Children love to imitate their parents – that’s how they learn! They love to get involved and participate in daily life, even the most mundane of exercises, like washing the dishes or setting the table. The kitchen is a great place to apply Montessori principles in your home (giving your child little jobs to do to help you out) and with Christmas around the corner, there’s the perfect opportunity for a bustle of baking and cooking activity at home.
To help you make the most the time you have with your child in the kitchen, we’ve put together some useful tips:
- There will be mess (get your head into a space where this is OK) but there will also be cleaning! Montessori children are taught to prepare their environment and to tidy up afterwards; this something that should be applied at home as well as at school, and the kitchen is a great starting point.
- Make your child feel welcome in your kitchen. Cooking (and baking) is not only a wonderful way of exposing a child to real life practical skills but is also a sensory experience – not only is it fun but it’s a really good opportunity for learning.
- Cook or bake side by side. To give your child ownership of what you are concocting in your kitchen, allow your child to have her own bowl and spoon (etcetera). Even better would be a designated space, which is their little area; where they can keep their pots, utensils and baking equipment. Perhaps a draw or cupboard in the kitchen? – Somewhere within easy reach for your child. This encourages independence and sets your little one up for success in the kitchen.
- When it comes to stocking your child’s designated cooking area, remember that ‘child-size’ equipment is easier although by no means necessary. Mixing bowls with a non-slip base and handles are easier for little ones to manage, as are jugs and pitchers with a spout (makes for easier pouring) and enamel cups won’t break. But your child will make do with whatever you have!
- Make sure that the rules of the kitchen are clearly communicated to your child. If your child knows what you expect, it’s much easier to manage behaviour and have a fun time in the kitchen together.
- Equip your child with basic skills to participate in kitchen life at home – show her how to chop, slice, peel, scoop, stir, sift, roll, measure, grate and how to use a cookie cutter. As your child practices these things she will become more competent, independent and, yes, helpful!
- When you’re cooking, allow your child to go at her own pace. It’s fine if you carry on ahead and help when you’re needed.
- In an ideal world, we’d love our children to collect eggs from the chickens roosting out in the garden or pick an apple from the tree, or dig up a potato from the soil in the garden. Sometimes we can do this on a micro level (which is great!) but if all we have is a single tomato plant in the garden (and well done on that!) simply use your time in the kitchen to chat about where food comes from. Not Ocado. Well, yes, Ocado but Ocado does not lay the eggs or sprout the seeds. Give your child the real version as you cook together – as you handle the food and think about how it tastes.
- Allow your child to choose. Perhaps you feel like baking a cake. Ask your little one what cake she’d like to bake – carrot, apple, vanilla or chocolate. Not only will this inspire excitement and get creative juices flowing but it will give your child some ownership over the project.
- Invest in some cook books. Not only is this quality reading time but will encourage your child to think beyond the scope of her repertoire. You could think about food and meals from other regions and perhaps even try something different!
This list is inspired by thoughts from Howwemontessori.com