What are the key components of a Montessori toddler kitchen? I am looking for an environment that:
- Promotes independence.
- Supports autonomy.
- Facilitates healthy eating and skill development.
- Is easy for the child to keep clean and tidy.
- Is purposeful and easy to use.
- Is as simple and uncluttered as possible.
- Is practical, logical and ordered, where everything has a place and everything has a purpose.
- Empowers the child.
- Is warm and inviting.
It is important that the space has everything the child needs to complete the task from start to finish. Here is a snapshot of Otto's little kitchen area. This space is mostly for his food preparation for breakfast, snack and lunch. Dinner is always at the main table with the rest of the family and most baking is done with me in the kitchen on the FunPod.
Here he will get his snack from the shelves or the little refrigerator and he might slice some bananas or strawberries or eat some yoghurt. He might get some crackers and some dip or spread. The main food preparation he is doing at the moment is slicing, spreading, spooning and pouring. His water dispenser is in the fridge so here he will also get himself a drink of water or milk.
Otto is now 16 months old and in our toddler kitchen we have:
- Small refrigerator.
- Small pitcher of milk - only enough milk for ¾ glass.
- Water dispenser.
- Refrigerated snacks - oranges, apples, yoghurt, cheese, raspberries, hommus and often small containers of left overs like pasta or treats like banana bread. Snack on shelves - strawberries, banana, mango (often we have avocado) and crackers. The crackers are in an easy open container, at 16 months Otto can open the container but he can't close it.
- Child size table and chair.
- Small, child sized shelves.
- Small glasses, bowls, plates. We usually have two of each.
- Child size cutlery, small serrated knife, mini tongs, spreader.
- Montessori placemats.
- Small wooden chopping board.
- Cleaning basket (black wire basket on floor) - contains water spraybottle, red cleaning cloths, cloth napkins and tea towels (for larger spills).
- Dust buster. To the right of the white shelves we have Otto's dust buster, which is extremely useful.
I only list these to give you some ideas and for me to look back on in the future. Every home will look different and our environments look slightly different every day.
Otto shares this space with Otis (7yrs). Otis keeps his snacks and drinks in this refrigerator too. The milk carton in the door is for Otis but the pitcher of milk on the middle shelf is for Otto. Otis uses all of these plates and bowls and it is really convenient for him too. It's working for us now, I'm not sure how we will faclilitate this as Otto gets older.
The main concerns I hear from parents is that their child will eat all the food at once and the child will make a mess. Otto is far messier and less ordered than my other children. So I take it much slower with him. For many months he had a choice of three fruits on his snack shelves. No problem if he eats them all at once, but he never did. He didn't have to ask and I didn't have to offer. Now he is able to manage a larger selection of snacks but honestly he still never eats them all. He will sometimes get out the yoghurt and then only eat one spoonful, he has poured the entire pitcher of milk onto the table. But he needs to do this to refine his movements, to learn to listen to his body and hunger cues, and to learn what the expectations of him are and where the limits are. If you start small the mess is manageable.
We've recently sized up Otto's pitcher and glasses, it's always important to observe the child and see what is working and what isn't.
I can't tell you how much I miss all of these spaces - Montessori Kitchen Areas 18-months to 5 Years. We have exactly 12 months left in the UK so it won't be too long and we'll be preparing new spaces back in Australia!