When my older son was a preschooler I discovered Montessori, and while I never strictly adhered to their activities and lessons, I loved the idea behind it and tried to incorporate the practical skills into our daily learning. Practical life activities are a wonderful way to purposefully teach preschoolers about "regular life."
One of the benefits of teaching practical life skills is not just getting kids to help with chores, but kids start to better understand the amount of work parents have to do. They appreciate the value of what goes into taking care of a home, learn responsibility and become all around more thoughtful kids.
The following list of practical life activities are ideas to make "real work" fun.
Practical Skills Kids Can Learn
Setting the table. To teach my son how to set the table, I made a simple learning placemat. As you can see from the photo, your diy placemat does not have to be attractive.
Wash the windows. Washing Windows. Kids actually love to wash windows. Use a solution of vinegar and water in a spray bottle and hand them a clean rag to get started. Alternatively, if you're child has previously had a good time painting on the windows, a little soapy water will do the trick.
Tying shoes. I don't know if this qualifies as a practical life activity in the the official Montessori handbook, but I found it tremendously practical to have my son tie his own shoes. Here's a fun bunny ears rhyme that teaches a shoe tying technique!
Teaching kids not to slam the door. I was so tired, tired, tired of hearing the door slam. He would slam the door no matter what his mood. Tip: peppy attitude required.
Match bottles to lids. This activity was a huge hit it out house! I washed and dried all the spice jars and had my son find and replace all the different sized lids.
Prepare a snack. Let kids cut up a banana with a regular butter knife, or spread peanut butter on bread. Preparing their own snack is a practical life activity that gives kids a splendid sense of accomplishment.
Take measurement. Do you want to rearrange the furniture or fit out the cupboard with new shelves? Kids can help measure!
Pounding spices. Do you have a mortar and pestle? Get out a few spices from the pantry. My son loved being told it was okay to pound away! Plus, it's great way to get out excess energy!
Practice using a funnel. This is great when you bring home bulk food items. As you can see, it can get a but messy, but cleaning up afterwards is part of the learning experience. If they fill a jar with spices, it is also a great olfactory experience!
Shelling peas. This practical life activity always works find motor and keeps them busy during meal preparation.
Taking care of plants. Teaching children to care for house plants connects them with nature when they can't get outside and gives them a way to add beauty to the world. Plus, what kid doesn't love a spray bottle?
Washing dishes. We all want help with the dishes, no?
Of course there are many other ways to teach practical skills, like making the bed, sweeping the floor, cleaning up toys. I found that one of the most important aspects of teaching my sons about these "chores" was not to approach them as "chores" but as simply the fabric of daily life.