Practical Life:The kitchen

  
Practical Life, the heartbeat of the home. If I had to start all over these 6 are the ones I would rush out and buy. And, as an added bonus, each of them is under $10. 

For anyone just starting out, these 6 favourites will completely transform your child’s role in the kitchen. Your child will now (after a little guidance) be able to make their own snack and help prep family meals. Such an amazing feeling of independence for the child. 

  1. Multi use kitchen tool (our absolute favourite on this list)
  2. Glass Pitcher with lid (we use this for water at Quentin’s drinking station)
  3. Crinkle Cutter knife (Quentin has used this since he was 17 months)
  4. Vegetable peeler (ours is from Kylie’s gorgeous shop
  5.  Egg/Mushroom/Strawberry Slicer (Quentin has used this since he was 17 months)
  6. Strawberry Colander (our newest addition and already a favourite) 

Do you have favourite child sized kitchen tools? Have you found something you can’t live without at your house or classroom? Leave a comment. We are always looking for products to review. 

    Sunday Book Club: Fall Leaves

    I love a good Autumnal picture book. 


    Fall Leaves by Loretta Holland and Ella MacKay
    This has been one of our favourites for a while and it’s always a little bittersweet for me pulling it out of storage. It means that Summer has gone. 

    So, on this our Canadian Thanksgiving, I thought instead of feeling wistful, I would share it with you and welcome in Autumn. 

    Elly MacKay’s paper dioramas are stunning as always. What we love about this book is that the text is simple but pared well with more detailed information such as the migration of geese, weather patterns and the shortening daylight. 


    A good book for costing up under a blanket with. 

    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. 


    Their smell was my childhood. 

    I had a little garden I tended under a big maple tree and it was full of them. 

    After 15 years of searching for them in every nursery here, I finally found them last year. I bought up the 4 plants they had and tenderly planted them under my own home’s maple tree. 

    That night the deer came and ravaged them. I actually cried. I thought they were gone. 

    That was a year ago. 

    Then in the early Monday morning light, right as we were leaving the house, rushed and hurried, I stop to linger under the tree. There poking through the daffodil foliage were 3 slim stems of tiny white blossoms. My heart was full as I breathed in the scent of my childhood. 

    3 hours later I was informed that my Grandmother had died that morning. 

    We are all connected.

    I will be taking some time off from all of our public spaces. I need to fly home. 

    We have 3 hugely exciting collaborations coming up. I’m so thankful and thrilled to have been asked to work with such amazing Montessorians and their teams. 

    I’ll be back in June to tell you all about it.

    Sunday Book Club: Swirl by Swirl – Spirals in Nature

    Anyone who knows me can tell you, Maths are a very big love in our house. So, when there is a beautifully illustrated Montessori friendly book that features not only nature, but the Fibonacci sequence; well I just couldn’t resist. 
      
     

    Swirl by Swirl, Joyce Sidman

    Incredibly detailed pictures set with simple text, this book will capture a child’s interest at any age. 

      
    The delicate way Math reveals itself in nature is a beautiful one. There is an excellent information section at the back of this book, explaining Fibonacci and many other interesting bits about nature. Quentin at almost 4 enjoys carefully scanning the pages, looking for all of the details. He happily identifies swirls and this book is a great way to add the extension of some nature exploration. On our nature walks he looks for patterns. Perhaps he doesn’t yet find Fibbonaci in a pinecone or a sunflower. But I do. And I can marvel beauty of it with him. 

      
    This book touches on the subtleties of it all from ferns unfolding to a chipmunk curled in its den. There is more there than we realize, we just have to stop and look. 

    Sunday Book Club: A Handful of Numbers

     
    I was contacted at the beginning of March by Hands-on-Prints to see if I would be interested in reviewing some of their books. I agreed and am thrilled to debut with their newest publication. 

      
    When I’m looking for good quality, Montessori friendly books, illustrations are what do it for me. But it doesn’t end there. Books must be engaging, beautifully written and invite the child to seek out some aspect of the story. This book didn’t disappoint. 

    It’s simple, clear and detailed illustrations are what Quentin was also drawn to. He loved the world landmarks, the continents page (because yes there are penguins in this book) and wanted to know more about the planets and the weather systems featured. 

      I liked that each number and corresponding page sat side by side. A child can easily see the number and the correlation to what is being shown on the opposite page. I also liked that the Number Rods were used to give a physical representation of the quantity as well as the number in symbol form. This is a great book for children 3-6 to compliment their understanding of the world. It is also a book that will grow with them as they can begin to delve deeper into some of its topics as they get older. 

      
    When partnering with anyone, it’s important to me that their values are somewhat connected to our family’s. That’s why I was pleased to read the back cover of this book and find out more about Hands-on-Prints. 

      
    Hands-on-Print books are available around the world at Baker & TaylorAmazon and Barnes and Noble

    You can also order directly from their website here

    It also happens that I have a copy of this book to give away. To enter head over to our Instagram feed for details and to enter. Good luck to everyone.  

    Montessori 3-6 Botany in the Home 

    I have always advocated against the need for the true Montessori didactic materials in a home setting. The reason for this is that there are an endless supply of ways to explore the world with your child in the home environment. And you don’t need any formal training to do it. 

    So, having led with that, we don’t have a Botany Leaf Cabinet, or Parts of a Plant cards. We simply go outside and garden. 
     
    Gardens are so perfect for children. A feast for the senses at every level, a connection between what is grown and what is consumed by animals, insects and humans. And, most importantly, Practical Life. The ability to plant, care for, and harvest one’s own food. Even the youngest of children can help. 

      

    Gardens can come in any shape and size. You can grow vegetables in a field, a large wooden planter box, in a small pot on a balcony or even a windowsill. 

    If your thoughts turn to the fact that you do not have a green thumb, don’t worry. 

    Your child does. 

      
    Try sprinkling lettuce seeds into some soil, cover and leave a small spray bottle near by with a little water. Your child will feel such a sense of accomplishment when the first green stems poke through the soil.