Dr Maria Montessori believed that Practical Life activities are extremely meaningful. Learning how to perform a life skill not only refines motor movement but teaches something that can be used throughout life. One of the best activities to incorporate into a Practical Life lesson is sewing. There are many ways to teach basic and advanced sewing skills to Montessori students.
Why Sewing is Ideal For the Montessori Classroom
You may be wondering why sewing is included in the Montessori curriculum. Sewing is a unique skill that is far more interactive than just at the desk, listening to a seminar. Furthermore, sewing provides a visual milestone for children to see their progress. In the beginning, the stitching that they do is very simple and straightforward. Later, children learn advanced embroidery techniques.
Sewing is also a self-correcting activity. For example, if the child is following a pattern to make a shape, they will see when they made an error. From there, they must think about how to correct the mistake. Sewing prompts critical thinking, just as much as it refines hand-eye coordination.
Children love creating things, and when they can make a small pouch or burlap patches for a quilt, for example, they feel competent and confident. They soon recognize that if a button falls off of their shirt, they can sew it back on easily without needing to ask an adult for help.
Sewing Ideas to Try in the Montessori Classroom
Sewing is an excellent activity that will occupy a child for as long as they want. Preschoolers and older can begin learning how to sew with the ideas below:
Wooden Board Sewing
Montessori classrooms utilize learning boards often. For example, there are sorting boards, shoe lacing boards, and also wooden sewing boards. This item is an excellent way to introduce sewing to younger children (3 years and older), as no needles are required to perform the activity.
The item is shaped like a t-shirt and has two rows of double holes down the front. The children use the item to sew buttons onto the shirt with thicker string or yarn. Using the wooden board gives them a visual of how to organize the stitches so that the back of the shirt is just as neat as the front.
Using the wooden board to sew develops hand-eye coordination and concentration, as children need to be patient to line up the thread to the holes correctly. The outcome is tactile and visible, giving children a sense of accomplishment after completion.
Another object that can be used at home or the classroom is a sewing paddle. This item is made of wood and has about a dozen evenly spaced holes. Since the holes are large enough, children don’t have to worry about threading a needle. Yarn is used to work through the holes, sewing on buttons or creating a pattern. Children learn how to sew on buttons using simple or complex stitching, such as single, double, or cross-stitch, depending on how far along their skills are.
Plastic Canvas Shapes
A plastic canvas is a wonderful medium for beginners. The rigid structure of the plastic makes it easy to hold, and the plastic is woven into a grid-like pattern that gives a clear visual template for stitching. Plastic canvas also comes in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. You can find coasters, hearts, boxes, sleep masks, cases, pouches, and more online.
Depending on the skill of the children, you can start simple. Introduce coasters and let them use any color thread they want to fill in the grid. Later on, you can give them an image to try and recreate, such as four squares of color, or a cupcake. Find shapes that correspond with seasons or holidays or animals for added educational value.
Sewing Onto Paper
This one requires some prep. Section out bookmark-sized rectangles on craft paper and draw the same dotted line pattern on each rectangle. This can be a straight line or one with loops and waves. Then laminate the paper, cut out the bookmarks, and instruct the children to stitch along the lines, adding beads to each stitch. This is a fun way for them to create something they can use at home.
The smaller stitches and beading teaches hand-eye coordination, fine motor movement, and perception of length. They learn how to control the direction of the thread, as well.
This is a project for children who are comfortable with threading a needle, as they will need to be able to puncture the laminated paper.
Here is a fun project for younger students who still aren’t confident with a needle. Take construction paper and cut the pieces in half. You should have two sheets lined up. Use a hole puncher to make a clean line of several holes on the two shorter ends of the paper. Then instruct the children to thread yarn through the holes so that they will be able to open their pouches.
They will need to be able to cross the yarn over and create a knot. Keep the yarn long enough to act as a purse strap, so they can wear their creation.
Optionally, this can be done with thinner fabric or felt. You will need an awl to punch the holes through the fabric, but the end result would be much longer lasting than a pouch made of paper.
Stitching Borders Around Shapes
As the children show more competence with sewing, you can offer more advanced lessons on embroidery. You will need burlap squares, sewing needles, and thicker thread in multiple colors. Trace shapes of animals, dinosaurs, or everyday objects onto the burlap squares.
The first step is to have the children create an outline of the image. As they become more advanced, you can draw more complex images with more detail. Soon, they will be embroidering full pictures.
Sewing in the Montessori classroom or at home is a great way to occupy a child’s mind and teach them something useful. There are many projects out there for young children that you can put a unique spin on. Hopefully, you now have some ideas for sewing projects or have been inspired to make up something of your own!