For us, one of the most enjoyed, fun, useful and intense Montessori-activity is cooking. I try to make time and space in our weekly "schedule" for a dedicated Montessori cooking/ baking afternoon. The purpose of this time together is that my little one does as much as possible by herself. I usually choose a simple recipe, prepare the ingredients on a tray and she does each step of the recipe. I sometimes need to demonstrate and help a bit (with a heavy bowl for example) but I try to be as passive as possible.
We started when she was 18 months. I know it might sound very young but she was already capable of doing so many things in the kitchen. And we had fun. So we kept doing it. One year later I see how much we all benefit from these experiences.
Why do I think that this cooking with a toddler is so important? Here is what I have noticed while cooking with my little one.
- It's a wonderful sensory experience for a child: touching different textures (in this recipe: the softness of plums, the hardness of apples, the rough surface of a ginger root, the stickiness of the almond cream and the coconut oil mixed together ), smelling different scents (lime, cinnamon, apples, ginger...).
- Manipulating the ingredients usually opens the appetite and makes them curious about food (and new foods).
My little one would eat some ingredients only when she is using them in the kitchen (cooked pumpkin for example)
So make sure you have enough ingredients if you have a little gourmet like this one:
- They can practice their fine motor skills and the coordination eye-hand. Also they learn how to use real tools like knives, graters, ladles, etc...) and ear confidence in their capacities
- It encourages focus and patience
- It gives children the feeling of being important to their families by taking part to something that is vital: cooking food. Being able to cook for the ones they love develops the feeling of belonging, makes them feel useful and fosters their self-esteem.