with their place in the universe, Practical Life activities that allow second plane children to connect with others and the world around them will likely be most engaging.
Although Practical Life activities introduced to elementary students retain their practical nature, there should be an added emphasis on developing meaningful connections and a larger purpose. For instance, instead of embroidering for the simple joy of completing the task, an elementary student might enjoy embroidering a heart to give as a gift to an elderly neighbor with a heartful, handwritten note. They might enjoy the shared experience of planning a meal, creating a list and shopping with a parent, and cooking and enjoying meal time together as a family.
If you are a Montessori classroom guide or a parent or caregiver with a second plane child, keep reading below for 20 ideas for Practical Life activities for your student(s) or child(ren)!
20 Practical Life activities for elementary students in the classroom:
- Embroidery - Whether it’s an ornament for a gift for a loved one on a holiday or a heartfelt gift for someone less fortunate, second plane students may enjoy the detail and precision that is involved in embroidery.
- Food prep - Second plane students can work together through each step of the food prep process, from finding a recipe, making a list of necessary ingredients, planning a going out experience for shopping, preparing the food, and enjoying the shared experience of a snack or meal time together. One popular food prep activity is bread baking.
- Making a rag rug - Elementary-aged students might enjoy working together on this no-sew project to add visual appeal and interest to the classroom environment.
- Arm knitting - Students can work individually or take turns as they create projects from vases to scarves and blankets.
- Continent sewing - An extension to the familiar push pinning exercises that students may have done in a Primary classroom, this activity allows students to connect geography with Practical Life.
- Wood screw art - Second plane students may enjoy using a brace or an egg beater drill to create pieces of art for the classroom environment or as gifts for others using a simple piece of wood and some screws.
- Composting - This is an activity that can not only encourage cooperation and teamwork amongst the students, but also connects them to the world around them as they do their part to reduce, reuse, and recycle.
- Large weaving loom - Second plane students may enjoy taking turns weaving on a large loom that can be used to make decor for the classroom environment.
- Classroom pet and plant care - As is true in all Montessori classrooms, second plane students should work together to care for all animal and plant life within their environment.
- Care of the classroom environment - Second plane students should continue the care of the environment habits to which they were introduced in Primary, working together to vacuum, sweep, mop, dust, and maintain the beauty and visual appeal of their classroom space.
- Using a daily planner - Elementary students can be introduced to daily planners as a way of keeping track of their work and responsibilities in the classroom including projects and upcoming events at the school.
- Planning a school event - Invite second plane children to help plan events for the school. This might be a parent meeting, a guest speaker, or a holiday party. Ask them to gather RSVPs, designate the space, set up the seating, create a list and purchase any necessary items such as food or decorations, and clean up at the conclusion of the event.
- Public speaking - Provide elementary students with opportunities to practice public speaking. They may choose to start small by presenting a project to their classmates or to practice a presentation in front of a group of Primary students. One might also encourage them to showcase their big work to parents or to speak about their school experiences at parent or community events.
- Searching the internet - In a digital world, it is important that students understand how to use the internet to find information they are seeking. We certainly want students to reference books and encyclopedias, but showing them how to search for desired information online and recognize reliable sources will be a vital lifelong skill.
- Reorganizing the classroom environment - Involve second plane children in discussions about the function of the classroom spaces including the placement of shelves and tables. Ask them their thoughts on how they provide freedom of movement and allow for a variety of work spaces including individual, partner, and small group. Have the students participate in moving furniture to reorganize the environment.
- Organize community service projects - Since elementary students enjoy activities that foster connection, organizing, leading, and managing community service projects will greatly appeal to them. Invite the children to design service projects based on their individual interests, advertise their projects, gather any necessary supplies or volunteers, and manage the event.
- Lead classroom or school tours - No one knows the classroom or school environments better than the students themselves. Invite second plane children to greet visitors and to lead tours, showing prospective students and parents various spaces on campus while explaining unique things about their school.
- Create a class business - Lead the children in working together to develop a classroom business. Start from the ground up as they decide on the function of their business and a name to organizing the logistics of advertising, managing the events, and budgeting.
- Plan a going out experience - Encourage second plane students to plan a going out experience based on their individual interests. They can start by researching opportunities in the community, notifying parents or other school personnel such as an administrator to gain approval, scheduling, making any necessary reservations, and researching directions.
- Volunteer around campus - Given their desire to foster a sense of community, opportunities to help out around campus including reading to students in a Primary classroom, weeding a school garden, or asking ways they can support an Administrative Assistant will likely appeal to elementary-aged students.
20 Practical Life activities for elementary students at home:
- Answering the telephone (including taking a brief message) - Model how to answer a telephone call for your child in the event you are unavailable. This includes a proper greeting, how to take a brief message, and a goodbye statement.
- Making a phone call - Show your child how to use the telephone to call someone when needed or desired. Be sure to explain how to use the contacts or dial the number and how to end the call.
- Changing a light bulb - Inevitably, a light bulb will need to be changed in your home. Involve your child in the process and show them the steps so that they might do so independently in the future.
- Changing and charging batteries - Show your child how to change batteries in tools throughout the home including TV remotes and flashlights. Show them how to charge devices ranging from cell phones and laptops to electric lawn care equipment.
- Household repairs - Involve your child when doing any household repairs. Whether it’s painting a bedroom or fixing a leak with the plumbing, encourage your child to participate in the process so they can learn how to do these household repairs in the future.
- Grocery shopping (including making a list) - Allow your child to be responsible for grocery shopping. Encourage them to plan meals for the week, make a list of the necessary items for those meals and that may be needed in the home in general, and allow them to take charge of the entire shopping process including paying at the cash register.
- Pet and household plant care - Give your child the responsibility of caring for household plants and family pets. For household plants, this will include watering, pruning, repotting as necessary and ensuring they are receiving adequate amounts of sunlight. For family pets, your child can ensure they have enough food and water, as well as taking them for walks, emptying their litter box, or cleaning their cages, as needed. It can even include scheduling trips to the veterinarian as needed!
- Mowing the lawn - Second plane children can certainly help with lawn care including mowing, hedging, weed eating, trimming, and leaf blowing. After showing them the appropriate and safe way to use lawn care equipment, invite them to try!
- Basic budgeting - Work with your child to show them how to implement a basic budgeting system. You might provide them a set allowance and ask them to be responsible for managing their budget to purchase snacks for the month or to pay for desired outings.
- Basic first aid care - Show your child how to administer basic first aid care including cleaning a small cut, applying ointment or cream, and putting on a bandaid. Learning how to take their own temperature will also be a useful skill. Being equipped with this type of knowledge will allow your child to independently care for themselves and others, such as younger siblings, when needed.
- Using a planner/scheduling - Encourage your child to use a daily planner or a monthly calendar and to participate in scheduling and keeping up with family events. This might include extracurricular activities they or their siblings have committed to, play dates, and birthday celebrations.
- Assembling furniture - Invite your child to help you build the new dresser or bookcase you’ve purchased. Not only can they help read the instructions and ensure it is being assembled properly, they can sharpen their fine motor skills when using necessary hand tools.
- Doing laundry - From a young age your child can be responsible for doing their own laundry. Once they’ve been shown the appropriate way to use the washing machine and dryer, encourage your child to wash, dry, fold, and put away their own clothing. You may even want to ask them to help with other family members’ laundry as well, including younger siblings.
- Setting and clearing the table - Ask your child to set the table while you are preparing a meal. They can put out placemats and arrange each person’s setting with a plate, bowl, cup, and utensils, as needed. They can also help with clearing the table when the meal is finished.
- Cooking a meal - Since they love doing things with and for others, second plane children might really enjoy cooking a meal one day or night per week for the family. Allow them to gather the necessary ingredients and prepare a meal independently from start to finish.
- Sharing a meal together as a family (including basic grace and courtesies during this shared experience) - The shared experience of meal time is so important for building a sense of connection amongst family members. This time together is a great way for elementary-aged children to practice basic grace and courtesies such as asking for items to be passed and asking to be excused.
- Planning an outing - Allow your child to plan an outing. This might be an event they wish to attend or a movie they want to see. Encourage them to find out the necessary details including the hours of operation, cost, and directions. Give them the responsibility of making any reservations and giving directions while driving.
- Planting a garden - Encourage your child to choose a few plants, vegetables, or herbs and plant a small garden. Not only is the process of planting a seed and caring for it a great practical life experience, but the child can then harvest what they’ve grown and it can be used in a family meal.
- Composting - Composting is a great way to help second plane children feel as though they are connecting with the world around them and doing their part to reduce, reuse, and recycle. Your child can be involved in every step of this process from researching the best type of composting bin to building your pile and then using the fertilized soil for new planting projects.
- Chopping wood and starting a fire - In areas with colder weather, second plane children might really enjoy the process of chopping wood and starting a fire to keep themselves and their friends and family nice and cozy!
About the Author
Heather White, EdS, is a Montessori parent coach, a Montessori in-home teacher and nanny, a Montessori educational consultant for the Andrew’s Educational Institute, a Montessori educator for adult learners, and a manager & content creator for Guide & Grow. Formerly, she was a Montessori teacher, Lower Elementary coordinator, and associate head of school. She also has experience as a School Psychologist intern. She is AMS credentialed (Early Childhood, Elementary I) and is a Nationally Certified School Psychologist. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.