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Practical Life for Toddlers -- Making a Sandwich

I think there is a misconception with toddlers that they are these chaotic human being incapable of independence and concentration. In the Montessori world, we know differently. We understand that toddlers are amazingly capable when given the skills and environment to foster them. This is often done with toddlers through practical life. Practical life for toddlers can mean so many things, so I want to share some of the ways that she {at 2.75-years-old/33months} is involved with practical activities. 

Toddlers are capable of so many practical activities. Making a sandwich is a simple practical life activity for Montessori toddlers at home.

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I'm going to start with lunch! Nora makes her own lunch nearly every day. Food preparation is an excellent place for toddlers to become actively involved in your daily lives. Now, our lunches are not complicated, nor extensive. So, its not a difficult task for either of us to foster that independence at this time. Breakfast tends to be a little bit hangry, and dinner a little hectic {although she often plays a role at these times too}. But, lunch is that happy middle ground where we both can relax a bit and she can take full control. 

Toddler Sandwich Making 

But, what does this mean practically? First, it means that I prepare the environment. Toddlers are not often ready to control their own proportions. Using a small plate and small dish help to keep the process easy and organized for the toddler. So the adult can prepare that step, but placing those proportions in an accessible location. For Nora, this is in her kitchen. This is the only part where I am an active participant, at this point. 

Next, the toddler can gather tools. For a simple sandwich this means something to spread and something to cut. We use simple spreaders for this task that are also stored in her kitchen. If a toddler was just starting out, the adult could also place the spreader with the food. 

Toddlers are capable of so many practical activities. Making a sandwich is a simple practical life activity for Montessori toddlers at home.

At first, you can show your toddler how to spread. This is a skill that a toddler as young as 12 months could start working on. A small pad of butter or jam on a roll is a good place to start. If you want to start with lunch, then you will need to demonstrate how to spread. Do this by making slow sweeping motions, focusing only on the motions and not on explaining. I always allow Nora to place as much of the food on her bread as she wants. So she could use all of it, or not. That's her choice. 

Also, accept that it won't be perfect! That's OK, it will still taste great! 

Finally, focus on how to complete the sandwich, whether that is placing another piece of bread on top, folding it in half, or cutting in half. Nora only eats one piece of bread so she either cuts or folds, her choice. Her cutting knife is also accessible to her in her kitchen. 

In these pictures, Nora is making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, the same process applies to any sandwich. Other options that she frequently makes include lunch meat, chicken, tuna, or egg salad sandwiches. In these cases, she may be spreading or layering, whatever the meal calls for. 

Toddlers are capable of so many practical activities. Making a sandwich is a simple practical life activity for Montessori toddlers at home.

The important step is just giving her the tools, space, and time to act on her own!  

Does your child make his/her own lunch? What practical activities is your 2-year-old engaged in? 


Those pictures are priceless, she looks so determined and pleased :). I think it's so ironic that children are so often given pretend cooking/cleaning toys, but no real opportunity to help in the way they want to. I can't wait to do food prep with my son when he's older!

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