Thursday, April 17, 2008

Montessori Classroom Practical Life Activities: The Montessori Dressing Frame

NAMC Montessori Classroom Practical Life Activities girl working with Montessori Dressing Frame
Last weekend, while shopping at a large chain bookstore, I came across several books on the bargain rack that were designed to help children gain independence by practicing the skills necessary for learning to dress themselves. Excited, I opened the books, only to be disappointed. Sure, they were colorful, slick, board books with popular TV cartoon personalities as the star of the 'show'. However, the practical exercises for the children were lacking. Not all clothing fasteners were presented in each book. One even had a permanently tied shoe that the children could touch, but not try for themselves. I found myself thinking of the completeness and beauty of the Montessori Dressing Frames.

One of the practical life activities that really stands out in a primary Montessori classroom is the rack of dressing frames. The purpose of the dressing frames is to build concentration, coordination and control of movement, all the while encouraging children to become more independent as they learn to care for themselves.

There are several types of dressing frames:

Montessori Classroom Practical Life Activities: The Montessori Dressing Frame

NAMC Montessori Classrooom Practical Life Activities Montessori Dressing Frame
  • Zipping Frame
  • Bow Frame
  • Buttoning (large buttons) Frame
  • Buttoning (small buttons) Frame
  • Lacing Frame
  • Velcro Frame
  • Buckling Frame
  • Hook and Eye Frame
  • Snapping Frame
  • Safety Pin Frame

These may be displayed in a small box with each frame stacked one in front of the other or vertically on a stand. Children as young as 2 ½ or 3 are able to learn how to zip a zip and button and unbutton buttons. As the child has more coordination and control of movement, these become easier and they move on to more challenging frames, such as tying or buckling.

NAMC Montessori Classrooom Practical Life Activities Montessori Dressing Frame
  • The teacher invites the child to the dressing frame stand and introduces a particular dressing frame, saying "This is the zip dressing frame".
  • The teacher models how to carry the dressing frame to the selected work area. The teacher places the dressing frame in front of the child.
  • The teacher demonstrates how to unzip by placing the left hand on the left side of the flap and pulling the zipper head down with the right thumb and index finger.
  • The teacher then shows the child how to zip up by placing the left hand right at the bottom of the zip, holding both the flaps down. She then pulls the zip head up with the right thumb and index finger of.
  • After the lesson is complete, the teacher shows the child how to take the frame and place it back on the dressing frame stand.

Dr. Montessori believed that "Any child who is self-sufficient, who can tie his shoes, dress or undress himself, reflects in his joy and sense of achievement the image of human dignity, which is derived from a sense of independence." The child who is able to say "I did it all by myself" has a feeling of joy and accomplishment and a sense of belonging in his world. NAMC's Preschool/Kindergarten program includes a Practical Life curriculum with a section on Dressing Frames.
As much as possible, NAMC’s web blog reflects the Montessori curriculum as provided in its teacher training programs. We realize and respect that Montessori schools are unique and may vary their schedules and offerings in accordance with the needs of their individual communities. We hope that our readers will find our articles useful and inspiring as a contribution to the global Montessori community.
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Thursday, April 17, 2008.


  1. The best part is to see the smile on a 4-year-old who can successfully tie her own shoe lace after abt 6 mths of practice!

  2. It's all part of that wonderful phrase, "Look! I can do it all by myself!"


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