Sweeping -- Montessori Young Toddler Week 3

Practical life is at the cornerstone of Montessori life for young children. They thrive on these practical experiences in such an amazing way. Young toddlers, in particular, strive to be active contributing members of their family - their community. And, it's surprising just how young this desire really starts to show. 

Early sweeping with a young Montessori toddler or baby - 3 things to keep in mind when starting practical life work

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This past week Augustus has started to try to sweep purposefully. We do a fair amount of sweeping around here, with three kids and a bunch of dogs, so this is not a new or unfamiliar task for him. But, even I was kind of surprised by his attempts. This is the first practical life work he has done to prepare the environment -- he has done many self-care tasks since birth. 

But, this is different, this is community. This is us as a family. This is him working for himself and for others. Now, admittedly, he is no good at sweeping! But, he will get there over time. And right here, right now, this is the first building block. This is that first tiny step. 

Early Sweeping

So, what have we done and are we doing to support this early practical life work? 


First, we are providing the right tools. You may notice that Gus is using a hand broom. It is similar to this hand broom, but we bought it at a local shop. Gus is not walking-walking yet. He is taking more and more steps each day but crawling is still his main mode of transportation. So, obviously a large handled broom isn't going to work. But, it's not any hand broom either. You can see Nora in the background working with a different one

Gus' broom is different in a few ways. One the bristles are larger making the sweeping motions much easier and making the broom over all more effective with less precise motion. Also, its made of natural materials, which I like since he still mouths. Nora's, on the other hand, is excellent, precise, and does a great job for the very real real work that 3-year-olds need.  


Next, we have made the environment available to Augustus. We have the broom on a low shelf that he can access at any time. We also allow him to explore that environment at will. We model using a broom around him, involving him in our daily lives. And we don't interrupt him when he is working with a practical life material -- even if that means just holding it, or exploring it on the shelf. With that exploration done, it frees him to actually work with the material when the desire comes. He already knows where the broom is, what it feels like, how it moves, and suddenly he is ready to make sweeping a reality. 

Real Work

Last, we make this real! Gus is sweeping the floor when he feels like he wants to sweep the floor, when he sees me doing it, when he sees Nora. THIS IS REAL WORK. Resist the urge, friends, to buy this broom and then dump a bunch of pom-poms on the floor for your baby/toddler. Toddlers don't need that fake experience. They may attempt to sweep for a moment, then either walk away or throw the fake mess everywhere. No, real real real real real! Make it real. Give them the opportunity to contribute, to practice when there is a real mess or when they feel like it.

Early sweeping with a young Montessori toddler or baby - 3 things to keep in mind when starting practical life work

Have you noticed your young toddler's desire to perform practical life? What was his/her first practical life work? 



  1. Thank you so much for your blog and all the great information you are sharing! I love each of your blog posts :)
    I have a question about Nora's care of the environment - do you insist on her cleaning after herself. I don't with my son. He's 4 and it seems like he's interested in doing something for some period of time as he is learning and then he doesn't want to use the skill. He will clean after himself from time to time, but not even 50% of the time.


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