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Montessori at home: 10 helpful chores your child can do all by herself

In Montessori schools, children are responsible for taking care of the classroom. They are not generally assigned chores, but each child cleans up after himself and children are eager to help with things like dusting, gardening, and washing the tables and chairs.

These tasks are called “practical life” and they are considered just as important as language and math for young children. This kind of work builds concentration and independence, and also refines fine and gross motor skills.

Taking care of the environment also gives children a sense of purpose, which can be hugely beneficial to a child’s self-esteem and his behavior. Contributing in a real way makes him feel like a helpful person and he often acts accordingly.

Practical life activities are easy to replicate at home, as there is never a shortage of home tasks that need doing (if you have a shortage, send them to my house!) Next time your child is running around with excess energy or acting a little wild, try getting him involved around the house. Give him purposeful work to use up all of that beautiful energy.

Here are 10 chores your young child can be successful with all by herself.


Sweeping is a great one to start with. Even young toddlers can successfully sweep the floor with a child sized broom and dustpan if you show them how. If your child isn’t yet coordinated enough for the dustpan, sweeping leaves off of a deck or porch can be a great place to start. Once he has mastered sweeping, you can also show him how to mop or vacuum.

2. Folding laundry

While some things, like sheets and big blankets, can be tricky for children, separating and folding things like washcloths and napkins is definitely doable. Sorting socks can also be a great task for little ones.

3. Setting the table

As long as everything is in their reach, even very young children can set the table. If you’d like to encourage your child to help in the kitchen, try clearing a low kitchen shelf for the things she needs to access. She will enjoy the task more if she doesn’t have to keep asking for your help.

4. Feeding pets

Many children love taking care of animals. If you have a pet, try storing the food in a large Tupperware with a scoop and let your child take over this daily task. If you have a really young child, you may want to separate out only enough food for that day until he’s able to control the amount.

5. Raking leaves

This is a great gross motor activity to get all of that energy out. Just make sure you have a child-sized rake available so that your child can be successful (and safe!).

6. Watering plants

Show your child how to test the dirt to see if a plant needs watering. Then show her how to water at the roots. Once she’s mastered watering the plants, you can also show her how to trim dead leaves and how to wash the leaves of house plants with a little sponge to keep them fresh.

7. Window washing

This is a really fun one! You’ll need a drying cloth, small spray bottle, and small squeegee (the ones designed for car windows are perfect and can be found at stores like Home Depot). Show him how to spray, squeegee, and dry and watch him clean every window and mirror in the house!

8. Scrubbing outside toys

Encourage your child to keep his outdoor toys clean and beautiful by washing them regularly. You’ll need a little scrub brush, container for water, and a towel to dry. You can also provide soap if you wish. You may want to give your child a little apron to keep his clothes dry. The beauty of this one is once he knows how to scrub, and has the tools, he can scrub pretty much anything. This could include big things like a swing set, or little things like his Legos.

9. Making her lunch

Children can make their own lunches, with varying degrees of independence, from a young age. You will likely want to start with offering choices, such as letting your child choose one “main food,” one fruit and one vegetable to put in her lunchbox. Your child can also make simple things like a peanut butter sandwich, help wash fruit, etc.

This is an especially great thing to involve your child with if she’s going through a picky stage. If it’s too overwhelming to think of doing this every day, start with just the weekends or once a week until your child is more proficient with it.

10. Sharpening pencils and crayons

Try showing your child how to use a little sharpener to keep his pencils and crayons in working order. Make sure to show him how to empty the sharpener too, to avoid a big mess.

These chores are only the beginning. Watching your child will show you which types of tasks she’s most interested in helping with and you’ll start seeing all sorts of things she can do on her own. Helping with these responsibilities will encourage her to become more independent and will give her a sense of pride as she sees all of the ways she can contribute to the home.

Tips for Success

Get organized

Especially with a young child, even if she is interested in helping, she may lose interest in the time it takes you to gather the things you need. Gather everything she’ll need to complete the task before you mention it to her. For example, if you’re asking her to help sweep, make sure the broom and dustpan are where they should be before you ask her. It’s also important to have child-sized tools, like small brooms, whenever possible.

Invite the child

In Montessori, we “invite” children to have a lesson. The goal is to entice them to want to participate. If your child feels like he’s being forced to help or it’s a punishment, he will naturally resist. You also don’t have to make it a choice though. Try saying something like, “Johnny, there’s a big mess and I need a helper. Please bring the broom.”

Give a lesson

Briefly show your child how to do the task. With young children, it’s best to do this without talking, as they can have trouble watching and listening at the same time. We call this the “silent lesson”.

Step back and watch

After you’ve shown her how, try to resist the urge to correct how she’s doing it or quickly redo what she’s done. It will likely not be perfect at first, and that’s okay. The important thing is that your child is helping (and eventually, her help will actually be helpful ).

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Summer heat has a way of making the house feel smaller, more congested, with less room for the air to circulate. And there's nothing like the heat to make me want to strip down, cool off and lighten my load. So, motivation in three digits, now that school is back in, it's time to do a purge.

Forget the spring clean—who has time for that? Those last few months of the school year are busier than the first. And summer's warm weather entices our family outdoors on the weekends, which doesn't leave much time for re-organizing.

So, I seize the opportunity when my kids are back in school to enter my zone.

I love throwing open every closet and cupboard door, pulling out anything and everything that doesn't fit our bodies or our lives. Each joyless item purged peels off another oppressive layer of "not me" or "not us."

Stuff can obscure what really makes us feel light, capable and competent.

Stuff can stem the flow of what makes our lives work.

With my kids back in school, I am energized, motivated by the thought that I have the space to be in my head with no interruptions. No refereeing. No snacks. No naps… I am tossing. I am folding. I am stacking. I am organizing. I don't worry about having to stop. The neat-freak in me is having a field day.

Passing bedroom doors, ajar and flashing their naughty bits of chaos at me, it's more than I can handle in terms of temptation. I have to be careful, though, because I can get on a roll. Taking to my kids' rooms I tread carefully, always aware that what I think is junk can actually be their treasure.

But I usually have a good sense for what has been abandoned or invisible in plain sight for the lack of movement or the accumulation of dust. Anything that fits the description gets relegated to a box in the garage where it is on standby—in case its absence is noticed and a meltdown has ensued. Crisis averted. Either way, it's a victory.

Oh, it's quiet. So, so quiet. And I can think it all through…

Do we really need all this stuff?

Will my son really notice if I toss all this stuff?

Will my daughter be heartbroken if I donate all this stuff?

Will I really miss this dress I wore three years ago that barely fit my waist then and had me holding in my tummy all night, and that I for sure cannot zip today?

Can we live without it all? All. This. Stuff?

The fall purge always gets me wondering, where in the world does all this stuff come from? So with the beginning of the school year upon us, I vow to create a new mindset to evaluate everything that enters my home from now on, so that there will be so much less stuff.

I vow to really think about objects before they enter my home…

…to evaluate what is really useful,

...to consider when it would be useful,

...to imagine where it would be useful,

...to remember why it may be useful,

…to decide how to use it in more than one way,

... so that all this stuff won't get in the way of what really matters—time and attention for my kids and our lives as a new year reveals more layers of the real stuff—what my kids are made of.

Bring it on.

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In the moments after we give birth, we desperately want to hear our baby cry. In the middle of the night a few months later it's no longer exactly music to our ears, but those cries aren't just telling us that baby needs a night feeding: They're also giving us a hint at what our children may sound like as kindergarteners, and adults.

New research published in the journal Biology Letters suggests the pitch of a 4-month-old's cry predicts the pitch they'll use to ask for more cookies at age five and maybe even later on as adults.

The study saw 2 to 5-month olds recorded while crying. Five years later, the researchers hit record again and chatted with the now speaking children. Their findings, combined with previous work on the subject, suggest it's possible to figure out what a baby's voice will sound like later in life, and that the pitch of our adult voices may be traceable back to the time we spend in utero. Further studies are needed, but scientists are very interested in how factors before birth can impact decades later.

"In utero, you have a lot of different things that can alter and impact your life — not only as a baby, but also at an adult stage," one of the authors of the study, Nicolas Mathevon, told the New York Times.

The New York Times also spoke with Carolyn Hodges, an assistant professor of anthropology at Boston University who was not involved in the study. According to Hodges, while voice pitch may not seem like a big deal, it impacts how we perceive people in very real ways.

Voice pitch is a factor in how attractive we think people are, how trustworthy. But why we find certain pitches more or less appealing isn't known. "There aren't many studies that address these questions, so that makes this research especially intriguing," Hodges said, adding that it "suggests that individual differences in voice pitch may have their origins very, very early in development."

So the pitch of that midnight cry may have been determined months ago, and it may determine part of your child's future, too. There are still so many things we don't know, but as parents we do know one thing: Our babies cries (as much as we don't want to hear them all the time) really are something special.

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For many years, Serena Williams seemed as perfect as a person could be. But now, Serena is a mom. She's imperfect and she's being honest about that and we're so grateful.

On the cover of TIME, Williams owns her imperfection, and in doing so, she gives mothers around the world permission to be as real as she is being.

"Nothing about me right now is perfect," she told TIME. "But I'm perfectly Serena."

The interview sheds light on Williams' recovery from her traumatic birth experience, and how her mental health has been impacted by the challenges she's faced in going from a medical emergency to new motherhood and back to the tennis court all within one year.

"Some days, I cry. I'm really sad. I've had meltdowns. It's been a really tough 11 months," she said.

It would have been easy for Williams to keep her struggles to herself over the last year. She didn't have to tell the world about her life-threatening birth experience, her decision to stop breastfeeding, her maternal mental health, how she missed her daughter's first steps, or any of it. But she did share these experiences, and in doing so she started incredibly powerful conversations on a national stage.

After Serena lost at Wimbledon this summer, she told the mothers watching around the world that she was playing for them. "And I tried," she said through tears. "I look forward to continuing to be back out here and doing what I do best."

In the TIME cover story, what happened before that match, where Williams lost to Angelique Kerber was revealed. TIME reports that Williams checked her phone about 10 minutes before the match, and learned, via Instagram, that the man convicted of fatally shooting her sister Yetunde Price, in 2003 is out on parole.

"I couldn't shake it out of my mind," Serena says. "It was hard because all I think about is her kids," she says. She was playing for all the mothers out there, but she had a specific mother on her mind during that historic match.

Williams' performance at Wimbledon wasn't perfect, and neither is she, as she clearly states on the cover of time. But motherhood isn't perfect either. It's okay to admit that. Thanks, Serena, for showing us how.

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There are some mornings where I wake up and I'm ready for the day. My alarm goes off and I pop out of bed and hum along as I make breakfast before my son wakes up. But then there are days where I just want 10 more minutes to sleep in. Or breakfast feels impossible to make because all our time has run out. Or I just feel overwhelmed and unprepared.

Those are the mornings I stare at the fridge and think, Can someone else just make breakfast, please?

Enter: make-ahead breakfasts. We spoke to the geniuses at Pinterest and they shared their top 10 pins all around this beautiful, planned-ahead treat. Here they are.

(You're welcome, future self.)

1. Make-ahead breakfast enchiladas


Created by Bellyful

I'd make these for dinner, too.

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