Montessori toddlers: what is Maximum effort and 20 ideas to try!


Have you observed your toddler trying to carry objects that are bigger than him? This is what Maria Montessori called the need for maximum effort!

maximum effort Montessori


Maria Montessori observed that children, soon after they have learned to walk, have a strong need to exert their strength. They want to do hard and heavy work. Carrying heavy objects (such as bottles of water) is one of those maximum effort works. Other typical examples are: throwing, helping with your shopping, pushing heavy boxes, emptying the washing machine, and so on.


In the 1946 London lectures, Maria Montessori said about maximum effort:


"They must be able to do things which require a great effort. They need big, heavy, things."

"The greater the effort, the greater the child's pleasure and the worse any interruption"

"Children make a great effort to conquer the environment. They do as much as they can as soon as they can. They apply a maximum effort."

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As it's a need, we should observe and encourage our children to exert their strength in a safe way.


Here are 20 ideas to try if your child is into a maximum effort stage!


  • • Empty the laundry basket in the washing machine.
    • Push sibling who is sitting in an empty laundry basket or box around.
    • Transfer the wet laundry to the dryer.
    • Help carry and empty the shopping.
    • Give them a large bottle of water to carry.
    • Provide a trolley or wheelbarrow to push (filled with heavy toys).
    • Let your child move all your cans of food from one cupboard to the other.
    • Show your child how to water plants (the watering can be heavy when full).
    • Let your child carry large objects (let him bring the loaf of bread to the table for example).
    • Give them a small stool that they can move from one place to another as needed.
    • Give them a backpack that they can fill and carry.
    • Playing catch with a super large ball.
    • Let them bring the jug of water to the table to pour their drink.
    • Encourage them to empty the wastepaper bin into the recycling bin.
    Allow them the opportunity to climb.
    • Go on long walks without any goal in mind.
    • Make an obstacle course inside the house.
    • If you have a sandpit or access to gravel/stone or soil in the garden, give them buckets to fill and dump. A dump truck is also super fun for that.
    •Provide over-sized books
    •Let them climb the slide


Have you noticed your child trying to reach maximum effort? What do they like to do?

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About the Author Carine Robin

Carine Robin has a Master’s Degree in Psychology, specialising in child psychology. She worked for various social services in her home country of Belgium, before moving to Ireland in 2006. It was there that she started working in a nursery and discovered Montessori education. After having her first child, her passion for the philosophy grew and she qualified as a Montessori teacher and managed a preschool. Carine has been running a Montessori based parents and toddler group and coaching families for 9 years. She now also runs an online group for over 14000 parents, sharing her knowledge and passion with people from around the world. In 2018, Carine realised families needed more support and launched her popular online parenting courses and monthly subscription boxes, full of personally designed Montessori materials.

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