12 Activities Where Children Can Use Maximum Effort - The Montessori Room
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by Laura Berthiaume March 14, 2022 2 min read

Have you noticed that your child seems to get enjoyment out of hard, physical work, things like carrying a watering can full of water, pulling a wagon, or moving furniture?

This is what Dr. Montessori referred to as Maximum Effort. 

This is when the child is engaged in “heavy work”, their efforts are heightened and they appear determined and focused.

“The child does not follow the law of the least effort, but a law directly contrary. He uses an immense amount of energy over an unsubstantial end, and he spends, not only driving energy, but intensive energy in the exact execution of every detail.”
- Dr. Montessori, The Secret of Childhood.

Maximum effort is a time of pure determination and we (the adults) should pay careful attention to never interrupt (unless dangerous, of course). 

Only when the child asks for help, either verbally or non-verbally, (i.e. showing signs of frustration), would we offer assistance.  

When your child is showing interest in Maximum Effort Activities, here's some work you can offer.

Montessori Maximum Effort

Carrying heavy objects:  

    • When grocery shopping, bring a reusable bag, backpack or basket for the child to carry. Give them some non-breakable non-bruisable foods to carry home or bring into the house.

      Once all the groceries are inside, invite them to help you put the groceries away! “Can you carry this bag of flour to the pantry?” “Can you put all the cans away?” Or, if child can’t reach cupboard, “Can you put all the cans over here?”  

    • Include a bag, sac, or sturdy basket in the play room for your child to fill with toys.

    • Bring buckets and a shovel to the sandbox to fill, carry and dump.

    • Include child-sized furniture in your home that child can carry independently, like a chair or stool.

    • Watering Plants - allow your child to carry the watering can.

    • Allow your child to help with laundry, i.e. loading and unloading the machine.

    • We talk a lot about the importance of child-sized tools/materials but every once in a while it’s fun/interesting for the child to use tools that are large, like raking up leaves with an adult-sized rake, or using an adult-sized watering can. This is not only hard work but it requires a lot of focus. 

Pushing heavy objects: 

  • Wheelbarrow with objects inside to push around the yard, could use rocks, sticks, sand, dirt, really anything! You could also use wagon or child-sized shopping cart. Wheelbarrows are ideal because child must work to keep it balanced.

  • Depending on layout of your house, you could allow your child to push full a laundry basket to the laundry room.  
  • Go for a long walk and climb those hills. Dr. Montessori observed “a child between the ages of a year and a half to two can walk several miles and clamber up such difficult objects as ramps and stairs.” (The Secret of Childhood).  


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