The kitchen has been a place full of trial and error, both in terms of trying to keep up with evolving ages and skills, and also in trying to find the right balance of freedom within limits. Plus, moving into a new home and having to work with an entirely different layout certainly adds even more changes to the mix. We are in a good groove finally, and we have since made some new purchases that I’m excited to share!
Giving my children accessibility to cook with me is a staple in our Montessori home. It is such an easy way to fulfill that Practical Life focus, and it’s just fun. This high-rise step stool was a more affordable addition for us than a learning tower for bringing them counter-height. I also like how it is not as big as some of the learning towers. The only thing I don’t like is the grip pads on the steps, which just attract crumbs and stains that are tough to get out.
Adding scaled-down utensils has been an important focus, too, so that the skills I invite them to practice are not unnecessarily difficult for their tiny hands. Our favorite and most-used purchases on this front include the wavy chopper, the Curious Chef Knife, and Montessori Services’ mini food masher and stir spoon. This child-sized pitcher has also been a well-loved addition.
Bring on the Breakables
How can we expect them to respect delicate things if we never allow them to touch delicate things? Trusting them early to handle real items allows them to learn what happens when they do mishandle something. That item will break! Oh no! Dropping plastic does not teach this important, natural consequence. This is why Montessori families and schools offer utensils, plates, bowls, cups that are made of real materials – the more breakable something is, the better!
Okay, but the idea of two children aged 1.5 and 3 around broken glass sounds dangerous. This was my first thought when we made the switch. They know when we give them a glass cup, though, which immediately feels heavier to them. Not only can they feel the difference, they inherently want to care for it because they know that these are just like the ones mom and dad use. Since this switch more than a year ago, we’ve only had a few breaks. Spills are much more common than breaks.
Dining with Independence
We’ve had just about every setup you could try when it comes to eating with littles. We’ve had high chairs and booster seats with my son before shifting to our current setup using a toddler table and chair set. My daughter was finally tall enough to join my son here around 13 months. This setup promotes independence with meals because they can easily seat and feed themselves. Before my daughter could reach this, though, we paired an infant weaning chair with a $14 bed-and-breakfast tray as an affordable compromise to the traditional Montessori weaning table.
There are Montessori-friendly ways to bring your children up high to your family table, too! We recently decided to purchase these IKEA junior chairs. We’ve been longing for family dinners to be more logistically inclusive. These chairs are much more affordable than the comparative Montessori-friendly high chairs, but I wouldn’t say they are interchangeable with high chairs. Since we were already past the baby days, though, these were a great buy for us.
A Functional Play Kitchen
Play kitchens are not Montessori (in fact, a lot of toys being marketed as such are not), but that doesn’t mean incorporating one is the antidote to a Montessori-inspired home. We had a play kitchen for my son way back when, but we got rid of it before our move as it had long lost its novelty for pretend play. We were also just starting out with Montessori and were enthralled with instead offering real experience in the kitchen.
However, I don’t like that this often implies that Montessori-inspired play would be incompatible with pretend play. We should not discourage these other forms of play that our children take interest in. This is a great read. And so is this. And even this (though, I don’t fully agree that a play kitchen is a hard pass as that last blog concludes). A play kitchen can be compatible so long as pretending to cook is not treated as a replacement for cooking with you. Furthermore, utilizing it in a functional way IS Montessori because you are giving your child those real experiences.
This time, we intentionally bought one that was more open-ended and could therefore grow with their practical life skills when its pretend features lost its novelty, as it did. It’s the perfect nook to chop vegetables and fruits, and my son has been pouring water into the bowl to wash the skin of his beloved peaches and plums this season! I also store some towels and cleaning tools here. It is used daily and has only added value to our kitchen space!