Montessori Practical Life Lesson: Polishing Shoes

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Today’s Montessori practical life lesson demonstrates polishing shoes. This particular lesson falls under the practical life area “care of oneself,” since it addresses personal appearance.

Like all the advanced practical life activities, it reinforces sequencing. The steps are followed in a particular order every time. The beauty of offering such activities to the very young child is that sequencing is unconsciously internalized as a natural fact through the child’s own activity.
Montessori Practical Life Lesson: Polishing Shoes - a great way to teach children to work in a sequential and orderly manner, which is important for self-care, cooking, and even math!


A very subtle detail is that the materials are laid out left to right, in the order of use. When the child arrives at more academic Montessori lessons, such as the movable alphabet or counting on the number rods, left–to–right sequencing is already a habit established in certain practical life lessons. The child will have more awareness in how to place letters to form a word or how to progress down the number rod, which is a concretized segment of a number line.

Pretty cool, eh?

Now let’s look at polishing one’s shoes.

How to Present Polishing Shoes


  • Direct: to learn the steps needed in polishing shoes; attending to personal appearance.
  • Indirect: sequencing, independence and concentration.


  • newspaper or other large paper
  • two brushes: one hard, one soft
  • nontoxic shoe conditioner/polish
  • applicator
  • buff cloth
  • one cloth
  • basket to hold all the materials
  • child-sized apron
  • nonslip placemat
  • shoes suitable for polishing

Montessori Services offers a complete shoe polishing kit.

Age: 3 1/2 +


  1. Bring materials to the table.
  2. Put on aprons.
  3. Spread open the placemat and put newspaper on top of the mat.
  4. Lay out utensils left to right in this order: hard brush, cloth, polish, polish applicator, soft brush, buff cloth. Name the pieces as you put them out.
  5. Obtain a shoe.
  6. Put the shoe on the paper, and place left hand in the shoe to steady it.
  7. Using the hard brush, brush any loose dirt from the shoe with a back and forth motion, beginning along the base.
  8. Release the shoe, and wrap the cloth around your right fingers like a mitt. Steady the shoe again and brush off any remaining dirt.
  9. Now open the polish on the mat. Apply polish to the applicator with a circular motion.
  10. Hold the shoe steady again, and apply polish with a circular motion.
  11. If necessary, put more polish on the applicator.
  12. Once the shoe is covered with polish, wait a moment for the polish to dry.
  13. Steady the shoe again, and brush the shoe with the soft brush, using a back and forth motion.
  14. Now buff the shoe with the buff cloth. Exaggerate looking for the shine.
  15. Invite the child to polish the other shoe.
  16. Demonstrate cleaning up: check the utensils for dirt (clean them off on the paper); retrieve clean cloths; make sure the lid is on the polish; put everything in the basket; fold up the paper and throw it away; get clean paper; return everything to the shelf ready for use.

Points of Interest:

  • Does the child thoroughly brush the dirt off the shoe?
  • Does she use too little or too much polish?
  • Does she buff the shoe to a shine?

Note: It’s preferable to polish the child’s own shoes, if she has a pair suitable for polishing. If not, then one can provide a pair from another family member or classmate.

Montessori Practical Life Lesson: Polishing Shoes - a great way to teach children to work in a sequential and orderly manner, which is important for self-care, cooking, and even math!

To learn more about Montessori theory, please visit Beth’s blog A Montessori Lexicon, and you can also find her on Teachers Pay Teachers.

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