When you start applying the Montessori principles at home, it influences every room. The kitchen is no exception.
In this simple guide, we’ll take a look at what it means to have a Montessori kitchen, what are the best food-related activities you can do with your toddler, and the best products Montessori families use and love.
Let’s dive in…
What exactly is a Montessori kitchen?
A Montessori-friendly kitchen is an environment that (unlike play kitchens) invites the toddler to participate in real-life activities like preparing food or cleaning. It should enable the children to move freely, encourage independence, and teach table manners and dining with grace and courtesy.
Freedom of movement
Freedom of movement is one of the basic principles of the Montessori method.
Kids need to explore the world around them. Of course, it doesn’t mean letting your little one unguarded with the drawer full of potentially dangerous kitchen utensils.
What you can do is to babyproof the area to create a friendly environment where the toddler can experience the world of cooking together with you.
The common mindset in many households is that a kitchen is a place where children should spend only the minimum time necessary or else they’ll break something sooner or later.
The Montessori approach is different – a kitchen (like any other room in the household) is a place that provides great opportunities for a child to learn new things and participate in everyday activities.
We spend a lot of time in the kitchen. Let your little one be part of it.
Grace and courtesy
Montessori Primary Guide has summed up the importance of grace and courtesy in the Montessori education very well:
“Grace and Courtesy lessons give the child the vocabulary, actions, and steps required for him to build his awareness and responsiveness of those around him. This in turn gives the child a better sense of orientation in his social structure.”
When it comes to a Montessori kitchen, there are several ways you can encourage grace and courtesy through table manners. For example, you can teach your little one to:
- help with the table setup
- wash the hands before every meal
- eat politely
- use the correct utensils
- say “thank you” or “yes, please”
We recommend this great post about table manners by How We Montessori.
How do you make a Montessori kitchen?
Now let’s take a look at some basic tips you can start applying in your kitchen to let your child be part of all the activities.
1) Get the child to the counter height
There’s no Montessori kitchen without a learning tower. It’s a safe and convenient tool that allows the child to be part of the cooking process.
Providing a raised platform is one of the first steps you should do to make your kitchen a Montessori-friendly place. Many times kids are impatient just because they’re curious and want to see what’s going on at the kitchen counter.
Once your little one gets to the same level as you, there are endless possibilities for engaging them in various kitchen activities.
Here’s our favorite toddler learning tower:
Mini Chef learning tower by Piccalio
One of the best things about this learning tower is that it can be easily converted into a table and chair and provide a nice weaning table or an “arts and crafts” place for your toddler. It is perfect for children 18 months and older.
Tip: Check out our guide to best learning towers (including models with adjustable height or models for 2 kids).
Montessori kitchen activities you can do in a learning tower
Here are some examples of kitchen activities you can do with your little one.
Just don’t forget to never leave your child alone with potentially dangerous objects, or near a stove, kettle or other appliances.
- observing the cooking process
- washing the fruit (running water is always fun)
- peeling/slicing fruit and vegetables
- mixing the ingredients
- kneading dough
- washing the dishes
- loading and unloading the dishwasher
- pouring water for drinking
- setting the table
- cleaning the mealtime messes
We did not categorize the activities by age. The important thing is to “follow the child” – meaning – to observe your child to see what sparks their interest.
2) Make things accessible
Use a small cupboard, low shelf or just a bottom drawer to store all the instruments, plates and utensils your child can use.
The top surface of a shelf can serve as a “snack place” with healthy snacks and a water dispenser so that the little one can help themselves to a drink.
3) Use real cutlery and glasses
Instead of plastic cups, forks or plates, use child-sized versions of real items. Yes, there is a higher chance of breaking something, but it also leads the child to responsibility.
For younger kids, it is perfectly fine to use steel cups and wooden knives to keep it safe.
4) Provide the cleaning materials
The Montessori method teaches the child to become more aware of the environment. This includes practical life activities like sweeping and cleaning the table or wiping up spills.
The kitchen is a great place to start with this as there’s always something that needs to be taken care of. All you need is to provide the right tools – a child-sized dustpan, brush, and a piece of cloth will be just fine – and we guarantee your little one will love taking care of the rest.
Other products we recommend
Here’s a short list of tools we recommend to make your kitchen a Montessori-friendly place:
Trip Trapp adjustable high chair by Stokke
Stokke is a legend among high chairs. It is highly adjustable and can be used by kids of literally any age. Toddlers can climb it by themselves.
Weaning table & chair set
A great table and chair set made from birch plywood by a Montessori-friendly brand MontessoriHOUSEbed. It is adjustable to 2 different heights.
A high chair or a weaning table?
You may ask which one’s “more Montessori” – a high chair or a weaning table? Well, both have their advantages and disadvantages.
A high chair lets your child to be part of the “big table” with the other members of the family. However, most models don’t let them to climb in in and out independently.
A weaning table, on the other hand, offers more independence. The drawback is that it is separated from the main dining table and the child is at a different height than the rest of the family.
How did we solve this in our family? We use both – a high chair for dining together in the kitchen and a weaning table for little snacks during the day in the living room.
Kids stainless steel utensil set
A simple, 5-piece set made of high-quality stainless steel. Just the right size for your toddler’s hand. No sharp edges or tines.
Montessori weaning placemat
This hand-embroidered Montessori placemat is a perfect item to teach your little one table manners and to encourage independence from an early age.
Stainless steel drinking cup for kids
Simple stainless steel drinking cups with double-wall design for both cold and hot beverages. Available in 3 different sizes.
Wooden vegetable and fruit cutter
Toddlers who love helping with cooking will undoubtedly appreciate this high-quality wooden “knife” ideal for cutting fruits and vegetables.
Brush and dustpan set
Teach your little one the responsibility for the mealtime messes. A practical set of a brush with a wooden handle and a dustpan, available in 2 colors.
Glass drink dispenser
Water dispenser that can be placed on a snack table so that the kids can serve themselves a drink whenever they want.
Are play kitchens Montessori?
Although play kitchens are very popular among children, many Montessori parents argue that they are not Montessori.
The problem with play kitchens is that they only offer a pretend play – they don’t help to participate in real, practical activities.
It doesn’t mean play kitchens are bad toys. Kids can have a lot of fun playing with them and we think they’re just fine as long as they’re not a substitute for some quality time spent in the kitchen.
Alternatively, you can get a simple wooden kitchen-like cabinet (many Montessori parents use Duktig from Ikea), replace the fake water tap with a water dispenser, and use the shelves to store real kitchen utensils and tools your little one can use when helping you with cooking.
We hope some of these tips will help you with creating a Montessori-friendly kitchen environment and involving your little one in everyday activities.
We’d love to hear about your experience!