The Value of Work in the Life of a Child

“(Speaking of Maria Montessori) Montessori stressed the fact that the most important years of growth are the first six years of life.  During this time, what she thought of as ‘unconscious’ learning is gradually brought to the conscious level.  She also stressed the need for activity, explaining that the child has a deep love for purposeful work and a desire to accomplish work for its own sake rather than for profit or in order to complete a job.” — Language Experience for Nursery and Kindergarten Years by Gertrude B. Corcoran.

If we capture our children’s built in love for work when they are young, it is quite possible that we could train them up to be hard workers with good work ethics.  If we practice giving them work jobs when they are young, while they are still eager and curious, work can become a habit instead of drudgery.  In the process, we raise children who at a very early age have the skills they need that will transfer over into being able to complete a job. 

I know, this is a little confusing.  What’s the difference between purposeful work and a job?  In my house, it means I put the stool up at the sink and let Noah fill it up with soap, water, cups and spoons.  I walk away and let Noah explore the water on his own.    The purpose of the experience?  Fun, exposure to the elements of a future job.  Almost every time, Noah reaches for the sponges and has great fun “washing” the dishes.  But getting a clean set of dishes isn’t my expectation – YET.  Now, when he is 6 or 7, he will have already associated sink time with enjoyment, he will have already learned some technique for washing dishes, and he will have the desire to apply what he learned during water exploration to now complete a job I’ve assigned to him of washing the dishes. 

I find that process goes a lot smoother than trying to teach him to wash the dishes at his first exposure to the dishes in the sink the moment he is tall enough to do the work. 

Here’s our work  for today.

Activity:  Hammering.

Skills Practiced:

  1. Hand-eye coordination.
  2. Sorting.
  3. Fine Motor.
  4. Life Skills (hammering).

upplies:  Toy hammer, golf tees in at least two colors, floral craft foam, marbles.







Preparation:  Poke ten shallow holes in the craft foam with a golf tee.  Remove the tee after the hole is made.  These will be the holes your child will initially place the golf tee in to guide it as they hammer.


  1. Set out ten golf tees of at least two colors.  Have your child sort them by color. 

2.  Have your child select a tee and place it into the first hole of the floral foam.  Have them hammer it down until the widest part of the tee is about an inch off the base of the foam.

3.  Now, instruct your child to take the other tees, alternating colors, and repeat step 2 for the remaining holes.  Point out the alternating color pattern of the tees.  If your child is able, allow him to choose which color should come next.

4.  Direct your child to pick up the marbles one at a time and place them on the tees.  This is a bit tricky, but as long as the tees went in fairly straight, the marbles on the tees will work.  I don’t recommend a circular foam like what I used, because when I went to turn it so Noah could reach the remaining tees, all the marbles fell off.  A small rectangular piece of foam would have been better.  If you have marbles that match the colors of the tees, this is another opportunity to match colors.

When it comes time for Noah to learn to hammer a nail, he will already be familiar with the tools, the process and the outcome.  This is a powerful  way to equip our children to be capable, profitable members of our households and societies.  I want that for ALL my children.  What about you?


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