(From Florence Taylor, a Montessori mom who has received international attention for practicing Montessori at home with her 2 year old. Cited in news articles as allowing her young toddler to “use real knives”, Mrs. Taylor’s kitchen activities with her 2 year old are well supervised, safe, and Montessori-aligned. -Sue)
Montessori Cooking with Toddlers
There are so many benefits to bringing toddlers into the kitchen in general, but when we bring them into the kitchen in a Montessori way, the benefits just get better! Montessori cooking with toddlers is one of the most organic sensory experiences you can offer your toddler.
Smell, sight, sound, taste and touch are ALL used when you cook with toddlers. It teaches them a range of basic life skills that we all need.
Cooking is a great Practical Life activity, as well!
The first step in Montessori cooking with toddlers is, if you haven’t already, is to prepare your kitchen for both the adult and the child. Presumably, your kitchen is already prepared for yourself so let’s skip straight to preparing it for the use of toddlers!
There should be a safe step stool or learning tower for the child to independently and safely reach the worktops.
You will also need to find child size and child safe utensils for them to use and have them somewhere they can independently get to them. A few basic utensils to start with are, child safe knives, child size whisks and spatula, rolling pin and some cookie cutters.
I recommend these knives from amazon, they are effective for cutting but also blunt to avoid accidents and are the perfect size and grip for small hands.
Also a kids starter baking kit like this one that contains the utensils and cookie cutters instead of searching around different places.
Now that your kitchen is all ready for a toddler to join, lets answer the big question, what can we cook?!
Well, there’s 3 ways your toddler can join you in the kitchen; cooking, baking and prepping.
Below is a simple recipe for each type of kitchen work to get you started, along with some tips to help you be successful in your kitchen adventure.
Ingredients: 3 different fruits. We used bananas, apples and strawberries.
Utensils used: Child safe knife. Optional: Apple corer, strawberry picker.
Method: This is as simple as it sounds. Let your toddler peel the banana, remove the green off the strawberries, then core the apple. Then you can just let your toddler chop and slice the fruit however they want or in a particular way. Put all of the fruit in one bowl, and mix it up with a spoon.
Tip: Use fruits your toddler is familiar with and likes to eat. If it’s a new food they might not feel comfortable to explore it so deeply.
Cheese & mushroom Omelette
Ingredients: 3 eggs, 30g (1oz) cheese and a handful of mushrooms
Utensils used: Whisk, cheese grater and child safe knife.
Method: Crack the eggs into a large jug or cup (buy extra eggs if your toddler is practising or hasn’t tried cracking eggs before), whisk the eggs until they are all mixed, grate some cheese and put in a bowl to the side, slice some mushrooms. Gently fry mushrooms until soft, then pour in the eggs, once cooked on top put cheese on top and fold with a spatula.
Tip: Don’t try and keep it an omelette. It’s about the process not the result. Ours definitely ended up more like scrambled eggs!
After the cooking, your kitchen is likely to be a hot mess, which is to be expected. This is arguably a toddlers favourite part of the whole process and that’s the clean up!
They can wash the dishes (albeit not very well), or load the dishwasher. You can give them a child size spray bottle and a cloth for spraying and wiping down the worktops.
Whether you choose to wear an apron or not, you’re bound to be covered in something. In which case they can also put their dirty clothes into the laundry basket or straight in the washer.
Toddlers absolutely love cleaning, it’s important to let them take part in the clean up cooking for this reason. As well as to teach them the full sequence of preparing a meal.
There are countless ways a toddler can benefit from getting messy in the kitchen, and in a Montessori environment you can allow them this experience in a safe way. They learn so much just from doing a simple dish that their absorbent mind just takes in with ease.
Not to forget that Montessori cooking with toddlers is a brilliant bonding experience!
Try not feeling closer after baking a batch of cookies then having a tea party together with said cookies! I bet you can’t!
I wish you luck and hope you have lots of fun in your kitchen adventures with your toddler!