Artfully Montessori: Practical Life Activities for Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite for Little Kids


Recently, during the first music lesson in our Nutcracker Suite Unit, I realized how much the children loved the parts of this wonderful music from Tchaikovsky that had to do with the foods of the season. 

This time of year is always a fun time for cooking, baking,  and preparing warming teas and hot chocolate. And, little children so enjoy participating in these activities! 

So, why not connect the Nutcracker Suite music to the Practical Life area of your Montessori environment? These activities are also fun for at-home activities during the Winter Break.

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Whether  your group is planning a big event with families or a small holiday tea party just for your classroom, preschoolers can really benefit from the following food preparation Practical Life Activities that are derived from Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite. 

Click here to listen/download a recording of the "Opening Scene" music of the Nutcracker Suite.


Well, this entire music unit is based on the magical story of a girl named Clara,  and her favorite gift, a nutcracker!  Which is, of course, the first idea for a fun Practical Life Activity for the children: Using a nutcracker to prepare nuts for a yummy baking project.

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My groups have always loved having a "Nutcracker Work" on the shelf. Now, the decorative nutcrackers that are around during this time of year, are not usually sturdy enough to actually crack nuts, but you can get this beautiful crank-operated nutcracker from Montessori Services, and my groups have always greatly enjoyed using this tool. 
Available at Montessori Services

If you have children with allergies to tree nuts in your group, you can put this nutcracker out as a fun fine motor activity and the children can place pompoms in the little bowl rather than nuts. 

You can also offer sunflower seed grinding as another alternative to nut cracking. For this activity the children would use a small mortar and pestle instead of a wooden nutcracker. This grinding activity is available at Montessori Services.

A similar activity that children enjoy is grinding seasonal spices (like whole nutmeg, or cinnamon sticks). These ground spices could be added to your baking projects. Here is a spice grinder from Montessori Services.
These festive grinding activities add wonderful aromas to your environment and really set the mood for the season!

Click here to listen/download a recording of  "The Battle of the Mouse King" music from the Nutcracker Suite

This year, my music groups have really taken a liking to the Mouse King character in the Nutcracker Ballet Suite. When I tell them the story, I leave out the battle between the Nutcracker and the Mouse King. (I think this part can be a little scary for children.)

Instead, I tell the children:  "In Clara's dream, the Mouse King was gathering all the mice in the house to go under the tree and gobble up all the sweets. The Nutcracker tried to keep the mice away, but it was Clara (the little girl in the story) who had the idea to take off her shoe and throw it across the floor to scare all the mice away!"

Since mice like cheese, and cheese is a delicious food to serve with tea, hot chocolate, or home-baked gingerbread cookies, then it makes perfect sense to offer the children a cheese slicing work. 

This can be the "Mouse King Cheese Slicing Work" in your Practical Life area.

I've found that this type of cheese slice works well with little ones. Usually, children press down on the cheese placing both hands on the handle to get the leverage needed. Available at Amazon.

Click here to listen/download a recording of  the "Spanish Dance" music from the Nutcracker Suite.


The Spanish Chocolate Dance is still the all-time favorite with my music groups! Making hot chocolate from scratch can be a wonderful Practical Life Activity for your group, and goes really well with the Nutcracker music unit when you feature the Chocolate Dance. The "Spanish Dancer Hot Chocolate Work"has lots of interesting steps for children to follow.

Children can first grate the chocolate. You can use bakers chocolate or the delicious Spanish Chocolate cakes from the Mexican Grocery.  You can also purchase a kit from Uncommon Goods. 

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When the children are ready to make the hot chocolate drink, you can provide an authentic "molinillo frother". Your home-made hot chocolate can be made with hot water, milk, or milk alternatives like soy or rice milk.

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For a special touch to your home made hot chocolate, you can garnish it with the spices that the children ground in the activity above. (cinnamon or nutmeg)

Click here to listen/download a recording of  the "Arabian Dance" music from the Nutcracker Suite.


When you set up the "Arabian Coffee Dance Work," you might be surprised to find that coffee grinding ends up staying on the shelf all year long because it is so popular! 

There is something so satisfying and meditative about grinding coffee. Whole coffee beans grind so easily and smell so nice! 

Photo from Magical Movement Company

You can fill the coffee grinder tray with decaf coffee beans and the children can save the ground coffee to brew and serve to their parents on the day of your Nutcracker Celebration.

Photo from Magical Movement Company

Click here to listen/download a recording of the "Chinese Dance" music from the Nutcracker Suite.


Brewing tea is another satisfying activity for the winter season. To turn this activity into the "Chinese Tea Dance Work", I have simply added a colorful Chinese tea pot and even Chinese tea cups because they are just the right size for children. 


For our winter tea parties, we have often added other Practical Life Activities such as cutting up lemons for the tea and also setting up dishwashing for the clean up.

                                                                           Photo from Magical Movement Company

Click here to listen/download a recording of  the "Russian Dance" music from the Nutcracker Suite. 

Baking is probably one of the most fun Practical Life activities of the season, and creating Russian gingerbread cookies goes well with the Nutcracker music unit.

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The "Russian Dancer Cookie-Making Work" will not be something you would set up as a shelf work, but rather as a special baking project, where lots of adult helpers will come in handy. I have found that parents are happy to come in for an hour or so to bake with the children. 

These gingerbread cookies pictured below are called Kozuli in Russian. These seasonal cookies are made in the shapes of animals such as goats.


If you are looking for a simple cookie decorating activity, you can offer "graham cracker decorating" with food coloring makers. (Amazon)  

Children also like to create little gingerbread houses out of graham crackers and cake icing. This is an involved, but fun project for a cold, wintry day!


You can also bake Russian Tea Cakes with the children.
And, if you're in a pinch, you can buy these and the children can enjoy arranging them on pretty little doilies for your winter Nutcracker Suite tea party! 
Available at Amazon

I'm going to put in my plug here for my really fun mini-eCourse, "Musically Montessori: Nutcracker Suite for Little Kids" that is open for enrollment to educators between October 15th and February 1st each year. I have packed this little eCourse full of activities and mp3 music downloads! 

My music groups this year, have already enjoyed the first two lessons from this four session course that I am currently presenting to my groups, and I am sure we will go longer than just four classes. It is fun to have a little Nutcracker Tea party around the middle of December, but I know we will enjoy this music unit on into the first weeks of January. 

Over the years, I have found that children understand the story and the wonderful music even better after the holiday season is over, since so many of them have gone to Live Performances of the Nutcracker or have seen it on TV during the Winter Break.

I invite you to learn more about my eCourse and enroll before November 25th! 

If you are a Subscriber to my Email Newsletter List, then you have gotten the special discount code for 10% off the regular price for the course.


You can become a subscriber on the sidebar of this Blog or scroll down to the end of this post if you are on a mobile device. 

My subscribers have access to my Freebie Collection, where you will find lots of free resources including some Nutcracker Suite activities and more! 

I have posted two new products at 

Thank you for visiting my blog today and I hope that you have gotten some ideas for enjoying Montessori music with your group.

Advertising Disclosure: Magical Movement Company may be compensated in exchange for featured placement of certain sponsored products and services, or your clicking on links posted on this website. Thanks for your support! 

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