5 Curriculum Areas of the Montessori Classroom

Practical Life

The practical life exercises seem to be the most popular activities, regardless of age!  These activities include care of self, care for the environment and grace & courtesy.  Montessori considers practical life exercises of equal importance to academic exercises.  Many of them help prepare the child for academic exercises by aiding in the development of fine and gross motor skills, concentration, sequential thinking, self-control, self-awareness, confidence and more!  They also aid the development of the whole child and in caring for themselves, their environment and the world.

Below you will find three different areas that Montessori considers “practical life”, along with examples of related exercises.

Care of Self

  • Dressing (the Montessori dressing frames)
  • Clothes folding
  • Putting on a coat
  • Putting on shoes
  • Hand washing
  • Snack preparation and food work
  • Setting a table
  • Pouring a glass of water
  • Exercise
  • Rest

Care of Environment

  • Table washing
  • Window washing
  • Floor washing
  • Metal polishing
  • Wood polishing
  • Leaf polishing
  • Care of plants
  • Flower arranging
  • Pouring (dry and wet)
  • Sponging
  • Hammering
  • Scissors
organized cabinet at preschool

Grace & Courtesy

  • Greeting someone
  • Shaking hands
  • Eye contact
  • Making introductions
  • Please and thank you
  • Getting someone’s attention
  • Expressing thanks
  • Asking for permission
  • Asking for help
  • Listening to directions
  • Respecting others’ boundaries
  • Table etiquette
  • Taking turns
  • Hosting someone
  • Offering someone something
  • Offering someone help
  • Showing compassion
  • Conflict resolution and peace keeping


The Montessori materials were the first materials Dr. Montessori developed for children in her care. They are designed to help children refine the nine senses. The nine senses are: visual, tactile, auditory, olfactory, gustatory, thermic, baric, stereognostic, and muscular. The exercises give children a means to classify and categorize the world around them while also developing their concentration, sense of order and cognitive abilities.

Materials for touching and feeling include: fabrics, rough and smooth wood tablets, thermic tablets to feel temperature differences of various surfaces. Texture tables may display containers with different grains, leaves, sand, clay, and flour, etc. To refine sight, materials will be different shapes (cubes, triangles, rods, cylinders). Materials to refine hearing may include the sound cylinders, bells and simple musical instruments. Materials to refine smell may include the smelling bottles.

toys organized at preschool

The handling of the sensorial materials also give children the necessary skills needed for the academic exercises, for example, strengthening the pincer grasp (needed to hold a pencil) and refining the sense of hearing (which will aid in distinguishing phonetic sounds).

The language and mathematics areas of the classroom also incorporate sensorial learning (i.e. sandpaper letters or number rods).


In Montessori, children always progress from concrete materials to abstract thought. In math, this means that children are presented with quantities before symbols. A child will see, feel and hold the quantities of 1-10 through the number rods (blue and red rods) first. Later, they will be introduced to sandpaper numbers. Then, using the spindle box (a box with compartments labeled with the numbers 1-10 and accompanying spindles which should be counted and put in the appropriate compartment), they will learn to associate quantities with their symbols, giving them a full understanding of the numbers 1-10.

toys put away at preschool
young girl learning with letters at preschool


The Montessori language materials are designed to include as many opportunities for concrete learning as possible. They aim to refine listening skills, comprehension, vocabulary, and reading and writing skills. 

Children work with sound pouches, which contain small objects that start with an accompanying phonetic sound. For example, the “s” pouch will contain the following objects: sea star, snake, socks, etc.   They learn the symbols associated with phonetic sounds through handling the sandpaper letters, and then move on to the moveable alphabet.  Children will match written words to objects. They will explore nouns, articles, adjectives and verbs using a model farm with animals and people. They will then gradually progress to more abstract language activities.

Cultural Studies

The Montessori culture and science curriculum encompasses geography, history, zoology, botany, art, music and science. Incorporated into the classroom are real objects, many of which are found in nature, whenever possible. Rather than looking at pictures of seeds, for example, the teacher might bring seeds into the classroom. The geography area does not permit the use of real objects, but incorporates sensorial experiences into learning, such as the sandpaper globe.  Cultural geography is also explored, with the aim for children to appreciate the diverse global community they are a part of and to understand their place in it.

organization at preschool

In addition to these 5 areas, visitors to our classroom may notice other materials which are not Montessori, but which satisfy state licensing requirements for equipment and materials.  Our before and after care programs also utilize some traditional materials and activities.


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