One of my favourite places to be with young children is in the kitchen, particularly baking with them. And in the last couple of weeks, I received several requests for some of my favourite recipes to make with children.
So it’s time for a post full of ideas for Montessori kids in the kitchen.
My favourite recipe – making dough
Let’s start with my favourite recipe to make with young children. Yes, preparing dough for making bread, dough balls or pizza. This is the recipe I use in class for you to download and save (or print).
- With young toddlers, I measure out the ingredients and ask them to add them for me.
- When I do this in a group, we take turns to add ingredients. If someone starts grabbing at the spoon, I acknowledge they’d like to help and let them know when it will be their turn. For example, “It looks like you’d like to have a turn. Now is Michael’s turn, and after Michael comes Polly, and after Polly will be your turn.”
- Once all the ingredients are added, we can take turns to mix the dough with a wooden spoon. This recipe is quite forgiving – if it’s a little wet, add a little more flour; if it’s a little dry, add a little more water.
- Then we sprinkle a small amount of flour on a clean surface and I give them each a small amount of dough to help knead. I show them how to fold it and squash it with the heel of my hand, over and over until it’s elastic. Sometimes I ask them to help me with my piece and I swap with them to get all the pieces well kneaded.
- Then the dough is left to rest and the children take home some dough to bake for their dinner.
- Scones – this recipe
- Seasonal favourites like pepernoten, hot cross buns, gingerbread cookies
- Fruit sticks – thread colourful pieces of fruit onto skewers (in a rainbow if you want to get fancy)
- Lots of ideas here from the Highlands Montessori recipe book
- I bought this cookbook for my niece with a tandem cookbook for the adult
- As they get older, helping with more complex cooking like making lasagne
Age-appropriate ideas for food preparation/cooking
Here are some more ideas to get even the youngest children involved in the kitchen. Ages are to give an indication only. Always supervise children.
Under 1 year old
- sensorial component of being in the kitchen – watching, touching, tasting, smelling and talking with them about what you are doing in the kitchen
- have them at the height of the counter top so they can observe what is going on (using a baby carrier, stokke chair or similar)
- washing salad leaves or fruit
1 – 2 years old
- spreading crackers or toast
- peeling and slicing fruit, eg, bananas
- shelling peas
- egg peeling and slicing
- adding and mixing ingredients
- kneading dough
- pouring water for drinking – you could have a dispenser down low or a small jug on a low table (have a sponge or cloth nearby for spills)
- helping to set the table – have dishes down low in the cupboard so your child can reach them
- asking your child to help get different things out of the cupboards as you need them (again you’ll need to move things down low for this to work)
2-3 years old
- squeezing orange juice
- peeling and cutting apples with an apple slicer/corer
- peeling and slicing vegetable (always supervise using a knife, start with a butter knife and softer vegetables like cucumber)
- using a hand whisk
- grating cheese
- making lemon water to drink – squeeze lemon slices and place them in a jug of water
- preparing cereal for breakfast – have a scoop in the cereal box; have a small jug with a little milk in it
- spinning salad
- tearing lettuce for salad
- peeling onions and garlic
- using kitchen appliances with supervision
- using scales and measuring ingredients with measuring cups and spoons
- more advanced knife skills
- following simple recipes with you
- pretty much anything you can think of, but simplified!
Tips for cooking with young children
- Once they are standing steadily you could use a step ladder (ours was from the local hardware shop) or a fun pod or learning tower – then they can see what is happening in the kitchen
- Always stand between your child and the stove
- Alternatively you can take the chopping to the dining table and work together there or bring their small table and chair into the kitchen if space allows
- Lower your expectations – expect that the vegetables may not be perfect sticks, some may fall on the ground, there will be spills, and that it may take longer. This is all part of scaffolding skills with our children.
- Have a small broom and dustpan and child-sized aprons stored with your adult sized equipment/aprons
- Have sponges for cleaning and spills in easy reach
Why have Montessori kids in the kitchen?
Firstly, they love to be involved in the daily activities of the home. They are pleased to be able to contribute by helping in the kitchen. And they are often more interested in eating the food they have prepared at mealtime.
Secondly, they learn cooking skills as well as refining their fine motor and executive functioning skills, able to master a sequence of steps.
And these activities are building the child’s independence, increasing their sense of self and autonomy.
Some of my favourite resources
Following on from my last post here about how we can sometimes take Montessori too far, we can keep things simple. No need to purchase a lot of things. Use what you have. Perhaps keep your eye out for a few kitchen items that will grow with your child and last a long time.
Here are some of my favourites:
- apple corer and cutter
- blunt knife for spreading and cutting fruit/softer vegetables
- crinkle cutter
- duralex glasses for drinking
- glass jug
- a step ladder to reach the counter
You can find these at Ikea, Manine Montessori (for EU), Absorbent Minds (for UK) and For Small Hands (for US).
I hope these ideas will help get you started with involving your children in the kitchen. Most of all, enjoy the process…not just the product.