Montessori Self-Help Skills Part 1

Montessori Self-Help Skills Part 1

     As we begin this new school year and we have some new faces, I thought it would be appropriate to write my welcome back post on self-help skills.  I recently had a teacher ask me for advice on how to teach parents the skills that the kids should be working on and how to help them be successful.  That is a great question and one that has many answers.  To make this more understandable for all I will make a list of skills that they should be working on and how we work with them at our Montessori school based on their planes of development.  Every child is different, so it is also important to take into consideration individualization. 

1.   5 reasons why self-help skills are essential

a.     Children Learn by doing.
Research has shown us time and time again that children learn best through doing not by being told.  For children to learn how to do a task for themselves, we must allow them time to practice it and let them make their mistakes.   
b.     Children need and thrive on small successes
If you are constantly doing everything for your child, you aren’t giving them the opportunity to succeed on their own.  When they accomplish these little tasks, make sure to get excited about what they did.    
c.      Self-help skills are problem-solving skills
Sadly, the world we live in today is fast paced, and everyone wants everything instantly.  Because of this, we are losing our problem-solving skills.  Teaching children to do things themselves at a young age enables them to use problem solving and critical thinking skills.  These skills will be vital to life and will help them have greater executive functioning skills which will assist them in school as well. 
d.     Independence builds self-confidence!
Self-confidence doesn’t happen overnight.  You will notice as children get older their lack of confidence can hinder them in many ways.  It is our job to build them up and give them the skills they need to prepare them.  Once a child becomes for independent they will be more confident and ready to tackle the next task.
e.     Independence teaches them responsibility and breeds good habits.
We all want our children to be responsible and have good practices.  Unfortunately, in our fast and overscheduled lives, we don’t take the time to teach our kids how to become responsible.  This is why it is so important to learn these skills when they are small.  They will thank you, and you will thank yourself. 

    2.   Ages and Stages of Self-help Skills

a.     Self-help Skills for Babies (crawlers) to 12 months
            Tell you when all done eating with sign language
            Put shoes and socks away
            Put own bib in laundry basket
            Wash face and hands with a wipe
            Feed self, finger foods and a snack
            Hold a spoon and toothbrush
b.     Self-help Skills from 12-18 months
Wash hands and begin to make “bubble gloves.”
Start practicing dressing self with practical life lessons
Brush Teeth (with help)
Start brushing hair and doll hair
Drink from a lidless cup
Eat independently with a fork
c.      Self-Care Skills from 18 months- 2-year-olds
Take off pants/shorts with elastic waist
Learn how to put on and take off shirt
Continue washing hands and making bubble gloves almost independently
Put clothes in a drawer
Take off and put away shoes
Brush own hair
Hang up coat and look for name with picture
Begin family style eating with scoops and pouring small amounts
Use a napkin at meal times
Learn how to wipe up spills
After eating scrape plate in trash and put dishes in dish tub or sink
d.     Self-Care Skills for 3-year-olds
Begin dressing boards to practice using Snaps, zippers, and buttons
Dress self without snaps, zippers, and buttons
Put on coat, snow pants, hats and mittens
Put on shoes
Put away some of their own laundry in specified drawers.  (label for more direction)
Learn beginning cooking (measuring, pouring, mixing)
Begin pouring water/milk/juice from a pitcher
Wipe up own spills (keep small squares of shammy or towels within reach)
Family style eating which includes setting the table and serving self.
Learn first and last name and what town they live in
Fold socks and put away
Ask to be excused from table and push chair in
Once fully potty trained learn to wipe bottom correctly without assistance
e.     Self-Care Skills for 4-year-olds
Begin learning to tie shoes
Master the dressing boards
Put sheets on cots and fold blankets
Start learning more advanced cooking skills (cracking eggs alone, spreading butter and jam, cutting banana slices)
Learn to wash dishes
Learn to sweep and mop
Memorize phone number and address
Can wipe bottom correctly
f.      Self-Care Skills for 5-year-olds
 Learn emergency numbers and what to do in case of a fire
 Master dressing independently
                 Brush hair independently
                 Brush teeth independently
      Replace toilet paper roll if finished
      Understand and choose weather appropriate clothing
      Master tying shoes
      Learn the food plate and how to make healthy food choices
      Use the sink to wash fruits, veggies, plates, cups
      Learn how to use microwave (with supervision)
      Learn more cooking skills (peeling vegetables, chopping ingredients with safe knife)
      Learn how to place small items in oven using mitts (with supervision)

This blog post is part one of two.  Part two will go into ideas and tips for teaching self-help skills.  I also want to hear from all of you on what you would like to know.  I have thousands of pictures of works, classroom environments, lessons and parent tips.  The hardest part for me is deciding what to write on. 


  1. This is definitely an incredibly rich resource that you have spent so much valuable time developing, I'll recommend it to parents at our school as well as link to it in our Montessori Resources section so that our teachers can take a look. Thanks! Check us out too at C'e Montessori School in Brooklyn

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