“The exercises of practical life are formative activities, a work of adaptation to the environment. Such adaptation to the environment therein is the very essence of a useful education.”- Maria Montessori
We absolutely love the independence a Montessori Child’s kitchen provides.
Although Quentin mostly uses the regular height countertops of our home’s kitchen now at almost seven years old, he still uses his little kitchen for food prep.
Of all the juices we have pressed over the years, grapes are his favourite. Here he is at 3 years old pressing them.
And here he is today with the same little juicer that’s been going strong all these years.
One of the reasons we love this juicer so much is that it is completely useable by even the youngest child. The hand crank and the plunger keep little fingers out of the way and the fact that it’s see though means you can observe every step of the juice extraction.
The pulp exists at the end of the cone an we love examining that as well. The children in my 3-6 Montessori classroom are always fascinated by the entire process and lots of questions arise.
“Why doesn’t it taste like my juice from the store” is the most common one I get in the classroom. It always makes me smile because I remember back to that day of a little apron clad Quentin in the kitchen and his own oh so distinct Quentin answer:
“Mine doesn’t taste like the one from the store, mine just tastes like grapes. I guess cause mine doesn’t have any garbage in it.”
We purchased our juicer all those years ago from here. If your child is hesitant about new flavours, hand pressed juice is often a favourite even if you mix two flavours together.
“Any child who is self-sufficient, who can tie his shoes, dress or undress himself, reflects in his joy and sense of achievement the image of human dignity, which is derived from a sense of independence.” – Maria Montessori
Quentin has been prepping food and since he was 17 months old.
At 4 he is fairly self sufficient.
We have recently added cooking with heat as seen here in this post. Having child sized real tools is crucial, but so is trusting your child. He now uses a regular kitchen knife. It is sharp enough to cut through carrots and other hard vegetables. His electric skillet (we use this one) gets hot enough to actually cook things quickly. This is not carelessness on our part. It happened slowly, with small steps mastered first and of course there is always adult supervision.
The items pictured above are his most used food prep tools. The small grater is perfect because it has many attachments so he can use it as a grater, zester, juicer etc.
His small rolling pin is the perfect weight for his still tiny hands and he has become pretty good at rolling out pastry.
The kitchen is such an integral part of the home. It’s where families come together. If your child has yet to try some food prep, start slowly. Observe them to find their interest. Being in the kitchen is a wonderful way to connect to each other.
Do you bake at home? It’s one of my favourite things and yet it was (shamefully) the thing I had not yet given Quentin a real opportunity to do. He would do a small part. Turn on the mixer, get out the bowl, but really he would just work in his kitchen while I did it. Maybe once in a while mix in the flour.
What was stopping me? I don’t know. How complicated it would be. Or the mess factor I guess.
How very UN Montessori.
I decided to take a leap and plunged in…with something very simple.
At his weaning table, ingredients divided into bowls ahead of time, some of the dry ingredients premixed.
He started with stirring the oats already in his mixing bowl. I asked him if he wanted to pour. He said yes.
Then he wanted to stir for a bit. There was a small “sampling”. He didn’t like it.
He eventually said “Done”, got up and took off his apron. I cleaned up his table, got out his lunch and he ate while I rolled the Cranberry & White Chocolate Cookies into balls and placed them in the oven.
So what did I take away from it all? It wasn’t hard to do. The pre measuring could have happened during a nap or after he went to bed for the next morning, but I did it while he was just in the other room and it didn’t take long. It was good that I had lunch ready to go so he could move onto something and I could finish and clean up. It was also good that it was a simple recipe. No exact measuring, no complicated ingredients.
I also saw the concentration, and delight in Quentin’s eyes throughout the process. He named (repeated the name) of each ingredient as it was added, and he knows that he made something for the family. He contributed to family life which is a big deal in the Montessori world.
The best part was just being able to share something that I love with him.