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. 

Montessori at Home: Practical Life at 3

  

What Montessori meant by this is that, in the eyes of a child, (especially one that has been given the freedom to develop without outside negative influences) there is no difference between work and play. Tasks thought to be mundane and laborious by adults bring a little child joy. 

Because Quentin has always had the freedom to choose practical life tasks from around the home, he now can independently complete many of his own wanting without help from us. 

Although he still has access to Practical Life shelves all week at school, I have made sure there aren’t any of these tray type activities here. Instead we have supplied him with real, good quality tools that are in the home along side our own tools. 

This had been a process and not something that happened overnight. 

If there is an opportunity to learn a new skill (such as using the sewing machine) I will still go back and give him a proper lesson and then observe him as he masters it. 

Last week I followed him around with my camera and took some pictures as examples of the Practical Life tasks he chooses in one day . 

  
He first chooses to hang his own freshly washed laundry. A child sized basket and clothes horse make it easier to work with. He uses old fashion pegs because his hands aren’t strong enough to pinch the spring loaded ones. 

  
Preparing his snack of apple. He has been using this crinkle cutter knife since he was 18 months. Although he now has access to other types of small handled knives, he regularly chooses this one. 

  
After lunch sweeping up is still a favourite for him. He has become very good at getting most if not all the dirt into his dustpan. 

  
Of all the activities he chooses, he loves gardening most of all. The wheelbarrow and tools were our Christmas gift to him last year. My Mother bought him the perfect sized “working gloves” as he calls them. 

These are only some of the Practical Life things he chooses for himself each day. He also washes his dishes, mops the floors and pretty much anything else he’s decided would be a good project. 

Of course these things don’t make up his whole day but I love seeing him carrying a tool on the way to something he’s got planned. 

How did all this come to be? Well these types of activities first started as prepared shelf activities. The scooping of beans from bowl to bowl with a spoon is exactly the same wrist movement he now uses to transfer earth in the garden. His dustpan and brush started out as a shelf activity too. When he got better at it we removed the activity and placed the items in his pantry shown here. 

  
The key to all of it is that his tools are stored neatly in an accessible place for him and that we have never discouraged him from helping us complete chores. 

New to this? Give it a try on a small scale. You might not be blown away by how much your 2 year old loves to mop the kitchen floor, but I’ll bet you will be surprised by the fact that they will do a pretty good job. 

What’s on our shelves

I promised I would post this and so here it is. These are the main ideas or experiences we have on Quentin’s shelves at almost 24 Months. We rotate them as needed but I’ve tried to keep it really simple. A puzzle out for a puzzle in, a wet pouring out for a wet pouring in, a colour activity…well, I’m sure you get the idea.

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Row 1: Basket of Animals used for vocabulary/matching
Art activity: crayons, paints, pasting tray, play dough
Scissor/cutting practise with strips of paper and box for scraps
Fine motor/sequencing activity: nesting dolls

Row 2: Bowling pins and ball. Thank you Essential Montessori
Vocabulary/matching cards: currently Alphabet Cards. Thanks So Awesome
Books: Letter and Number Work
Colour sorting activity: currently Primary Lacing Beads

Row 3: Practical Life Dry Transferring: currently pompoms with tongs Thanks How We Montessori
Practical Life Wet Transferring: currently water with pipette. Thanks again How We Montessori
Knobbed puzzle: a wide selection. Everything from trucks to sequencing
First jigsaw puzzle: matching adult animal to baby

Row 4: Geometric Shapes
Lock Box

I haven’t included the “outdoor” materials but I will do a separate post on them shortly as the weather is getting warmer and we are spending more time outside.

We also have a beautiful hand made zipper dressing frame made by my Mother, and of course the light box that Anthony and I made, but this for the most part is it. This is what keeps his little hands moving, and the fire in his eyes burning all day long.

Working in the Kitchen

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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)

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