Staying Healthy and Happy: Practical Life Activities for a Cold and Flu Season in the Montessori Preschool Classroom

As the winter months roll in, so too does the inevitable cold and flu season, bringing with it the sniffles, coughs, and sneezes into our preschool and kindergarten classrooms. In a Montessori environment, where the focus is on hands-on learning and independence, cold and flu season presents a unique opportunity for educators to incorporate practical life activities that not only engage young learners but also equip them with essential skills to maintain health and wellness.

A change of seasons brings a whole kaleidoscope of new emotions, feelings, colors, excitement, and anticipation. Changes in nature create a unique atmosphere in classrooms and call for new adventures and learning opportunities.

However, it also means that our bodies have to adjust as well. In autumn and winter, there is less sun exposure, less time spent outdoors, the immune system is not as strong. All these factors bring on challenges of the cold and flu season.

Below are some Montessori-inspired activities that can help your little ones navigate this sniffly season while fostering a love for self-care and community responsibility.

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The challenge is especially real in places like schools and childcare centers, where children come in close contact with each other. Many parents try their best to keep children at home when they are unwell; however, runny noses and coughs are common in the classroom and impossible to avoid during these times.

Children unknowingly spread germs when they touch furniture, materials, and toys. I always believed that the best way to battle these difficulties is to be prepared. When energy levels are down, there are multiple ways to use Practical Life activities in the classroom and at home to help children and adults become more resilient and help fight anything that might try to bring them down.

I’ve thought of a few simple solutions that can be easily implemented in the Practical Life area to assist you during the cold and flu season.

First of all, it is essential to present to children relevant Grace and Courtesy lessons on how to:

  • use tissues to wipe the nose and dispose of dirty ones properly
  • wash hands
  • cover mouth when coughing

Nose Blowing Exercise: Teach the children the proper way to blow their noses using tissue paper. Provide a box of tissues at their level and demonstrate the technique. Encourage them to use a tissue whenever they feel the need to blow their nose and remind them to dispose of the used tissue in the trash bin immediately.

Coughing Etiquette: Explain to the children the importance of covering their mouths and noses when they cough or sneeze. Encourage them to cough into their elbows or use a tissue to cover their mouth and nose. Reinforce this behavior by modeling it yourself and providing gentle reminders when necessary.

Hand washing station

Since this method of washing hands is not relevant anymore, handwashing activity is not found in many Montessori classrooms. Nevertheless, it is a great way to emphasize the importance of keeping children’s hands clean.

It’s no secret that handwashing is vital in preventing the spread of germs. A Montessori classroom can turn this everyday necessity into a fun and educational experience. Demonstrate the process step by step, explaining the importance of using soap and warm water, scrubbing between fingers and under nails, and rinsing thoroughly. Use a song or a timer to ensure kids are washing for the recommended 20 seconds. Allow each child to practice, making it an ingrained habit.

Additionally, this activity has a calming effect on children and encourages them to clean their hands and nails very thoroughly.  Plus, the old-style pitcher and bowl look gorgeous in the classroom setting. If you are not sure where to find a set, I suggest visiting your local opp shop. On a side note, I would recommend placing nail brushes for cleaning nails on the bathroom sinks as well.

Step-by-step description of handwashing Practical Life Montessori activity with wash bowl and water pitcher

  • Set up the wash bowl and water pitcher on a tray or a low table in a designated area. Make sure the basin is filled with warm water, and the water pitcher is filled with clean water.
  • Invite the child to sit comfortably at the table and explain the purpose of the activity, emphasizing the importance of cleanliness and personal hygiene.
  • Show the child how to carefully pick up the wash bowl using both hands, ensuring a firm grip on the sides, and carry it to the designated washing area.
  • Place the wash bowl on a towel or a mat to prevent any spillage and to keep the area clean.
  • Demonstrate how to pour water from the water pitcher into the wash bowl, filling it about three-quarters full. Encourage the child to pour the water slowly and gently to avoid splashing.
  • Show the child how to hold the nail brush properly, using a pincer grasp with the thumb and index finger. Explain that the nail brush is used to clean the nails and hands thoroughly.
  • Dip the nail brush into the water in the wash bowl, allowing it to get wet.
  • Demonstrate how to hold one hand over the wash bowl, palm facing down, and use the nail brush to scrub the nails and fingertips thoroughly.
  • Encourage the child to imitate the action, showing them how to brush each nail individually and pay attention to the areas surrounding the nails.
  • After brushing one hand, instruct the child to switch hands and repeat the process on the other hand.
  • Once both hands have been cleaned, show the child how to rinse the nail brush by dipping it back into the wash bowl. Shake off any excess water and put the brush aside.
  • Demonstrate how to use both hands to carefully grasp the wash bowl on the sides, lift it up, and pour the used water into a designated area (e.g., a sink or a bucket).
  • Encourage the child to repeat the pouring process, ensuring they have a firm grip on the wash bowl. Remind them to pour slowly and steadily to avoid any accidents.
  • Once the used water has been emptied, guide the child to carry the wash bowl back to its original position on the tray or table.
  • Lastly, show the child how to use a towel or paper towel to dry their hands thoroughly, including between the fingers and the back of the hands.
  • Encourage the child to carefully place the towel or paper towels aside after use and tidy up the washing area, ensuring it is clean and dry.
  • Thank the child for their participation, emphasizing the importance of practicing good hygiene habits regularly.
Germs and hygiene printables

Germs and Hygiene Pack

Furniture washing activity

Here is another example of how children can help you to keep your classroom free of germs. Keep in mind that all water activities with soap that are done indoors (in opposition to verandah or porch) have the potential to become very messy and floors become very slippery. So just be prepared.

Table washing is a popular Practical Life activity in the Montessori classroom. It teaches children care of the environment, sequence of steps, concentration, coordination, and independence. Here’s a step-by-step guide to the Montessori table-washing activity:

Materials needed:

  • A small, child-size table
  • A basin or bucket for water
  • A pitcher for pouring water
  • A sponge or washcloth
  • A scrub brush (optional)
  • Soap (bar or liquid)
  • A small container for the soap if using a bar
  • A waterproof apron or smock for the child
  • Two towels – one for drying the table and another for drying hands and possibly the floor
  • A tray to hold washing materials (optional)

Steps:

Preparation:

  • Children don an apron to protect their clothing.
  • Place all the materials on a tray or in the order they will be used on a shelf.
  • Invite the child to participate in the activity, showing them where everything is located.

Setting Up:

  • Guide the child in carrying the basin, pitcher, and other materials one by one to the table.
  • Fill the pitcher with a manageable amount of water for the child.
  • Place the basin on the table, and organize the materials neatly next to it.

Wetting the Table:

  • The child pours water from the pitcher into the basin.
  • Then, the child dips the sponge into the water and squeezes it out over the table to wet it.

Applying Soap:

  • Show the child how to apply soap to the sponge.
  • Let the child wipe the table with the soapy sponge, covering the entire surface.

Scrubbing:

  • If there are any stubborn spots, demonstrate using the brush to scrub gently.
  • Allow the child to scrub the table focusing on any marks or stains.

Rinsing:

  • Once the table is washed, pour water over the suds to rinse the table (the child may require help tipping the pitcher).
  • Use a clean sponge to wipe away soapy water if needed.

Drying:

  • Hand the child a towel to dry the table.
  • Let the child dry the entire surface, checking for any missed spots.

Tidying Up:

  • Guide the child in wringing out and rinsing the sponges and placing them in the basin or on the tray.
  • If the towel is wet, hang it up or place it in a designated spot for laundry.
  • Return the clean and dry materials to the tray or shelf.

Completing the Activity:

  • Encourage the child to check the table to see if it’s clean and dry.
  • After inspection and approval, guide the child to take off the apron.

Floor Cleaning (if necessary):

Teach the child to wipe up any water spills on the floor with a spare towel, ensuring safety and care for the environment.

Remember that the adult’s role is to present the activity, demonstrate slowly and clearly, and then allow the child to perform the task independently, repeating it as often as they like to gain mastery. As children gain competence, they can be encouraged to initiate and complete the activity on their own with less supervision, consolidating their independence and skill.

Food preparation

There are many examples of food preparation activity trays with healthy whole food choices that do a fantastic job of keeping those little bodies strong and healthy. These are the top fruits and vegetables that are rich in nutrients: berries, citrus fruits, kiwi, apples, red grapes, kale, onions, spinach, sweet potatoes, and carrots.

Some examples of Practical Life activities that can assist in supporting healthy immunity:

  • crushing garlic (you need to warn children not to rub their eyes with garlic juice). Children may like to spread a tiny bit of the crushed garlic on bread and butter. Some children don’t mind a bit of spicy taste in their food.
  • making butter
  • grating carrot, cucumber
  • grating cinnamon to sprinkle on toast with honey
  • making a snack with celery sticks, cream cheese, and raises (ants on a log)

If you are looking for proper kitchen utensils and child-sized tools, I recommend visiting Montessori Services or the Amazon website.

Tea pouring activity

In Montessori education, practical life activities are designed to teach children everyday skills that foster independence, coordination, concentration, and a sense of responsibility. The Tea Pouring activity is a classic Montessori Practical Life exercise that helps develop fine motor control, hand-eye coordination, and grace and courtesy.

Children love sharing a cuppa with their friends and having a small chat. I suggest setting up a pouring activity where children can have a cup of tea and invite a friend to join.

You will need to prepare tea in a teapot in advance making sure it is warm but not hot. Many herbal teas have wonderful properties and do not contain caffeine, for example, Chamomile Tea, Peppermint Tea, and Rooibos Tea.

Here’s a step-by-step description of the Tea Pouring activity:

Preparation:

  • Choose a child-sized table and chair that the child will be comfortable working at.
  • Assemble all necessary materials: a small tray, a teapot filled with water (you can use colored water to mimic tea if you’d like to avoid staining), two small tea cups, a spoon, a small jug for milk (optional), a bowl for sugar (optional), a sponge or cloth for cleaning spills, and a mat or towel for absorbing any spills.

Introduction:

  • Invite the child to join you for a tea pouring activity.
  • Carry the tray with all the materials to the table, modeling how to carry it with care and balance.

Presentation:

  • Sit down with the child and place the tray on the table in front of you.
  • Arrange the items on the tray neatly: place the teapot on one side and the cups in front.
  • If using milk and sugar, set them up within easy reach.

Demonstration:

  • Slowly demonstrate how to pour the tea by holding the teapot with one hand and the lid with the other (if necessary).
  • Gently tilt the teapot over the first cup and pour the water into the cup until it is about three-quarters full, then repeat for the second cup.
  • If adding milk, demonstrate how to spoon sugar into the cup and pour milk, if desired.

Allowing the child to practice:

  • Invite the child to try pouring the tea themselves.
  • Encourage the child to take their time and be precise.
  • Remind them to pour only until the cup is three-quarters full to prevent spills.

Practicing grace and courtesy:

  • If the activity is being done with more than one child, teach them how to offer a cup of tea to a friend politely and how to say “please” and “thank you.”

Tidying up:

  • After the child has had enough practice, show them how to clean up any spills with the sponge or cloth.
  • Guide the child to pour any unused water back into the pitcher or a waste container if necessary.
  • Encourage the child to place all items back on the tray and carry it back to the storage area.

Throughout the entire process, it’s important to maintain a calm and positive demeanor, allowing the child to take their time and to correct their own mistakes whenever possible. The Montessori philosophy emphasizes “control of error,” which means that the child can identify and correct their own mistakes without direct adult intervention. This empowers them to be independent and builds their self-confidence.

Caring for a plant

The Watering Plants activity is an essential part of the Practical Life area in a Montessori classroom. This activity helps children develop care for their environment, coordination, a sense of order, and independence.

It is hard to imagine a Montessori classroom without plants and flowers. Having plants in the classroom for children to take care of brings many health benefits along with the benefit of teaching children to be gentle and caring towards living things.

Incorporating plants into the classroom setting can offer numerous health benefits for students. Plants act as natural air purifiers, absorbing toxins and carbon dioxide while releasing oxygen, which can enhance air quality and potentially improve cognitive function through increased oxygen availability. The presence of greenery can also reduce stress and anxiety levels, promote a sense of well-being, and improve mood, which can facilitate a more positive learning environment. Additionally, the interaction with plants may bolster responsibility and caring behavior in students as they take part in maintaining the plants, and can serve as a hands-on educational tool for subjects like biology and environmental science.

Below is a step-by-step description of how you can present the Watering Plants activity to children according to Montessori principles:

Materials Needed:

  • A child-sized watering can
  • A small pitcher for refilling the watering can
  • A basin or sink for refilling the pitcher
  • A sponge or cloth for wiping spills
  • A tray to carry the materials (optional)
  • Several indoor plants that need watering

Setup:

  • Ensure that the plants that need to be watered are accessible to the child.
  • Fill the pitcher with water and place it on the tray along with the watering can and the sponge or cloth.
  • Position the filled tray in the designated area where activities are chosen by the children.
  • Teach the child where to refill the pitcher (basin or sink) when required.

Presentation:

  1. Invite the child to the activity, showing interest and enthusiasm for caring for plants.
  2. Show the child the tray with the materials and invite them to carry it to the area where the plants are.

Step by Step Instructions:

Model how to check the soil moisture before watering:

  • Insert a finger gently into the soil near the edge of the pot.
  • Assess whether the soil feels dry or moist.

Demonstrate how to pour water carefully into the watering can from the pitcher, if not already filled.

Show the child how to grasp the handle of the watering can with one hand and support the spout with the other hand.

Guide the child in gently watering the plant by tipping the watering can to release a steady stream of water on the soil, not the leaves.

Instruct the child to observe the water level in the pot to ensure they don’t overwater it.

If water starts to overflow from the bottom of the pot, encourage the child to stop watering and allow the plant to soak up the water.

Demonstrate how to use the sponge or cloth to clean any water that has spilled on the floor or on the tray.

When finished, walk with the child to refill the watering can or pitcher if necessary and return the materials to their designated places on the shelf or tray.

Invite the child to observe how the plants look after being watered (they might stand taller, look fresher, etc.) and encourage them to express any observations.

As with all Montessori activities, it’s important to allow children to repeat the process as often as they like, offering assistance only if needed. Over time, the child will develop greater confidence and skill in caring for plants. Lessons on plant care, such as the amount of water required and how often to water, can be incorporated to enhance the child’s understanding and responsibility towards the task.

Making gummy snacks

This activity is more suitable for the home environment, since preparing gummy snacks requires a fair amount of adult supervision and assistance, especially with young children.

However, it is a pretty congenial solution if your children are defiant when it comes to taking vitamins and supplements. We’ve made gummy snacks at home following this recipe, and kids thoroughly enjoyed filling in different shapes of silicone molds with the mixture.

Proper rest and meditation –  Silence game –  is a wonderful way to strengthen and calm the body and mind

The Montessori method often includes activities to help children develop self-awareness, control, and calmness, all of which can indirectly support overall well-being and potentially boost immune system strength through reduced stress. One such Montessori activity is the Silence Game, which can help children learn to appreciate stillness and quiet. While this activity is not designed specifically to boost immune strength, reducing stress and promoting mindfulness can have beneficial effects on health.

Here is a step-by-step description of how to conduct a Silence Game in a Montessori setting:

Introduction:

Preparation:

  • Prepare a comfortable, clutter-free space in the classroom. You may include cushions or mats for children to sit on.
  • Make sure the environment is organized and peaceful, minimizing potential distractions.
  • Choose a time when the class is naturally calmer, such as after a story or lunch.

Set Expectations:

  • Explain the rules clearly to the children: they are to remain as quiet as possible, listen to the sounds of the room and their own breathing, and avoid making unnecessary movements.
  • Discuss with the children the ways they can be silent, including moving quietly and using soft voices if they need to speak.

Signal Start:

  • Introduce a signal to start the game, such as ringing a soft bell or turning off the lights.

Participation:

  • Encourage the children to sit or lie comfortably with their eyes closed or focused on a single point.
  • Guide them through a few deep breaths to help them relax and get into a calm state of mind.

Observation:

  • Quietly walk around the room to ensure that all children are participating and doing their best to be quiet.
  • Use gentle gestures or soft whispers to redirect any child who is having difficulty with the activity.

Increase Awareness:

  • During the silence, suggest quietly to the children to pay attention to different sounds they can hear, such as birds chirping outside or their own heartbeat.

Closure:

  • After a few minutes, signal the end of the Silence Game with the same signal used to start, like ringing the bell gently again or turning the lights back on.
  • Encourage children to slowly open their eyes and take a couple more deep breaths before they move or start talking.

Discussion:

  • Have a group discussion about what the children heard and how they felt during the game.
  • Ask them to reflect on the experience and whether they found it easy or difficult to be silent.
  • Emphasize the positive feelings associated with silence and the importance of finding quiet moments in their everyday life.

Reinforcement:

Encourage the children to practice silence at home and explain how it can help them find peace and calm when they feel overwhelmed or need to rest.

While the Silence Game focuses more on mental and emotional well-being rather than the physical immune system, maintaining a state of calm and reducing stress can improve overall health, which may indirectly contribute to a stronger immune system.

And remember, hugs have amazing healing properties for all human beings. Share them generously when you can!

resources you might find helpful in your classroom

About Anastasia - Anastasia is an early childhood teacher and the founder of Montessori Nature - a blog about Montessori living and learning and nature-based explorations. With many years of experience working in a Montessori environment and homeschooling her children, she directed her passion for all things Montessori and nature into creating educational resources. You can learn more here and browse her printables on Teachers Pay Teachers.

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