Not everyone can afford to build or buy a kid-sized functional Montessori kitchen for their little ones. Frankly, most probably don’t even have the space. That doesn’t mean that you can’t create a Montessori-friendly kitchen in your home, though! Below are some simple ways to design your kitchen in a way that will make your children feel included in this shared space and excited to participate in kitchen activities with you.
Let’s face it – the kitchen is where we spend most of our time. When you have growing (and seemingly always-hungry little ones in your house), this is probably even more true! Since your children also spend tons of time here, why not make the space inviting for them, too?
Something to keep in mind here is that when designing a child’s Montessori inspired play space or bedroom, the goal is that the area is intentional and empowering for them. When it comes to shared spaces on the other hand, decor and functionality should be beneficial to everyone using the space.
That being said, here are a few key things to think about when organizing your kitchen:
Also called “Kitchen Helpers” or “Learning Towers,” these Montessori-Style stools are a great addition to any toddler-friendly home!
As far as children’s furniture goes, this is at the top of my list for favourites. Kitchen towers are excellent for a bunch of reasons. This piece of furniture lets your children more deeply explore and engage with the world around them by letting them safely stand taller.
With this piece, your young one can participate in so many more kitchen-based activities than they can while in your arms or sitting on a chair. This means increasing independence for your child while also being able to spend quality time together – win-win right?!
For example… Maybe they want to help you wash the dishes, rinse fruits in the sink or help cook and bake? With these towers, they can!
Not do these towers increase your child’s ability to participate in the kitchen, but they’re super safe as well. Though there are many unique designs, essentially these towers are built of a few steps, have three completely covered sides, and many have a bar at the back. This keeps your child safe from falling (unlike tippy stools and chairs).
Convinced that these learning towers would be a great addition for your home? You can find tons online if you’re looking to buy one, like this adorable Kitchen Helper Tower by Duck Woodworks Shop on Etsy. For those avid DIYers out there, there’s also tons of great plans dependent on your woodworking level like this simple one from Etsy seller StellasCosmos.
On a side note… One thing that I have noticed with these is that since children can climb onto counters from these Montessori Kitchen Towers, they often will. This is all a part of testing boundaries and exploring their curiosity… And is completely normal!
With some gentle reminders to keep their feet on the stool, this phase will likely be passed through quickly. Another way to prevent this is always providing something for them to do, rather than them using the tower to just watch you! Even if you just give them a recipe card to look at or some veggies to investigate, keeping their hands busy is a great way to keep them from getting into things they shouldn’t on the counters.
A big concern in the kitchen (and rightly so!) is safety. Between appliances, breakable glass and dishes, cleaning supplies, and sharp utensils, the kitchen can be difficult to configure in a safe way for your little one. While many risks can be mitigated by child-proofing the space and keeping valuables/appliances out of reach, our goal here is to make the room feel inclusive.
In alignment with Montessori principles, we also want to design a space that is intriguing and empowering. Doing so will engage your child’s natural curiosity while letting them accomplish tasks by themselves!
If possible, I highly encourage parents to have a drawer or cupboard that your child knows they can access and use items from. Giving them their own space and tools makes them feel equally important and capable, after all!
Here are some things to think about including in their drawer:
- Mini whisks, spoons, and spatulas
- Mini rolling pins
- Child-sized oven mitts
- Small cutting boards
- Child-safe knives
- Measuring cups and spoons
Inspiring Mini-Chefs: How to Include Your Children in Cooking
Once you’ve got the tools required for your child to safely participate in kitchen activities, it all comes down to how to engage them. Montessori kitchens provide tons of practical learning opportunities – Children get to refine life-skills like measuring, cleaning, and putting things away after using them all while creating delicious foods and treats.
Before diving into how you can inspire your budding chefs, though, let’s talk about the benefits of your child helping out with cooking and baking tasks…
- Bonding Opportunities
- Like I mentioned at the beginning, we spend a lot of our time in the kitchen. So, when you can, why not take the chance to make some long-lasting memories with your little one while teaching them new things, too? As the daughter of an avid baker and cook, I can personally attest to the benefit that this has. Some of my best memories were made while helping my own Momma with kitchen tasks as a young child!
- Sensory Development
- Cooking engages all of our senses through hands-on engagement with ingredients and tools. Offer lots of opportunities to learn by talking to your child about the way ingredients are changed as they are cut, blended, cooked, or melted!
- Even clean-up time can engage the senses! Simply filling the sink with water and soap is a great opportunity to expose your child to a sensory experience while letting them help out, too.
- Math/Science Skills
- While some of us prefer to cook without measuring a thing (guilty!), you can easily teach your child math through measuring out ingredients! By counting the number of teaspoons or cups out, you’re also teaching them basic addition. Way more fun than worksheets, right?!
- Math can even be taught while shopping – Try asking your child how many buns they will need for everyone in the family to have a hamburger, for example!
- Heating, cooling, and liquefying ingredients are a few examples of how science in cooking. While doing these things, try talking to your children about the changes your ingredients are going through before turning into the final dish.
- Improved Reading
- Even if you’re using Grandma’s Cookie Recipe that is imprinted into your own brain, try your best to provide your child with recipe cards! Letting them read the numbers and instructions with you (or to you!) will deeper engage them in the task and enhance their reading skills.
- Language Development
- Try talking through what you’re doing as much as you can with your child so that they deepen their kitchen vocabulary. Whether they’re kneading dough or whisking eggs, talking about what they’re doing will help them learn essential kitchen words and actions.
- Enhanced Fine Motor Skills
- Manipulating utensils and preparing food is an amazing way to increase your child’s strength and coordination. By letting them spread, chop, stir, and peel ingredients, they get to develop these skills in a fun way!
- Essential Life-Skill Development
- Our kids won’t always be kids! Though of course we are not all esteemed chefs or bakers, cooking and baking are essential life skills that we all need to learn as adults. So, why not start young!
When thinking about how to inspire your children, there are tons of opportunities. After implementing some of these simple Montessori principles in your kitchen, though, I am pretty confident that you won’t have much trouble doing so.
Remember, Montessori is focussed in child-driven learning. This means that if we as adults set up a space for our little ones that is attractive, inclusive, and exciting, then in theory the child will be naturally curious and wanting to engage with it.
By including them in kitchen activities, they are likely going to be naturally excited to cook with you! You can increase this by asking for their input – for example, simple questions like “What should we cook together tonight?” or “It’s pizza night! Which toppings should we put on the pizza?” make them feel included right from the get-go.
Growing some ingredients at home is another great way to excite children about cooking. They will be so proud of the meal they make knowing that they helped to grow ingredients in your own garden! No space for gardens? No problem… Try watching cooking shows together to increase their interest!