My children love cheese and it's versatile in the kitchen for practical life activities. While you can use a variety of cheeses, in these activities we've used a cheddar block. Here Otto is 24 months old but please use this age as a rough guide only. In our Montessori toddler class in Canberra (Gungahlin) we had a cheese grating activity and I remember many toddlers using it from 18 months. Cheddar cheese has a good texture for first grating and peeling, it's soft but doesn't fall apart too easily.
1. Grating. We like to use a small pyramid grater. Otto has done this many times before so he's had some practice. To start with the child may only grate a few strands. Be patient, they will get there. Over time Otto grated all of this cheese pictured, it's enough for his snack! He eats it straight, my kids love grated cheese. I give him a small block of cheese to grate that will fit nicely in his hands, if the cheese block is too large it will be difficult for the child to grip.
2. Tonging/transferring. Whenever I can I add a small pair of tongs to the activity. It adds a level of difficulty and builds hand strength. The child uses the tongs to transfer the grated cheese from the cutting board to the little bowl. Otto doesn't get a lot in but he is improving. To begin with he would just use his fingers, but more and more he uses the tongs. These are little sugar tongs, we use them a lot. Our mini tongs are from M.Vita, I can't see them in stock but these look similar.
3. Peeling. I didn't know Otto could use a peeler until one day he was unpacking the carrots and he got the peeler out of the drawer and just started peeling, he's obviously observed me peeling and wanted to give it a go. So Otto didn't need a demonstration but many children will need some assistance to start with. We love this peeler pictured but it is sharp so I don't allow him to be silly with it, it's slow concentrated work. These peeled cheese strips are perfect to put on top of a hot pasta dish or even on top of meatballs. (Similar peelers here and here).
4. Chopping. We love the wavy knife chopper but there are lots of similar choppers available. Otto will keep on chopping until I stop him or until the pieces are really tiny.
5. Serving on a platter with cocktail sticks (or toothpicks). This is so good for the child's fine motor skill and hand eye coordination. Add the cheese to come mini breadsticks, chopped cucumber and cherry tomatoes and it's a lovely snack to share when friends come over!
6. Cheese slice cut-outs. This is so fun to do. Otto and I did this activity together. By himself, this just became a little too messy. We use little cookie cutters to make cut-outs out of the cheese slices, these are super cute when put on crackers. The little cutters are also good to use on carrots or apples to make little garnishes, when making a platter or perhaps to add to lunch boxes.
A few more cheese activities, graters and slicers that I like:
- Cheese Slicing Kit at Montessori N' Such.
- Snack Cards at Montessori Services.
- Norpro Multi Grater at Amazon, this is popular as it's small and the child can hold the grater with the handle.
- The Littlest Cheese-Cutter at Villa di Maria Montessori School.
Teachers and guides may find this more detailed explanation helpful Cheese Cutting - Food Preparation at This Practical Life.
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