Dining with Montessori Children

One of the best things you can do for your child is to invite them to help out with the entire meal process, from preparation to clean up. By encouraging them to be part of meal time, you're setting some great examples of healthy eating, preparing their own foods, practical life skills, the importance of family time together and more! Many parents are worried about integrating their kids into meal prep because of safety issues. Never fear; there is a multitude of ways that children can help out that do not involve the use of sharp objects or piping hot stove tops. Here are some suggestions:

*Have them work at setting the table. Many children at Family Star already do this in their classrooms, so it will be familiar. If you'd like, consider creating or purchasing place mats that indicate where plates, bowls, glasses and silverware go, to make placement easier for your kid.

*Rather than wait to get them involved until you're in the kitchen, actively preparing food, consider starting at the beginning. Have your child(ren) sit down with you and look through potential recipes (ones that have pictures are the best!) to decide what they would like to make. Then, take them to the grocery with you to help them pick out the ingredients. Sometimes, simple choices like "would you like the red bell pepper or the green bell pepper" can help with language and independence without overwhelming a younger child like "what vegetables would you like" might do.

*Lots of prep work in the kitchen is kid friendly, and can help get your child more excited about the meal. From washing and scrubbing veggies to peeling fruit, tearing up leaves of lettuce to using an egg slicer (just like in the classroom!), there are many parts of preparation that can absolutely be done by children. Bring a step stool to the counter, or set them up doing prep at their own spot at the table.

*Baking is a task that is prime for including kids in! Have them help you measure out the ingredients to help with their concepts of amounts and math, and if interested, give them the bowl and spoon to do all the stirring and pouring into pans or muffin/cupcake tins. Once you'd put the batter in the oven, turn on the oven light so they can observe the action of the baking. Ask them what they see, and what they think is happening.

*Eating family style at your meals allows your child to sample everything that the adults and older children may be having, as well as can introduce them to new foods. Moreover, if everyone is eating at the same time, dining becomes a social activity that the child will enjoy more as s/he sees eating as fun, social and interesting.

*Once the meal is done, encourage your child to help you clear the table, place leftovers for storage, or scraped into the trash, and even help with the dishes and wiping the table. Again, Family Star children do this already in the classroom, so being supported to do it at home as well helps to reinforce all of the positive learning they glean from these experiences.

What other tips do you have for including your kids as part of the meal time experience?