Setting the table is a practical life skill that we can introduce to our children from a young age. As soon as we start introducing solids we can use a Montessori Weaning Set (pictured two below). As soon as the child can walk they can begin to take their placemat and put it on their table followed by their fork, spoon, plate or glass.
Without saying a word, simply by presenting the materials on the placemat, we are teaching the child where everything goes. By the time the child is a toddler, they may be able to set their entire place setting or set the entire table!
By teaching our children to set the table we are showing them that mealtime is important and that they can help and participate in getting the table ready.
"A small table and chair kept in the environment in the first year will provide a familiar space for the child who wants to try feeding herself with a bowl and spoon-and these first attempts happen earlier than we previously thought. If it is part of the culture, it is also nice to have a little vase with flowers on the table for these first special meals, and even a placemat with embroidered or printed outlines for dish or bowl, cup or glass, spoon or fork, that eventually the child will be able to use to set his own place." - The Joyful Child: Montessori, Global Wisdom for Birth to Three.
Above is the Montessori Placemat and Utensils by Lovevery, it comes with two organic cotton napkins (with stitching to guide the child on how to fold them). We've teamed our placemat and utensils with a 250ml glass pitcher and small REKO Ikea glass. This is one of my favourite placemat sets because it comes with utensils, the napkins and it's nice and large. This placemat also shows the child where to put the napkin.
The Spoonflower Montessori Placemat Fabric is useful if you want to make your own placemats. Fabric placemats need frequent washing so it's nice to have a few. These might also be a good option if you need to make a lot of placemats for a classroom. I love these if there are multiple children at the table and we use different colours, it looks adorable. There is no place for a knife here which makes it most suitable for breakfast or for children who aren't yet using a knife.
This is a part of a Montessori Weaning Set which includes a napkin and bib that we use from 6 months+. We preferred an elastic neck bib instead. The placemats are also available separately. These are hand-embroidered which makes them extra special. Weaning (the introduction of solids) is seen as a special time and we set the table to reflect this. We use this weaning set from around 6 months, or the time we begin introducing solids.
This is a placemat that we've used for many years, it's the Easy to Wash Montessori Dining Mat at M.Vita Montessori. Here we are using one of the mini glass vases and the mini pitcher also from M.Vita, they are the perfect size for toddlers. Shown here is the Kiddobloom cutlery which we used through the toddler years.
This is the placemat we use at breakfast time. This is the Personalised Solid Acacia Wood Children's Placemat by Benedykt and Sylvester. We've used it here with a personalised kid's engraved three-piece boxed cutlery set (recommend this cutlery form 2.5-3yrs+). This set is useful as it has a place for the fork, spoon, knife, plate/bowl and glass, it's also easy to wipe clean.
Montessori style placemats are also simple to DIY. We could draw our own outlines on a fabric placemat, Etsy has downloadable placemat options, Childhood 101 has free printable options (place for fork, spoon, knife plate/bowl but no cup), The Montessori Notebook also has a free printable option (place for a fork, spoon, plate/bowl and cup but no knife).
If you are in Australia you might want to have a look at Montessori Mates who have just released silicone placemats in a lovely range of colours.
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