Snack station 

After putting it off for ages (we don’t have the space! It will be messy! The cat will eat the snacks!) I have finally sorted out a snack station for Frida. It’s important to me that she can get food for herself if she is hungry without having to rely on us, and I think it sends a message to her that we trust her and her ability to self-regulate her food intake – one of the reasons we chose to do Baby-Led Weaning. 

We live in a small house – I like to call it an ever evolving space! – and the only place which made sense for a snack station was the IKEA KALLAX unit next to her play kitchen. I have moved all of her play accessories into the play kitchen unit itself (apart from the big basket of play food which I have kept in the KALLAX).

I have explained to Frida that if she would like a snack, she is to put it on a plate and carry it over to the table. I imagine that at first I will have to supervise and prompt her, but I am hopeful that soon she will need little or no supervision.

I have included:

Snacks. I have put out fruit (I cut a small cross into the top of the tangerines to make them easier to peel, plain oat cakes in a container which Frida can open, and oat and fruit bars in a container which Frida can open (I snipped the top of the wrapped so she can open these by herself).

Water in a jug, drinking glass, and small flannels to use as a cloth for spills. I have only filled the jug around a third full to minimise spills. This jug is the one we have been using.

Plates, crinkle cutter, knife. As I’ve written before, we have chosen to trust Frida with real (breakable!) crockery. So far nothing has been broken. This is the crinkle cutter we use.

I need to add some hooks for her apron and a tea towel, and watch Frida to see if this space needs further changes, but for now I am hopeful that it will work well!

40 practical life activities for toddlers

Frida is 21 months, and does very little in the way of working with traditional Montessori materials at the moment. She’s outgrown her infant materials, and is still too young for most materials geared towards the 3-6 plane of development. What she does do a lot of, though, is practical life, which I believe to be the real focus of the toddler years. By involving Frida in practical life – real life, purposeful activity – her confidence and independence visibly grows. 

I thought I would share some ideas with you for how to incorporate more of these moments into every day life. These are all wonderful opportunities to slow down, allow your child to learn, and show them that you value them as a capable and helpful member of the household. And whilst practical life is integral to any Montessori family, you don’t have to know anything about Montessori to do these activities! In fact I bet you’re already doing lots of these things every day.

Note: These are all “real-life” activities, as opposed to activities set up on trays such as pouring beans or scooping rice or grating soap. Whilst I have nothing against those activities I have found with Frida that she likes her work to be purposeful and to have meaningful results!

Care of self

Choosing clothes. We have been encouraging Frida to choose her clothes from a young age and have recently set up her wardrobe to maximise her independence. 

Nose wiping. We are in the process of teaching Frida to do this independently, using Nicole at the Kavanaugh Report’s method. 

Putting on a cardigan and/or coat. Show them the Montessori coat flip and you will never look back!

Getting dressed. Every child will learn at different speeds but at 21 months Frida is putting on pants and trousers (with little help), is getting more confident with tights, still struggles a bit with socks and shoes, and helps to pull on her tops and dresses. Providing your child with some time to practice when they are not rushed is key.

Getting undressed. Much easier than getting dressed, as anyone who has tried to keep socks on a baby will know! 

Hair brushing. Frida’s hair has always been quite long so getting her involved with and used to hair brushing has been important for us. 

Washing hands. Most toddlers I have met love doing this. 

Face wiping. After lunch or a snack I offer Frida a damp flannel. She also washes her face in the bath.

Tooth brushing. Although I brush Frida’s teeth for her (it’s important for it to be done thoroughly) she enjoys brushing them herself once I’m done. 

Applying sun-cream. Not so relevant for our family now in January, but Frida does like to be involved in putting her moisturiser on after her bath (we use Waitrose Bottom Butter as a body cream, it’s just olive oil, vanilla, and chamomile). 

Toilet learning. Montessorians tend to believe that children enter a sensitive period for toilet learning between 12-18 months. We started Frida’s learning journey at ten months and at 21 months we are done with the basics – we have very few accidents and she is dry at night. The next step will be Frida telling us every time she needs to use the loo rather than us prompting her, which will come with time. You can read about our journey here. 

Using a nail-brush. Particularly useful after a muddy ramble around the park when your child has dirt under their nails. 

Doing up side-release buckles and using zips on bags. Frida loves clipping buckles together, and has been interested in zips for a while now. Great for fine motor skills too. 

In the kitchen

Pouring water or milk from a jug. Spills are a great opportunity to practice wiping.

Baking. This involves a range of different skills including mixing, transferring, glazing, and kneading. If you don’t bake much, scones are a great starter for both of you!

Using a cookie cutter. It’s also fun to practice with playdough.

Washing dishes. If you are nervous about smashing start with pans or cutlery. 

Mashing. You can start small with bananas and a fork, and move on to vegetables and a potato masher. 

Assembling smoothies. Choosing, chopping, and adding fruit and veg, pouring milk or water, scooping yoghurt or nut butters, adding nuts and seeds. 

Chopping fruit and vegetables using a crinkle cutter. 

Peeling. Bananas, tangerines, and eggs are all great for under-twos. 

Learning to crack eggs. This needs very hands-on parental support! 

Grating cheese. The hard thing for me is preventing Frida from eating it all as she goes!

Spreading condiments on bread or crackers.

Helping to load / unload the dishwasher. The cutlery is a great place to start (just remove any sharp knives first). 

Helping to set the table. We don’t do this with Frida yet as our table is too high for her to reach, though I’d like to think creatively about how I can empower her to help with this soon. 

Care of their environment

Mopping. Cleaning + water play = everyone is happy!

Sweeping. Frida has a Melissa and Doug child-size cleaning set with a broom, mop, duster, dustpan and brush. It’s the perfect size for a toddler. 

Dusting. This is especially helpful if your toddler has low shelves for toys and materials, as they can collect dust easily! 

Helping to load / unload / hang / take down the laundry. 

Sorting dry laundry. You can also turn this into a matching activity, for example pairing socks, or finding all the underwear. 

Tidying up after themselves. We have encouraged Frida to do this from a young age. It’s helpful that all of her toys / materials / clothes / books have a set place, so she knows where everything goes. 

Wiping the table or work surface with a damp cloth after their art and craft / cooking / meal. If your child has a blackboard they can also wash this down regularly. 

Watering and dusting indoor plants. A lovely way of teaching children gentleness, concentration, and control. 

Watering outdoor plants. With a hose or watering can. 

Sowing seeds and growing plants. We will start germinating some seeds soon indoors – I need to get organised! 

Out and about 

Sticking stamps on letters and posting them. I have never met a toddler who doesn’t love to post. This is a lovely extension to art activities as your toddler can post one of their pieces to a friend or relative. 

Ordering in a cafe or restaurant. If your toddler would like to, encourage them to order their drink, snack or meal from the barista or waiter! A lovely way to build confidence. 

Food shopping. Involve your toddler – let them choose some food, for example which pasta shape to buy or what sort of apples. Let them put things in the basket or trolley, and talk about what food you will cook. They may even enjoy to carry something home. 

Care of animals

Topping up pet food and water dishes. Decant pet food into larger containers and let them top up your pet’s bowl. We are going to start doing this with Frida.

Grooming. If you have a pet which needs grooming, your toddler can be involved. 


I hope this has given you some ideas, and show that Montessori parenting doesn’t have to be complicated, or involve lots of fancy furniture or expensive materials. 

What are your favourite practical life activities? 

Practical life: baking scones

Today has been wet and cold. Usually we have outdoor playgroup on a Monday morning, but lots of the group currently have poorly children and Frida woke up a lot last night, so I opted instead for a slow day of pottering and playing and baking. 

I hadn’t made scones with Frida before, and they are so easy that I figured even tired me couldn’t mess them up too much. I always use this BBC recipe for scones as I’ve found it very reliable. 

I prepared everything we needed first to make it easier for Frida to be involved.

She poured the flour into the mixing bowl then I added a pinch of salt – the only ingredient I didn’t really want her to handle. 

Frida then transferred the cubed butter from a bowl into the mixing bowl with a spoon. She took this very seriously and was very thorough. 

Then I demonstrated to Frida how to rub the butter into the flour, and encouraged her to have a good go. I had to help at the end to ensure it was all mixed in properly. 

Next Frida added the sugar and milk – I think she got a bit over excited and forgot to put the ramekin down before grabbing the milk. 

As an aside, you will notice that here Frida is using “proper” crockery – Denby bowls, glass ramekin and glass. We have always trusted Frida to use the same crockery as us and so far she has never broken anything! 

She then mixed up the mixture, and I added some more flour (I never weigh anything so at this stage I often have to tweak quantities slightly – now Frida is getting older I must buy scales as I don’t want her to pick up sloppy cooking practices from me). 

I brought the mix together into a dough and Frida did some kneading. Last week at our Steiner playgroup Frida kneaded some bread dough to make rolls, so this was fresh in her memory. She enjoyed making fingerprints in the dough more than she enjoyed the kneading! 

We then used some dinosaur cutters to shape the scones. I thought Frida would love this part but she preferred to continue making finger prints (!) so gave up after a couple. I cut out the rest and laid them carefully on a baking sheet. 

Frida then mixed up the egg and used a clean brush to carefully paint the scones with egg wash. She had to do this very gently as otherwise the dough became squashed, so good fine motor practice. 

Finally – cleaning! This was quite a messy activity with flour and bits of dough everywhere so it required a thorough clean up. 

The scones tasted amazing and came out quite well (although the “second batch” which I finished off looked neater as they hadn’t been as squashed!). I’m trying to eat a bit more healthily at the moment but I couldn’t resist eating one, and Frida devoured two scones as soon as they were out of the oven. 

Next time we make them we’ll do some savoury ones, as I do try and avoid giving Frida too much sweet food. 

You can read about last month’s cake baking efforts here: baking chocolate and banana cake

Montessori challenge: the bathroom

I have joined in with Carine from the Montessori Family blog, who is doing a Montessori challenge for every month this year. Each month I will be posting about a space in our home and talking about the challenges we face with it, and how we have improved it or plan to improve it.

This month we are blogging about our bathrooms – definitely not where I would have chosen to begin, as in our home the bathroom is our most problematic space! Our bathroom is tiny (a tub and a sink, with a separate toilet) and is the only part of our home that we still need to renovate completely. The tiles make me shudder slightly, the sink is rickety, and the space is just not very child-friendly.

However! I have made some changes, and have many more planned, which I will talk about now.

I am using Carine’s bathroom challenge questions, and will answer these as I go.

Observe the room and how your child is using it. Every time your child asks for your help (or when you go and help her without her asking), try to see what prevents her to do it by herself.

Because Frida is still so small and our bathroom was not designed by us, it is not a great space for encouraging her independence. However, we have tried to make small changes.

I recently bought this brilliant suction set from IKEA  which includes a mirror and storage, as well as a timer. I have attached this on the wall next to the bath tub, which means when Frida is standing in the bath she can see her face in the mirror, and can reach her toothbrush. She can also turn the timer (which runs to six minutes, so quite a long time! I’m not sure what IKEA intended it for).

Depending of your child’s age, encourage your child to be independent regarding self-care. As rule of thumb, if your child walks, she can attempt most of her self-care needs with little support.

Although she is only 20 months, we do encourage Frida to be as involved as possible with regards to her self care. We have a box of reusable wipes from when she was in nappies which are basically like small flannels, and these are a perfect size for her to wipe her face or wash herself. After I have brushed her teeth she will then usually carry on for a while. She also brushes her hair – and ours!

We have also encouraged Frida to be independent in her toileting, and stopped using nappies at 17 months (you can read more about our toilet learning journey here). We are currently working on helping Frida to be more independent whilst dressing.

Does your child have access to the sink? Can she see herself in the mirror?

No, she doesn’t, and when we renovate the bathroom (hopefully within the next few months) we will be placing the sink lower down so that she can reach it when standing on a stool. Even standing on a stool now she is too small, so she washes her hands by standing on this red IKEA step stool and leaning over the bath tub. I would also like to add a tap extender so it’s easier for her to reach the tap.

She cannot see herself in the mirror either though there is one in her IKEA set pictured above, and she has a full-length mirror in her bedroom. When we renovate this is also something I will be thinking about.

What kind of bath toys does your child have? Does she play with all of them? Can she access her toys by herself?

We don’t have many bath toys for Frida – she tends to be much more interested in pouring, or “swimming like a mermaid”, or generally having fun with the water. She currently has a jug, an empty shampoo bottle, some Schleich sea animals (orca, tiger shark, great white, blue shark, dolphin), and a Plan Toys speedboat. You can see these in the photo above, stored in an IKEA suction storage basket, which she can access as it is low above the bath.

Does your child have access to her toilet accessories?

Yes, she does. Frida uses a Potette seat (pictured above) over the regular toilet, and has done since she was 17 months. She uses the red stool pictured earlier to climb up, though will ask for help sitting down. She can wipe herself after peeing, climb down on her own, and pull her trousers and pants back up.

Can your child reach the light switch?

She can – we have a pull-down light with a long cord.

So that is our bathroom, our challenges, and how we are trying to overcome them and make our space one where Frida can feel empowered to do things herself.

What are your bathroom challenges? As we are planning our new bathroom, what tips or “must haves” would you recommend for a family with a young child?

Montessori coat flip 

(Well, in this instance, cardigan flip.)

The coat flip is a fantastic trick to help toddlers put on their cardigans and coats independently. I have been demonstrating the Montessori coat flip to Frida for a couple of weeks now but she has shown absolutely no interest in trying for herself. 

Today she finally decided to do it with a cardigan! I demonstrated it to her and laid it out for her. You can see her doing it in this video:

Did you notice at the end she immediately started to take her cardigan off? Frida is still not loving putting her clothes on, and it still can feel like a struggle to get cardigans, coats, and shoes on her. It means a lot of slow starts, as unless we absolutely have to be somewhere I try to give Frida all the time she needs to be ready to go outside.

Montessori toddler wardrobe

Now that the rest of Frida’s room is working well for her, I thought it was high time that I finally organised her closet space into something more Montessori-inspired.

Because we don’t have the space in our home for a dedicated playroom, Frida’s room doubles as her main play-space (well, actually it is only a play-space at the moment as she is still sleeping with us! We will move her soon… Maybe). 

For this reason, I didn’t want to take up precious wall space with her clothes when she already has a big built in wardrobe. However, as it was previously organised, the space was doing nothing to aid her independence, and I noticed it often fell into disorder. It needed a change! 

After thinking about it, I decided to add a Trofast unit (my favourite IKEA item – we already have two) to the bottom of the wardrobe. I created labels for each item of clothing with pictures as well as words, so that Frida can independently see what is in each drawer. Because it’s low down, Frida can see everything clearly.  

On the left of the unit there are a few dresses hanging which I thought would be in danger of creasing, and her coats, shoes, hats and leg warmers are in the hallway, but apart from that everything fits in one unit very neatly.

(The clothing hanging on the top rail out of Frida’s reach is all in the next size up – I tend to buy Frida’s clothes in the sales and then stash them for the appropriate season, in order to buy better quality and more ethical clothing for her.)

For her pyjamas, I added a “night time” symbol to remind her that these are clothes we need at night. 

I hope that this new system will support Frida’s growing independence in choosing her clothes and dressing herself. We are currently going through a stage of Frida not particularly wanting to get dressed, so my instinct is to try and give her as much control over the dressing process as possible. 

I folded everything “Kon-Mari” style so that Frida can see at a glance what is in each drawer, hopefully minimising frustration and dumping out clothes.

The space isn’t quite finished – I want to add a few photos of Frida wearing different outfits and a basket with a hairbrush, and I also want to hang a mirror on the inside of the wardrobe door (there is already a full-length mirror hanging in her room but it is on the other side). I also want to add some handles lower down so Frida can open the doors by herself. 

How are your toddler’s clothes organised? Do you have any tips to aid independent dressing? 

Practical life: cleaning for the new year

Happy 2017! 

A new year always makes me want to clear and sort and clean and tidy, especially after the festive period. I know it is a cliche to talk about starting the year as you mean to go on, but I think there’s something positive and important about trying to set positive intentions for the year ahead, and for me this includes working to try and keep our home clean and as clutter-free as possible. 

In this spirit, this morning Frida and I worked together to clean her room. We took her toys off the shelves on her playframe, and Frida dusted them with her duster (from her Melissa and Doug cleaning set, which I really recommend). 

We then did the same for her shelves which house her blocks and building materials. At this point Frida was a little fed up of dusting so I took over half-way through. I think she was getting impatient to start mopping “with water!” 

Anything involving water is still a huge hit with Frida (indeed for most toddlers), so mopping is a great activity – her room got cleaned and she had a fantastic time doing it! I put a tiny bit of soap and some warm water into the bowl (I just gave her a wooden salad bowl to use) and just let her go for it. 

I won’t pretend her floor coverage was perfect – we had a few dry patches and a few puddles – but the pride on her face as she mopped her own room was worth every last drop.

When she was finished, Frida picked up the big bowl of water so carefully and with no prompting, and carried it out to the bathroom to empty it.

Frida also enjoyed wearing her new apron, which was a lovely Christmas present from my mum. 

I have started to slowly sort out our wardrobes, and have already gathered a big bag to go to the charity shop – there is plenty more to do, but I’m trying to break it into manageable 15 minute chunks so I don’t fall into a black hole of sorting piles of old socks and odd earrings and paperwork for hours on end (anyone else?). 

I find I have so many good intentions for things I want or need to do to our home (empty cupboards, paint wardrobes, re-touch paintwork, sort out getting our bathroom redone… the list goes on!) but I find it so hard to make the time with a toddler around. I would love to know how other people make it work!