Montessori Practical Life Lesson: Pouring Rice

Home » Montessori at Home » Montessori Practical Life Lessons » Montessori Practical Life Lesson: Pouring Rice

It’s Thursday, so that means another Montessori Practical Life lesson from Beth Holley.

Today we’re discussing how to present dry pouring to children, which helps prepare them for later “wet pouring.”

Pouring from one vessel to another may seem like a basic skill, but this actually requires an advanced awareness of physical quantities called “conservation.” Conservation (in child development terms) is when children are capable of understanding that the amount of something stays the same despite changes in appearance — this is why sometimes a child might try to empty an entire pitcher of water into a cup, because they do not yet fully understand conservation. It is a developmental milestone that cannot be rushed, so if your child is not fully grasping conservation yet, just move on and come back to this lesson when they are developmentally ready.

Montessori Practical Life Lesson: Pouring Rice - an easy practical life activity for preschoolers that encourages them to pay attention to what they are doing and clean up their work areas. (And yes, that's rainbow-coloured barley to add some visual interest.)

Today we’re continuing our practical life series with pouring rice. The child practices pouring dry goods like rice or lentils in preparation for pouring liquids.

If you’ve followed our practical life series so far, you’ve probably noticed that the practical life activities are introduced in a gradual way, e.g., pouring rice before pouring water, pouring water before table scrubbing or cloth washing. The child is given the chance to practice prerequisite skills, hopefully setting her up for success in the more challenging activities that follow.

Let’s look at the presentation for pouring rice.

How to Present Pouring Rice

Direct Purpose: to develop the movements needed to pour rice without spilling the grains;

Indirect Purpose: independence and concentration.


  • two small glass pitchers of the same size, preferably clear, with one 3/4 full of rice (we used the leftover barley from our barley rainbow bin instead of rice this time)
  • a child sized tray with a slight edge for grasping.

Age: 2 1/2 – 3


1. Invite the child to a lesson. Demonstrate carefully carrying the tray to the table, keeping it level, and putting it down softly. Orient the tray so that the full pitcher is on the right.

2. Sit with the child. Say, “Watch carefully while I pour some rice.”

3. Handles should face out directly to both sides. Grasp them with your thumb on top and one or two fingers through the handle.

4. Lift both pitchers simultaneously, raising the right one with the rice higher than the left.

5. Center the right pouring spout over the empty left pitcher. Pour until all grains are gone. Exaggerate looking into the pitcher to see that all grains are gone.

6. Gently set the pitchers down, placing the full one again on the right, and turning the handles out. Invite the child to try.

Montessori Practical Life Lesson: We used rainbow coloured barley to practice dry pouring, an essential Montessori practical life skill

Points of Interest:

  • Does the child center the spout?
  • Does she avoid clinking the pitchers together?

Note: If the child spills any grains, use this opportunity to show picking up the individual grains one at a time with a pincer grasp, using your forefinger and thumb. This step is great fine motor practice! Also, I prefer to use a tray darker in color than the rice, so that the child can see the spilled grains. Any dry grains will do to pour between containers, such as lentils or bulgur wheat.

The earliest practical life activities are offered to children as young as two and a half. This age works for the sake of process, simply enjoying the challenge of filling little containers. The slightly older child, say four years, will begin to notice the goal or reason for a practical life activity. Whenever I noticed my older children using the pouring materials in a “slapdash” fashion, I increased the challenge of the pouring activities and/or encouraged a more obviously purposeful work, like preparing and serving food. Let observation be your guide in deciding what to present.

Montessori Practical Life Lesson: Dry Pouring - an essential practical life lesson, broken down step by step so you can teach your child

(The white pitcher is from a thrift shop and the orange pitcher is from Montessori Services.)

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

Did you enjoy this Montessori practical life lesson? Next up are pouring water and teaching your child to sweep.

Similar Posts


  1. What a great post! I love your point of how it’s important to start off with dry pouring, then pouring water, then table scrubbing etc. It would have saved me a few spills back in the day 😉

    We introduced pouring works quite early and actually started with water. It wasn’t a work at the time, or really, it was before I even knew about Montessori. When my kiddo was about 18 months old or so, I had a glass of water on our coffee table for myself and a smaller one for him, and he just started trying to pour his into mine and back and forth. It was so interesting to watch. A little bit after that, I ‘discovered’ montessori, and started really researching and realised that such a simple activity was so important for him 🙂 Even though now at 2.5 years old, my kiddo can definitely pour water, rice, etc from one cup to another, I still present all sorts of pouring works as still he’s so drawn to them 🙂

  2. We started dry pouring at 18 months! Using the Ikea perler beads no less. I’m sometimes surprised by how much “neater” he was back then compared to now. But you know, this just goes to show how important it is to start young when they love doing this kind of work. Now, my 3-yo has been “promoted” to pouring his own milk or water from a pitcher into his glass at all meals. 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

  3. My older kids loved pouring rice. Thanks for the informative post. I can’t wait to start it with my toddler but she’s still a little young (16 months old)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.