Sunday Book Club: The Forest Feast for Kids

 

“You are what you’re eating ate” – Chef Dan Barber

We love to give our our boys new experiences. We love to see them try new things and make something come together from nothing. 

There is no easier way to do that, than in the kitchen. 

We also believe the above quote to be completely true, and so whenever we can, we seek out delicious, real, whole foods, that fuel both their heads and their hearts. 

That is why, when I stumbled onto this cookbook for kids I fell in love with it before I ever actually held it. Before I ever turned the pages. 


The pages are beautiful and clearly laid out. 


I love that there are some preliminary things to cover first. 


We don’t have a hand blender but found it wasn’t essential, although it would have been helpful. 


The recipes ranged from Quentin being able to do them completely independently, to us enjoying working together. All of them were simple, healthy foods that were delicious and easy to make. 

I can’t say enough good things. This is simply a must have book. 

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. 

Grace and Courtesy: Playing Competitive board games

Do your children play board games? They seem a bit antiquated now I suppose. We love them though and we are constantly on the look out for new ones. 

Quentin enjoys Bird Bingo (seen here), and Snakes and Ladders (seen here). Today I introduced Checkers because he’s been asking how to play. 


The board was made by my father for me when I was a child. Old and worn it was a perfect match to the newly oiled wooden checkers that arrived in the mail today. 

There are so many valuable lessons to be learned from competitive games. Concentration, patience, critical thinking. All the things the latest childhood research is telling us we need to teach more of in school. 

I think there is something much more important. 


“I won Mama.” A smile beginning on his lips. Then, a hand reaches across the table. 
“Good game Mama. You tried hard.” A tiny hand shakes mine before sitting back to survey his achievement. 

“Wanna play again?”

Quentin turns 4


I can remember Anthony being four. It was such a great age. There is so much we are looking toward to with Quentin, and so much we are grateful for already. Some days I still wonder how it’s possible that he’s here at all. That all this isn’t just some lovely dream I will soon wake up from. 
A Montessori birthday is a celebration of the child. A time to focus on the child’s growth and life so far. We chose as we do every year to keep it simple with some hand made gifts from talented artists, and a quiet day. 

I scoured the web looking for a felted play mat that was “just right”. I finally stumbled onto this one. It is gorgeous, finely detailed, soft Austrailian wool and exactly what I was looking for. The shipping was reasonable and made it here fast. It will provide years of enjoyment and is definitely an heirloom piece. Some new Schleich forest animals complete the set. 

Quentin loves collecting things. Most often it is buttons. Anthony carved him a wooden bowl to store his treasures. Their relationship is a precious one. Anthony had kept the bowl a secret. It is beautiful. I still can’t believe he made it. 


We rounded out the day with a trip to his favourite bookstore and quiet moments. We are so busy. These quiet times are just a gift. 

Being mindful of everything that has led up to these four small candles on a cake is important. It’s important not to forget those things. It helps us be present in the moment and look forward to what this year will bring. 
Stay tuned as there is an upcoming post about our Montessori home spaces at four. 

Our Montessori Shelves at 4 

This time next week Quentin will be four. It was time to examine his shelves. 

As many of you know Quentin attends Montessori school Monday thru Friday. We don’t homeschool in any formal way. Now at 4, his materials are often ones that he has requested. He will sometimes say “I’d like to work with some new words”, or show an interest in a particular topic. We then make an effort to stock his shelves with those items. This isn’t to say that we rush out and purchase everything. But making time to really observe him and engage him in meaningful conversations will usually narrow down some ideas. Then we look for good quality. Also, the majority of his materials are homemade.

Here are Quentin’s shelves at 4.

  
Top row: sewing basket with current sewing project, Pink Series Language cards found here & DIY Stamp Game

Middle row: knitting basket with French knitting fork, nature exploring kit for the monthly          subscription program we are enrolled in & moveable alphabet found here

Bottom row: Rhythm bells with DIY felt notes & music staff, chalkboard and chalk for writing & telling time cards found here

These are his favourites at four. Looking back at previous posts about his shelves makes me reminiscent. He has used this space for such a long time now and it is the same, but it is also constantly evolving. It follows the child like we do. 

These are simply some of the things found on his shelves. I will post again early next week on his other materials and spaces around the house. Have a great weekend!