This blog post is common question and answer style discussion about Montessori Weaning, food-related difficulties with toddlers, play food, and links to a great Montessori mealtime set. I hope you find it very practical and helpful!
1 | Montessori Weaning
“How does Montessori weaning work?”
Montessori weaning is a child-led approach to the transition from milk to solid foods. We use real, child-sized dishes, glasses, and cutlery to make their experience similar to they way they see us eat. A great place to introduce Baby’s first food is at the family table during a family meal. After you start introducing solid foods, your baby will decide how fast or slow you change to eating food all the time. Start a meal with the food you have chosen, and finish the meal with milk. Gradually baby will take more solid food and less milk until they are completely weaned.
“When should we introduce solid foods?”
In Montessori we follow the child’s interest and natural path of development. Baby’s interest in food sparks around 6 months old. They will start to reach for food at the table, to watch with fascination while you are eating. They have probably had their first tooth and they will be sitting comfortably with support. This is a great time to start introducing new flavours and drinking water from an open glass.
“What are some good 1st foods?”
What you give as your baby’s first food is up to you, your culture, and their interest. You can give juices, broths, soft solid vegetables, soft fruits, purees, or tastes of what you are eating during family meals.
2 | Refusing food
“My child just isn’t interested in food!”
There are multiple reasons why children refuse foods. Sometimes they don’t feel hungry; sometimes they are too tired/overstimulated/not feeling well and will prefer milk. Having scheduled mealtimes also makes a big difference because your child can feel when it’s time to eat based on your daily routine and prepare themselves.
Starting each meal/snack time with 2 solid food options allows the child to choose which food they want to eat and how much. You can finish each meal with milk to make sure that they get all the nutrition that they need. If they have refused a food, have patience, stay positive, and keep offering different options. If you are concerned about how much your child is eating, please speak with your paediatrician.
3 | Family Meals
“My child doesn’t want to sit at the table.”
First you should set the general expectation that when we eat, we eat at the table. If they are hungry, I promise that they will sit with you and eat. When they are done and they want to leave the table, put the food away together. Do not to continue to feed them or give snacks while they walk around. This is distracting and it sends the mixed message that food comes to them and they can eat it wherever they like. Remember to have patience and stay positive. 🙂 You are the parent and you are setting a kind, but firm limit.
“My toddler wants me to play with him during meal times.”
Family meals give babies a lot of information and language. They should be able to participate as an equal member of the family by having a place for themselves at the table – to join you in eating or just observing. If they want to go play after they have finished eating, that’s fine, but you also need to finish your mealtime. You can let your little one know that after you have finished and cleaned up you will be happy to play with him, but at the moment it’s meal time so they are welcome to sit with you at the table or play in their space until you are able to join them.
4 | Throwing food
“What should I do when my child throws food?”
If you are trying to feed your child and they are throwing food, maybe they are not hungry enough to eat right now or they have finished their food. If they have finished eating, they we should set the example that throwing food isn’t appropriate by removing the food and cleaning up together. If they are not hungry, you can try again to sit down an eat in 30 minutes. Make sure to give at least two options with meals so they can decide which food they want to eat.
5 | Using real food + dishes
“Why don’t you use toy food in Montessori?”
In Montessori we always give real objects so that children can have their own experiences and learn about real life. Toddlers are fascinated by cooking and eating, something that they have observed adults doing for their whole lives and they are even more interested when they have the opportunity to do it themselves. So instead of a wooden banana with velcro, give them a real banana and a dull knife (link below) and they can cut it themselves and prepare their own snack!
How great is it that when they feel hungry they can know where to go and what to do to feed themselves. As long as you prepare a space for them in the kitchen where they can do this easily and safely, they won’t have to ask an adult each time they feel a bit peckish. They can meet their own need until the family mealtime. You can start doing this with simple snacks as soon as your little one is walking-around 16 months. Just empty out a low cabinet or shelf and put there a little try or box with one favourite snack in it that they are allowed to take and eat at any time. It helps if they have their own little table nearby where they can sit, prepare, and enjoy it as well.
“Why do you give real glasses and plates to babies?”
We always use real cups, dishes, and cutlery with our babies and toddlers in Montessori. Using plastic spoons and dishes and water bottles is not necessary. We should trust the child enough to allow them the same pleasant experience we expect when eat.