Our Child Sized Kitchen: A history

Of all the questions I recieve about Montessori, our little kitchen gets more questions than anything else. So, I decided I’d better put all the details in one place.

We bought this IKEA kitchen for Quentin for his first Christmas. An odd gift to give a premature 8 month old yes, but he had just started to wean, and we knew it would be perfect in the upcoming years. 

There is nothing more important in Montessori than respect for the child, and with that, there is no greater respect than the Prepared Environment. 

Somewhere that is their own. Somewhere they can keep their things independently, neatly and in a reachable space. 

This picture was first featured here. It is our first set up of the kitchen. It houses Quentin’s tiny porcelain weaning glasses, first dishes and some fun yet practical kitchen tools that waited for the day he could use them. 

Just like when we set up his Care of Self area in the bathroom featured here, we set up the kitchen far earlier than he could use it. The Absorbent Mind of a child is always watching. A parent or teacher needs only to model the behaviour consistently for the child to start mimicking it on their own. He watched us remove his dishes, return them, clear his dirty ones to the tiny sink. And so it wasn’t long before he was doing it independently. 

Here he is just after turning one. At this point it was mostly exploration. But it quickly became more. 

I wrote a post here about our essential kitchen tools. Although we have added many more now, these 6 are still our important ones. These are the ones that get used everyday.  Providing your child with real working tools is critical in Montessori. This has never been a play kitchen. He slices, chops, pours, strains and peels real food. Some may become alarmed at the thought of small children using sharp knives and tools. However, it is extremely important children be given the trust from an early age. There must be many lessons on safety, concentration, and use. These don’t simply come because you tell your child to be careful and then hand over a knife. Modelling, many experiences and dialogue with a parent are needed. 

Here he is just before two years old washing his dishes. A small liquid soap dispenser and dish to hold a sponge (half the size) allowed him complete independence at an early age. We installed hooks beside the kitchen to keep his aprons within easy reach. Many of our kitchen accessories came from Montessori Services

We don’t have plumbing on this wall. The cost of installing plumbing was completely unreasonable when he will only use the kitchen for less than 7 or 8 years. We drilled a hole in the bottom of the plastic sink and he uses a flat plug. He fills the sink with warm water from a pitcher and when done, pulls the plug and it emptied into a bowl inside on the shelf at that time. It now drains out a little hose and into a bucket that he empties. 

These were all the first skills he required. His kitchen has evolved over time so that now, at four it includes cooking with heat. 

A small electric skillet allows him to cook a variety of things. Above a veggie burger for his lunch. Below he’s making scrambled eggs for our dinner. 

I’ll get the disclaimer out of the way now: He is capable, but he is still young. Whenever Quentin is using heat or a sharp blade, I always have both eyes and my full attention on him. His independence and his safety are my responsibility.

So, how does one replicate this? It’s like anything else you would put on your child’s Montessori shelves. This is a process of many steps. Start small, with one task at at time. If they don’t put away their own dishes now, they are not ready to cook independently. 

Modelling is key. Show them how to wash dishes, cut fruit, peel vegetables. This is joyful work to children. Not chores. 

Keep the environment based in reality. If you truly want them to do Practical Life kitchen work, the kitchen must be real. There must be a useable surface space. There must be a useable sink. 

There are so many play kitchens on the market. Brightly coloured ones with flashing lights or sounds, and media characters. These along with play food, toy utensils and the lack of water and heat will confuse the child ultimately setting them up for failure. 

If you truly want them to succeed, look for a kitchen that you would love to use. 

Please feel free to leave questions or comments and I will do my best to answer them. 


Some new store bought materials (gasp!) and a home made one

This was a week of new materials for the boys. Usually I try to make Quentin’s materials. Lets face it. They may not be relevant to him for very long and I love the fact that things can be easily made and easily recycled. However, there are so many beautiful store bought materials out there, and for us it’s the start of summer vacation. How could I resist?


This arrived for both Quentin and Anthony. Quentin loves looking at the faces, and Anthony loves reading the poems with me and comparing how far away everything is. I guess when you live on an island, everything is far away. The photos are stunning, and the book is well laid out. It captivates both boys.


This came for Quentin. At 14 months he definitely is in a sensitive period for opening things. I’ve seen similar boxes on Kylie’s site and on Rachel’s site. I immediately lusted after it and I couldn’t wait for Quentin to be ready to use it.


This new placemat for our weaning table was made by my Mother. It was a wonderful surprise in our mailbox. Quentin feeds himself almost completely independently and that means we need more placemats. I love the fabric she chose.


Lastly, these arrived for Anthony. Something that would take advantage of that summer sun. He tried a sheet and really enjoyed experimenting with different objects around the house. Oddly enough the tea ball (used for loose tea, not the toy) gave the nicest result.

Over the last few days there has been quite the discussion on the web of how “elitist” Montessori is. It makes me question my purchases. Should I feel guilty that I buy “expensive” materials for the boys? It would seem that society’s answer is yes. But I disagree. Instead of guilt I feel blessed. Blessed that I am able to carefully choose each material for my children, based on my observations of them. I don’t particularly feel the need to defend my love of beautiful books, interesting fabrics and natural materials. True, both my boys would do just fine with some dirt, sticks and rocks in the backyard. In fact we also spend many hours doing that. But I think a home can have a balance.

I’ve said it before that it’s all about the experiences. Whether store bought, home made or nature based, it’s the freedom we give our children to immerse themselves in the experience that’s important.

Out in the Garden (Our Botany Lesson)

It was sunny and warm today. It could only mean one thing: Quentin’s first real experience in the garden.


There was a lot of sensory exploring. Running his fingers through the dirt. Investigating small sticks and things.


Surprisingly he only experimented with eating it once. A small clump. He decided it definitely wasn’t food. I love being able to share the joy of growing your own food (on a very small scale) with my boys. I also love that botany is what you make it, but that it can be easy to do with even very young children.


Working in the Kitchen


Practical Life Activities 12 months: washing dishes in his kitchen. Providing a child with the right child size materials allows them to do meaningful work independently. Even at a very young age. Kitchen & stool Ikea ($99.00)


Independent Child

Does your child “play” by themselves?


It’s something that many parents struggle with.
“Why are they so clingy?!”
“I’m so fed up! She won’t even play by herself for a few minutes so I can make dinner!”

Montessori spoke of this: “The environment itself will teach the child, if every error he makes is manifest to him, without the intervention of a parent or teacher, who should remain a quiet observer of all that happens.—Maria Montessori, The Secret of Childhood.

But how does this happen? Not over night, and certainly not if the child has become accustomed to the constant presence and attention of their parent during their every waking hour.
Gradually there must be a trust instilled in the child. Ideally this happens in infancy. Placing the unmoving baby safely on a comfortable movement mat with a mirror and mobile they can be left for a few minutes at a time in a safe room while we busy ourselves in the next room. The time expands as the child gets older until eventually they feel secure exploring in their own room or a child proofed room of the house. Sometimes up to 30 minutes or more.

If this has not been done in infancy, it’s still possible to get there. It just takes a little longer and a little more work. The path to getting there is the same. Start with letting the child be in a room independently working with something. If they are unable to be in the room alone, this stage may require you to sit somewhere near by for the first few times. It helps if you can set these times at the same time every day. Ideally when the house is calm. Perhaps it’s just after lunch. You can talk to the child about what you’re going to do before hand but keep it light and straightforward. For example: “I would like you to play with your toys while I finish cleaning the table.” Or: “I’m going to sit on the couch and watch you use your cars”. It will go more smoothly the more consistent you are. Three times is usually the magic number but it can take longer for your child to gain enough confidence in one stage before moving to a longer time. Sometimes it’s helpful to have a timer so the child knows that when their “alone time” is up. An hourglass works beautifully in this case as well.

No matter the resistance your child puts up, if you gently stand your ground they will eventually come to trust that you will not leave them and that they are a capable person able to do things for them self. And isn’t that what we want for them (and ourselves) anyway?


Working independently: the 5 minute mark


The 10 minute mark


15 minutes

Following the Child

“The things he sees are not just remembered; they form a part of his soul.” – Maria Montessori.

Of all the Montessori quotes it’s this one that strikes at my core. It guides me through my days and unfortunately occasionally keeps me up at night.


What has he seen today?


Did he see beauty (not the superficial Hollywood kind)? Did he see patience and kindness?

Allowing the child to move at their own pace is often difficult if not extremely frustrating. This is made worse for us when we are in a rush. I tend to just want to do the thing he’s taking so long to do. It’s these times that this quote rattles around in my brain and I have to take a step back.
Other times it makes me stop and think carefully about our day. Did I rush him? Did I make time for him to watch the little family of sparrows that have made a nest in our maple tree? He loves them so much.

There have been many books written (most of Montessori’s own works) that touch on the act of “Following the Child”. Much of this is done by first observing (thats for another post) the child. I would encourage anyone who is interested to find a copy of “The Absorbent Mind” for more information on the subject, or speak with a Montessori teacher.

Today was a great day. Beautifully warm and sunny. Quentin completed a new work independently for the first time, worked on puzzles and woke up dry from his afternoon nap. We also stopped to watch the sparrows.

There is another Montessori quote that keeps me up at night:


“It is the child who makes the man, and no man exists who was not made by the child he once was.”

A very happy Unbirthday?

Today is April 22nd. It’s Earth Day. Today is Quentin’s 1st Birthday.


It was a wonderful day: presents, a picnic lunch in the park, an introduction to goats and of course birthday cake. A warm sunny spring day. No one could ask for better.

But this day also had a twinge of sadness.

You see, Quentin is a preemie.

Born 2 months early his birthday was supposed to be in June. A summer baby like his brother. Not a spring one. A baby that would not be here without serious medical intervention.

I’m not yet ready to tell you the whole story of Quentin beginning to end. It is still too painful and raw. I can tell you that he was conceived with the help of fertility treatments. I can tell you that we fought like hell for years to have him, that we fought again to keep him, and that even though we cried and waited for the worst (which eventually never came) we loved him from the start. Or to be more precise, we loved him from the minute we saw the first confirming ultrasound at 7 weeks.

We have agreed with medical recommendation that Quentin is to be our last. Perhaps the sadness comes from that. Perhaps it comes from the fact that we missed so much with him.

We missed the joy of telling family and friends early, as no one was sure if it was “going to stick”.
We missed the happy glowing second trimester. Instead it was wrought with fetal medicine specialist appointments, bed rest and close calls.
We missed those first days home after delivery when everything is quiet and surreal coupled with chaotic and overwhelming.
We never got to say to anyone “He’s ___ days old.” We didn’t even get weeks. By the time our NICU stay was done those had all passed by, and we were left with odd glances from people when we told them how many months old he was and then fumbling quickly, blurted out something about him being a preemie.

We aren’t going to celebrate the “shoulda been” day in June. That was for something that was never meant to be. And really the sadness only bites when we look back on the year. When we look at Quentin all I can do is smile. And laugh at his weird personality. And hug him. Tight. Because deep down I know that there very easily could have been nothing to hug at all.






Our Montessori Home: the play/work space

I suppose the difference in our Montessori home is that not every room is set up in a Montessori way. We have a big house. I need part of it to be just for me. So although the boys have access to and are welcome in the living room there are no materials here. Instead they have their own space. A space entirely dedicated to them and them using materials at their own pace. Their bedrooms, the bathroom and the kitchen all have Practical Life and/or Care of Self aspects in them as well, (that’s another post) so I don’t feel too guilty when I say the living room is just for me.


This is how the space began. Quentin was 4 months old. It has concrete floors so it needed carpet. The wall mirror and movement mat were where we hung the Montessori Mobiles. But the shelf didn’t have a natural flow.


It got better. Quentin got older. This was the space when Quentin was 9 months. The movement mat was gone and so were the mobiles. The all important mirror remained with the new addition of a pull up bar. 

His shelves at 9 months: 

The pull up bar helped Quentin incredibly with his “pre-walking” phase. Anthony’s shelves are better organized. We also added this:

Quentin’s gross movement area and a reading corner at both boys could easily access.

At 11 months this is the space now.


The pull up bar is gone. A work table that Quentin can independently get up from is key in an infant Montessori space. There are many on the market, but we were lucky enough to have one made out of locally logged cedar by a friend.

So that’s where we are. It’s not perfect, but the boys enjoy it. The big window above Anthony’s work table lets in a huge amount of light and there is a large maple tree right outside where we watch the birds come and go from the feeder. As with all Montessori environments, it will continue to evolve to meet their ever changing needs.