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Montessori Method of Teaching Cleaning: A Practical Life Skills Approach

As I came into my mid twenties, I had really developed a rhythm for myself and the way I liked my spaces. I always knew I wanted to be a parent, but I felt like the message was always that once you have kids, your life becomes flipped upside down and it’s either impossible to have it any other way, or it’s just pointless to even try, because it will inevitably just go right back to chaos. 

That didn’t sit well with me. I knew I had definitely seen other people’s lives and homes that weren’t totally thrashed from their little ones, and I basically just knew I would never accept that. So while I had no personal experience on the matter, I definitely had an intention to not become that way or have that general outlook on the way life "had to be", just because I had children. 

A common occurring theme for me in my motherhood is the reminder that we cannot control other people or our circumstances, for better or worse. So, I finally had children and they inevitably are not as tidy or intentional as I am, straight outta the gate. Or I should say womb. How could they be? They are not born with the tools or the understanding of how to be. Although, I have learned that they are born with an internal desire for order. 

Which makes sense to me, because aren’t we all more positively impacted by a clutter-free environment? And especially those who are new to the world, who are experiencing even the most simple of things as brand new and possibly overly stimulating.

The Montessori method of teaching is a popular and highly effective approach to education that focuses on fostering independence and self-direction in children. One important aspect of the Montessori method is the emphasis on learning through hands-on experiences and practical life skills, including cleaning and care of the environment.

In a Montessori classroom, children are taught how to clean up after themselves and care for their environment from a young age. This helps them to develop a sense of responsibility and ownership, as well as important life skills that will serve them well throughout their lives.

The process of cleaning in a Montessori classroom is carefully structured and tailored to the individual needs and abilities of each child. Children are given the opportunity to practice cleaning tasks at their own pace, with the guidance and support of their teachers. This helps them to build confidence and develop a sense of pride in their work.

In addition to teaching practical life skills, the process of cleaning in a Montessori classroom also helps children to develop their fine motor skills, concentration, and attention to detail. These skills are essential for success in all areas of learning, and are nurtured and developed through the structured and purposeful cleaning tasks that are a part of the Montessori method.

Overall, the Montessori method of teaching cleaning is a holistic approach that helps children to develop important life skills, confidence, and a sense of responsibility and ownership. This approach is highly effective in preparing children for success in school and in life.

Which is why I love the philosophy of Montessori. Here’s a quote I found on the subject. “The Montessori environment, be it home or school, recognizes this internal need for order and establishes a calm, orderly environment where the child can expect to find things in their proper place and in their proper order. It is here that they feel safe and secure with themselves and the world around them.” 


I know I feel that way when my area is neat and I can function more easily and intentionally with an overall feeling of peace within my space. I also know the sense of accomplishment I feel when I have worked to create that peace. So as a parent, it wasn’t something I was willing to sacrifice, but also something I knew I wanted to impart on my child for their own benefit as well. I utilize a child’s desire for connection and engagement, as well as their internal need for order and natural love for learning, to teach and involve them in the maintenance of our home and care for our things.

In addition to just modeling the behavior I want to see, remembering that we are their teachers and they’re always watching and learning from us and our example. Having this approach has worked so well for our family.  

Here are some examples of how this looks in our daily lives…

As far as modeling the behavior, I made a commitment to approach our tasks and chores with an attitude of gratitude and an overall sense of joy about me. I exemplify how grateful I am to have loved ones to fold the clothes of, that we have a kitchen to enjoy making good food in and cleaning up from, that we are so blessed to afford the things we pick up and put away, etc. I do this by making it clear that I am not resentful of the work. I don’t huff and puff or complain about it, I simply do it because it’s what I want to do and I like the way I feel being a person who tends to their home so well and having a beautiful space to enjoy afterwards. I also verbally bring awareness to the process, by telling my children how much I like folding clothes because it gives me a chance to slow down, listen to a podcast, have a nice drink while I’m doing it, etc. My husband naturally has a positive disposition and a knack for making even the most mundane things fun, so I’ve definitely become more like him in this way, because it’s just so admirable and inspiring. As someone in their late twenties when we met, he’s made such an impression on me just by witnessing him that I can only imagine what a positive impact this sort of demonstration could have on a young child in their most impressionable years. 

Montessori Method of Teaching Cleaning A Practical Life Skills Approach

In addition to modeling the behavior we want to see, we also practice engaging the child and encouraging their participation. Children want to be with us, they just enjoy their time with us so much no matter what we’re doing. Any time spent together working collaboratively and learning valuable lessons will always be such a positive way to strengthen your bond and the parent-child relationship, which I believe is the foundation of a successful path for our children. So, we invite them to do what we’re doing. Whether that be tidying up the toys at the end of the day, spraying down the counters, putting clothes in or removing them out of the washer or dryer, loading the dishwasher, etc. They’ve really enjoyed our time together doing these things and we have found that they actually volunteer themselves to help most of the time now. It does require some extra time and can make the job a little longer or more challenging, but it can also be really challenging to NOT have their involvement and try to get things done while they’re needing you, wanting your attention to be elsewhere, getting into things, etc. So we’ve found that if we engage with them and involve them in our tasks, the experience overall is just so much more enjoyable and there’s so much being gained from it as well.

I’ll share what that can look like in a practical sense so you have a better idea of how we go about it and what it looks like. While doing laundry, we bring our stool into the laundry room and up to the machines, and I hand them pieces of clothing to put in the machine, and they like to get the settings set and the machine started, emptying the filter is a big one and so on. I’ll tell them sometimes about how it all works, why we do certain things like having dark colors all together, or we’ll talk about how the machine works. I let them know how much I enjoy and appreciate their help and how nice it feels to take such good care of the clothes that we love. We’re creating a positive experience around something that can often be seen as such a chore, which we’re hoping will have long lasting effects on them in their life and their view of doing the more mundane, but necessary things in life, by practicing practical life skills early on.

Montessori Method of Teaching Cleaning A Practical Life Skills Approach

When we’re cooking together in the kitchen, another activity that can be so much more easy going and enjoyable when you engage them rather than try to multitask cooking and engaging them outside of the kitchen, we also like to model the practice of ‘cleaning as you go’. So as we’re working through a recipe or just making our everyday meals, we bring awareness to how we’re putting away the jar after we’ve used it, or washing this dish while we wait for our food to heat up, etc. I’ll often ask them to bring something to the sink, ask if they could spray the counter for me, if they could put this thing back in the pantry, etc. This is about encouraging self-direction and independence. Once we’re done, we always make it a point to recognize how good it feels to have most of it cleaned up already and that we can enjoy our food without having a big mess to come back to. 

If we’re moving from one activity to another, let's say, I’ll remind them that it’ll be so nice to work on this puzzle once we have more space, so let’s get this train pieces put away to make more room for us to work with. I might ask if they could bring the train basket over or if they think the could get all the curved pieces and I could get the straight ones, etc. After its clear, I’ll mention how nice it is to care for our train set so well or how good it feels to have this big cleared out area now! The point is just to again, bring awareness to the effort and the reward in the outcome.

For tidying up toys, it’s been really fun to actually teach them about the foundations of organization and provide them with their own jobs to do within the greater goal we’re working towards as a team. We first approach a mess by determining our categories. If we’re in our son’s room, that will consist of - the cars, the train toys, the blocks, the magna-tiles, the animals, the people, etc. We make it fun and exciting sounding and determine who’s gonna do what category. We work through all of them and put them in their correlating “home”. My son has also enjoyed determining which of the bigger toys or stuffed animals will sleep with whom, and where they want to sleep. The “big trucks” often like to sleep together and maybe with a “baby truck” or two, and the soft baby animals may all like to sleep together for the night in a certain corner of the bed. I’ll engage with him in this and encourage more of this tidying/cozying by saying things like, “aw, he’s gunna feel so safe there with that big crane truck!” or “I bet they’re going to love that little basket to sleep in all night!”. Afterwards, I make it a point to bring awareness to how the space feels now that it’s so tidy, how nice it will be in the morning to enjoy such an open space, how much I enjoyed doing that with him and how “easy peezy” it was when we worked as a team, or used our categories, etc. He’s really reacted so positively to this and will say things like, “Oh, we forgot to tidy our room!”. 

Montessori Method of Teaching Cleaning A Practical Life Skills Approach

Again, it’s all about the connection and time spent together. When mixed with some awesome practical life skills application, it’s such a great investment of your time! I have really come to feel so much more empowered and rewarded in my role as a mother by taking the time to be intentional with my children in the way that we operate in and tend to our home. It’s not to say we never have any struggles trying to get things done, but those moments are really few and far between now that we’ve decided to have more of an involved dynamic between us. 

I hope that you find this helpful in your own home and that your day to day experiences can be enhanced by utilizing this Montessori method of teaching cleaning! Thanks for reading!

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