Classroom Tours, Montessori Materials, The Montessori Method

Practical life in the Montessori Toddler Community

montessori toddler classroom, wooden staircase, art area, montessori table and chairs, toddler environment, infant community, shelfie, berlin montessori school
photo by Natalia Smirnova

WHAT IS PRACTICAL LIFE?

Practical life work is the cornerstone of Montessori from 0 to 3. Caring for the environment and self-care is the greatest goal of the walking toddler. Now that they can carry themselves upright like adults, they want to achieve total functional independence. Their school can offer rich opportunities to reach functional independence because the entire classroom should be prepared to suit their needs. At school the teacher is observing them constantly and can change the environment for them. This means offering concrete practical experiences by which children can do purposeful work and have success in doing so. This is the work which will open the door to responsibility and self-awareness, and link the child to the world.

The activities are called ‘Exercises in Practical life’ because real everyday life is carried on in which all housework is entrusted to the little ones who execute, with devotion and accuracy, their domestic duties becoming singularly calm and dignified.”

— Dr. Maria Montessori. The Discovery of the Child. Ch. 3.

Das Kind Magazine

For the full version of this article (translated in German!) and other Montessori inspiration by the Deutsche Montessori Gesellschaft, you can sign up for biannual issues of “Das Kind” magazine for €20 a year.

PRACTICAL LIFE FOR NORMALISATION

In Montessori we refer to “normalisation” as the integration of intellect and movement. Especially for children who struggle to find peace and balance, through practical life they find opportunities to create order, repeat movements, explore the senses through manipulation, move freely, and imitate adults.

Movement is the secret for holding the attention of the child.”

— Dr. Maria Montessori, Creative Development in the Child I

Activities in practical life have a cycle of preparing the work, concentrating on the process, and satisfied rest once the work is complete.

GUIDELINES FOR PRACTICAL LIFE

  • Organise activities in the appropriate areas.
    Water materials should be near the water source; tooth brushing should be in the bathroom; and so on…
  • Each activity has its own place in the environment.
  • Every activity is complete.
    The presentation of the material should be logical so that the child can follow the use of the material easily. Have extra materials available in case something needs to be replaced.
  • The characteristics of the materials should be appropriate for the child.
    Weight, size, fragility, and other factors must be considered.
  • Make the materials beautiful.
  • Colour code the materials.
    Most of the materials should be matching. This is for the sake of beautiful presentation and to remind the child which materials go together. If an activity is not colour coded it does not need to be excluded from the environment.
  • Use points of interest.
  • Points of interest encourage the use and repetition of materials. This may include sensorial experiences such as making bubbles, fogging a mirror, or anything that is exciting and interesting for the child.
  • Only keep a limited number of materials.
    There are few materials of which we have many. For example, you may have several cutting knives so multiple children can cut together in the kitchen area. However, in principle there should be only one of each exercise. This teaches the child to wait for his turn and respect the work of others.
  • Check the activities often.
    Prepare the environment before the children arrive and constantly over the course of the day. Check every exercise to make sure that everything is clean and ready to use. If you find an abandoned mess, invite a child to help you. If no children clean up with you, clean it yourself with precision, in case a child might be observing you. If you don’t have time to clean at that moment, take the material out of the environment and finish cleaning it later.
  • Practice your presentation until it is done normally and beautifully before you present it to the children.
  • Observe the child and make changes you observe help them to have success.

HOW TO PRESENT PRACTICAL LIFE MATERIALS

  1. Invite the child.
    Approach the child and model how to get someone’s attention respectfully. Give an enthusiastic invitation which is not a question, nor a command.
  2. Go together with the child.
    Keep the child’s pace. You may offer your hand to the child and the child may accept it or not.
  3. Involve the child.
    During the first presentation, do only the first half of the work and let the child finish it.
  4. Analysis of movement
    Observe your own movements: how fast they are, how you stand, if you are blocking the child’s vision…
  5. Language
    Give the child the names for things before presenting. This is done by isolating the noun or verb and avoiding moving while speaking. “sponge”
  6. Be aware of your body posture.
    When you bend over, bend the knees and lean forward slightly. Remain standing. Don’t squat or kneel less the child could also squat or kneel.
  7. Wear aprons
    The adult and the child both put on an apron when the activity calls for it.
  8. Let the child take over the work.
    When the child shows they want to take over some work, let them take it over. As soon as a child loses their concentration on a new task, you should be nearby and ready to get involved. Sometimes letting child hold something or fetch something for you is enough to let them feel involved.
  9. Clean up.
    As soon as you see a working child has lost concentration, you should get involved and give the clean-up presentation. Always encourage the child to clean up independently. If need be, you can go back over spills or fix small things in the material later. Children often forget or don’t clean up and need to be reminded to do it. This doesn’t mean that they don’t enjoy cleaning.

a photo tour of the practical life in our classroom

– WELCOME TO MONTESSORI CLASS! –

montessori dressing area, frames, ikea hack, shoe shelf, shoe brushing, spice rack, book display, frame display, toddler shoes, cube chair, selfcare, nienhuis, berlin montessori school
photo by Natalia Smirnova
  • Get ready!
    The first thing toddlers do when they come into class is sit down, take off their shoes, put them in a “special place on the shelf”, hang up their jackets, and put on their indoor slippers. They feel so proud as they put their things away and get to work.
  • Cleaning shoes
    If they are very interested in shoes, there are also two shoe brushes fastened to the side of the shoe shelf where they can clean all their friends’ shoes and even the parents’ if they like.
montessori toddler sink ikea hack, watter source, child sink, montessori bathroom, practical life, hand washing work
photo by Chad Chittenden
  • Washing hands

Having a low source of running water is by far the greatest resource I feel that the environment offers toddlers. As soon as they are standing, they can stand in fascination for minutes letting the tiny stream of water fall over their fingertips and turning the spout on and off. The sink satisfies the sensitive period for water and gives the child access to all the water-based practical life activities. It allows them to explore and “play” with water, while having the responsibility and focus of purposeful work.

montessori potty, toilet awareness, potty awareness, elimination communication, prepared environment, montessori toilet
  • Toilet Awareness

    In the bathroom there is this beautifully and simply prepared area for potty learning where little ones can practically explore their interest in the potty and learn how to use it Montessori-style.

– WORKING IN THE KITCHEN –

orange juice toddler making orange juice montessori practical life, food zone ikea cups, bed bath and beyond mini orange juicer, montessori snack, functional independence, montessori kita school in berlin
toddler cutting a bamama using a joie crinckle cutter toddler knife in the prepared kitchen area of montessori mother learning center in berlin, germany. This encourages funtional independence and the child can prepare food for himself whenever he feels hungry
photos by Kerly Ilves

  • Get a drink

When toddlers feel thirsty, they can go to the kitchen area and take a cup and pour themselves some water from a pitcher which comes out of a dispenser or prepare themselves fresh orange juice made from toddler-sized mandarins.

  • Prepare a snack

When the feel hungry they can go to the kitchen and prepare a snack for themselves. I always put out 2 food preparation activities at the child’s level, one group snack preparation activity (at my level to bring down and do with the children), orange juice squeezing work, and the water dispenser with just a minimal amount of water inside. As my trainer Patricia Wallner would say, “Never put out more water than you are willing to mop up.”  🙂 Food preparation activities include cutting bananas, cucumbers, or strawberries, peeling pears, peeling mandarins or hard-boiled eggs, plucking grapes, cracking peanuts, and spreading cream cheese on crackers.

This dishwashing station is one of the montessori practical life tables which we diy made from an ikea bathroom shelf hack, muender email enamel, and montessori design by nuccia polka dot toddler apron. Toddlers wash their own dishes when they want to in the montessori infant community or playgroup and have fun playing with water in a purposeful work way.
  • Washing the dishes

Sometimes after eating or drinking a toddler may want to wash their dish or those of their classmates. I also put out 2 “dirty” metal plates each class with just a little bit of coffee grounds on top to give the opportunity to make a distinct dirty-then-clean connection.

beautiful montessori dish washing presentation with child-sized materials and muener email white enamel basins a dish brush and mini bottle of soapy water
photo by Karen Ong

PRESENTATION:
The child fills the basins with water, squeezes/shakes in some liquid soap (90% water, 10% baby-safe dish soap). They carefully choose which single dish they would like to wash. Often, they enjoy using it to transfer water between basins – a beautiful discovery. After they have finished washing the dish, they set it to dry on the rack and pour out the basins into the bucket. They bring the bucket to their low sink and dump it out. After replacing the materials, they mop up any spills with a mop for the floor or a towel for anywhere else.


– CARE OF THE ENVIRONMENT –

Taking care of their environment is a toddler’s favourite activity because it is their way of connecting and having an impact on the world around them.

our montessori cleaning area is beautifulluy color coded in blue to support the montessori sensitive period for order in children and toddlers from twelve months to six years. this area includes mopping child mop and adult mop from obi in berlin, a table washing cart handmade by montessorimmaterials in berlin with muender email enamel so toddlers can care of the environment in berlin's first montessori playgroup, sweeping toddler proom and dustpan, and wall photo duster for toddlers and babies to clean all hanging from string loops off wall hooks to support order at the child's level
photo by Chad Chittenden
  •  Washing the table

Presentation: When you or the child notice that a table is dirty, invite them to wash it. The child fills the pitcher of water and pours it into the basin. Replace the pitcher in the basket. Wheel the cart to the table which they would like to wash. Wet the brush and soap and rub the bar of soap into the brush. Show the child how to scrub the table and let them try. After the table is scrubbed replace the brush and take the sponge. Slowly wet the sponge and squeeze it out – invite the child to try. The child wipes the table. Show the child where to put the sponge. Use the mitt to dry the table. Invite the child to clean another table. When they are finished, dump the water from the basin to the bucket. Carry the bucket to dump it out. Replace the bucket. Push the cart back to its place.

*This cart was made by hand with love by Montessori Mother Materials*

  • Mopping
    The toddler’s fascination with mopping is truly beautiful. Once the floor was wet, and now it’s dry! One of the first signs I see when a baby is becoming a toddler, is that they start mopping! In the toddler class, the mop is almost constantly in use because toddlers often spill drops of water when they do practical life and are eager to mop up every drop.  
  • Sweeping

It’s quite difficult for toddlers to sweep something up and dump it into the trash. They love concentrating on this work and doing their best. I also have a small vacuum they can use to clean up messes if they spill sand or soil.

  • Dusting

Recently I added the duster to our cleaning area for dusting the walls and picture frames. Because brooms and mops can only be used on the floors, I found that the toddlers also needed something to clean the walls with and this was important to many of them. As Montessori guides we must observe the child’s needs and adapt the environment to meet them where they are at.

using an aquarium in the toddler classroom or montessori kita toddlers love to feed the fish in this quiet cozy reading zen corner of the environment which is very meditative, small, sunny, and beautiful. It also supports a love and respect for life nature while encouraging gentleness and calm around smaller living things.
photo by Kerly Ilves
  • Feeding the fish
    Feeding the fish teaches respect for other life. It is also so relaxing to watch the fish swim around and can help the toddlers find calm.
Montessori cloth washing station with a polkadot apron by montessori design by nuccia and drying rack red enamel in the prepared montessori toddler community environment
photo by Karen Ong
  • Washing cloths
    Cloth washing is one of the most advanced practical life activities for toddlers who really need to exercise their concentration and do work involving lots of movement and multiple steps of varying difficulty.
montessori toddler sink filling up red polka dot pitcher made from enamel for the practical life cloth washing table station the sink is in the prepared montessori bathroom with mini sink from ikea
  • AGE: from 2 years
    PRESENTATION:
  • Invite the child to put on an apron with you. Ask them to choose which cloth from the bucket they would like to wash. Put the cloth in the left basin. Invite the child to fill the pitcher and carry it to the basin. Fill the first basin and go back for more water to fill the second. After soaking the cloth with water, demonstrate how to lather the cloth with the soap bar and scrub it. Wring out the cloth and hang it on the clothesline. Both of you take a clothespin and secure the cloth. Invite the child to wash another cloth by themselves. When they are finished washing or lose concentration, begin the cleanup process. Put the bucket on the floor. Each of you pour a basin of water into the bucket. Let the child carry the bucket of water to the sink and empty it. Replace the bucket and use the mitt to dry the basins and table. Mop up any spills. Hang up the apron.
montessori window washing small mini spray bottle from nienhuis special toddler sized water work practical life in the montessori parent child community playgroup in berlin germany
photo by Natalia Smirnova
  • Washing windows
    This is material is a very popular material on the shelf. Toddlers love to go all around the school and spray the windows, glass doors, mirrors, and aquarium with this tiny spray bottle and watch the water slowly run down. They use a squeegee and a small towel mitt to wipe up the water. Older toddlers like to bring a step stool so they can clean even higher. It is one of the best materials for very active toddlers because it offers movement, water, and clear before + after results.

– SHARING CULTURE WITH TODDLERS –

The child has the potential to incarnate any human characteristic, language, religious/spiritual connection, and culture. Here are two practical life activities for sharing culture with toddlers.

montessori wooden stair art hanging work choosing the photo art to hang on the wall in the montessori toddler community environment in my montessori parent child playgroup in berlin
photo by Natalia Smirnova
  • Hanging art

This material allows the child to choose which art they would like to hang on the wall. In the basket there are various famous paintings, photographs and drawings by famous artists like Van Gough and Renoir.

culture practical life activity decorating a holiday christmas tree with toddlers
  • Decorating a holiday tree

    Over the holidays the toddlers really enjoyed decorating this real tree with baby-safe ornaments and bead strings.

– CARING FOR PLANTS –

montessori sweeping watering can green garden work on wall hooks prepared in the montessori care of the outdoor environment in nature farm to table little ikea wall shelf
toddler watering the flowers barefoot in child garden in montessori school in berlin germany
  • Working in the garden

In the garden the toddlers really enjoy watering the flowerbeds, planting seeds, sweeping the deck, blowing bubbles, jumping on the trampoline, exploring the sandbox, and collecting the herbs and strawberries they grew.  

plants in the child's room classroom in montessori caring for nature, basket of balls, white monhtessori shelf, cube shelf, plant watering work purple mini ikea watering can, flower arranging, practical life, tulips
  • Flower arranging
    In this sunny corner toddlers can water their plants and arrange fresh flowers into tiny vases. These flower arrangements adorn our table during the group snack time. Usually one toddler arranges all three and carefully places them side by side on the table with lace doilies underneath.
  • Plant watering work for babies
    It’s such a special experience when children are discovering plants, how to care for them, and thus how to respect other living things.

    AGE: standing/12 months
    PRESENTATION:
    The first time I present this to a child I fill the watering can myself and invite them to watch me water the plant. I slowly pour half the water into the soil, using two hands. Then I set it down and invite the child to try. They will water the plant or possibly spill on the floor or try to drink the water. This is okay because they are learning! Use the sponge or towel to wipe up the spill. Invite the child to re-fill the pitcher of water. If the child is still not walking confidently, I fill the pitcher again for them with a very small amount of water from another pitcher which I keep at my level.

– LIFE SKILLS –

  • Self-Care

Toddlers love themselves deeply. In their self-care area children have access to several activities such as brushing + combing hair, wiping their nose with a tissue and tossing it in the waste basket, applying face cream (baby lotion), and trying on hats and sunglasses.

toddler beading sewing activity life skills practical life shelf work, montessori materials, wooden beads, sewing activity
photo by Natalia Smirnova
  • Sewing
    In our classroom an entire shelf is dedicated to threading and sewing activities arranged from the simplest to most challenging. Eventually the toddlers can embroider with a yarn needle – work which they tape off and get to take home with them.
montessori woodworking station by ikea with a light and small todler tools so children can use wood and tools, saw, drill, hammer, nails, screwing, srewdriver, bamboo broom and dustpan, ikea pegboard and stool, made by montessori mother materials, the only montessori playgroup toddler classroom in germany montessori kita school in berlin
montessori woodworking station toddler sawing using a saw with soft balsa wood, cutting wood safely with asaw, montessori moments
photo and materials by
Chad Chittenden
(Montessori Mother Materials)
  • Woodworking station
    Woodworking is a very special area of pride in our school. Humans have the natural tendency to use tools to do their work. Not surprisingly the presentations for these materials are very short, because toddlers as young as 12 months can use them intuitively.

    IN PRACTICE:
    Each tool has its own pre-prepared block which fits into the table insert. This keeps the block stable, isolates the difficulty of the tool, and supports the sensitive period for order. Toddlers love to sit at this station and go through all the tools which are arranged from least to most difficult, bottom to top, right to left. The presentations are hammering nails, wearing goggles, unscrewing screws, cutting soft balsa wood strips with a saw, sanding, and drilling holes. There is a small broom and dustpan available for sweeping up sawdust.

– GROUP WORK –

group practical life, community toddler snack time and washing the table wiping with sponges and small mini toddler-sized water spray bottle
adorable toddler with visor at montessori class in berlin's only montessori playgroup
toddler baking day making banana muffins with ikea aprons working together as a group mini muffin trays and banana mashing
tea brewing work for toddlers garden farm to table mint and lavender tea for toddlers to make for themself and their friends
  • Group snack
    After the toddler work cycle one or two toddlers volunteer to prepare the snack and dishes for everyone. They push the food and plates to in a cart over to the table and sit down together. I invite each child individually to join us at the table where they may serve themselves or each other food and water.
  • Wiping the table
    After snack the toddlers can help clean up by wiping the table with sponges and water, putting their dirty dishes back on the cart and bringing the cart to the kitchen. Usually the interested toddlers do this for the rest of the group.
  • Baking days
    In addition to preparing snack for each other, once per month we have a baking day when we make muffins or cookies and enjoy them together at the end of class.
  • Brewing tea
    AGE: from 2.5 years, or when the child uses scissors
    Brewing tea using the mint and lavender leaves from our garden is the closest experience available in my school to a farm-to-table experience. They carefully brew the tea for their friends and enjoy it together at the table.

– SAY “GOODBYE” –

After a long morning of hard work, we gather together and sing songs. Then we say ‘goodbye’ before toddlers and carers get ready to go home.

montessori dressing area toddler wardrobe montessori practical life shelf, work carpet, montessori mother and parent and child
photo by Natalia Smirnova

Thank you for joining me on this practical life tour through the Montessori Toddler Class! I hope you found it useful and interesting.


You can learn more about our school HERE > About Montessori Mother ELC

You can order Montessori furniture + materials HERE > Montessori Mother Materials

Photographers:
Natalia Smirnova
Kerly Ilves
Chad Chittenden
Karen Ong

Montessori at Home

Materials for Montessori-at-Home

The home offers so many opportunities for developmental activities. In this blog post I have recommended different DIY activity ideas and my Amazon material recommendations listed by age. These are all materials that the children use in class which inspire concentration and teach new skills.

0-6 months

How to make your own Montessori mobiles: (free downloadable instructions)

The purpose of Montessori Mobiles is to stimulate sight, hearing, touch, and eye-hand coordination, and to enable the child to discover how he is able to interact with his environment and produce change within it.

You can use this guide to make your own naturally-moving Montessori mobiles out of simple crafting materials. 

Montessori Teething and Grasping Toy

This is a favourite baby toy because it is so easy to see and to grasp onto. It also doesn’t roll away as quickly as perfectly round balls so it serves as an inspiration for crawling short distances. (€5,99)

6-16 months

How to make your own Montessori boxes

“Montessori materials do not necessarily have to be purchased at a high price, not even for small children and especially not at home. Some things can also be made very quickly using very simple means, such as this box with a crocheted ball for squeezing into the box. So simple and yet a material that has a lot to offer.” ~ blogpost by Anna, Eltern Vom Mars

3 einfache DIY Montessori-Materialien für Kleinkinder – Eltern Vom Mars

Peg board with rings

Babies love to work with pegs. First they take them out of their holes and eventually they are able to put them back and release using the pincer grasp. I love this material because it offers so many levels of difficulty and can grow with your baby gradually over 12 months. (€24,99)

16 months – 4 years

How to make a DIY gluing box

The Montessori gluing box is a fun activity for toddlers which is about learn glue and a gluing brush. Older toddlers can also make detailed and colourful collages. Here is another DIY guide from Eltern vom Mars which includes a baby-safe recipe for glue.

Ein simples DIY Montessori Klebekästchen und ein Rezept für selbstgemachten, ungiftigen Leim – Eltern Vom Mars

Magnetic Drawing Board

This is one of the top favourite activities in the Montessori baby and toddler class. It gives the opportunity to practice grasping and drawing. They also train eye-hand coordination and concentration by pushing the metal beads down with their pointer finger. (€9,99)

I hope you found this post helpful and interesting!

Montessori at Home, The Montessori Method

Montessori Mixed Age Groups: in school & with siblings at home

toddlers doing practical life work in montessori class

at home

Tips on the Montessori home environment for siblings

  • arrange the environment or play space so that both children can use it at the same time (for example, a movement mat for baby and a table and chair for your older child can be near each other so that they can learn from each other through observation)
  • instead of buying multiple versions of the same thing, teach siblings that if a material is in use, it’s unavailable. It it is not in use, it is available to either sibling
  • if one sibling wants something the other is using, teach them to trade for a reasonable alternative instead of just taking it
  • organise the shelf so that the materials on the lower part are intended for younger siblings, and materials on the top of the shelf are intended for the older siblings
  • keep any small parts in containers which only the older child can open. This is a safety precaution that allows your 3+ child to satisfy their need to work with tiny items and keeps your under 2 child safe
siblings without rivalry montessori book recommendation

Book Recommendation: “Siblings without Rivalry” by Adele Faber -order on Amazon-

in school

For a school to be considered Montessori, each class must have mixed age groups. Maria Montessori stressed the importance at least a 3 year age difference in a class (3-6, 6-9, and 9-12 years). In 0-3 we separate the classes from 2-16 months and 16 months to 3 years because the big changes the child goes through in the first years of life require differently prepared the environments.

toddler doing coinbox material work at montessori table in class

why a mixed age group is the best way to support learning and growth

1. each child is in one area the teacher and in another, the learner

Mixed-age groups are the ideal platform for learning responsible behaviour and mutual respect. Everyone is at some point the smallest or the largest, sometimes the strong or the weak, the person seeking help, or the helper. In Montessori young children grow up caring for each other and nurturing their self-esteem, self-confidence, and respect and empathy for others.

In Montessori children can strengthen their knowledge by demonstrating or communicating it to others. Younger also seem to be most at ease when surrounded by older children and enjoy learning from them by observing them with silent fascination.

2. every child has room to grow at their own pace

Having all the materials within the age group available at the child’s level, allows them to advance onto the next challenge when they are ready. It also makes it possible for them to follow their interest and advance in their strongest areas, while still being able to enjoy learning in others which are more challenging. Because teachers do not have to set the instruction pace by a whole group, each child is given the ability to learn at his or her own pace in every aspect of their development. 

3. it allows for cooperation over comparison

When there is an age difference, older and younger children are able to work together to achieve a goal and solve problems. When every child is expected to be at the same stage in their development, it opens the door for competition. No longer do we see each child’s individual skills and abilities, we see which child can do the same thing better and faster.  Children will help each other when cleaning up after work, putting things away, caring for the environment, and caring for each other. 

toddler choosing wall art in montessori class

the big picture

This relationship of mutual care and respect, of self awareness, and awareness of the strengths and weaknesses of others make Montessori mixed-age classrooms the ideal place for learning peaceful conflict resolution.

The Montessori approach is an Education for Peace and mixed age groups is its cornerstone.

– all photos by Natalia Smirnova

Classroom Tours, Montessori Materials

Baking with Toddlers | Lemon Cookies

toddlers baking lemon cookies, montessori-style

For our baking days this month the toddlers will bake lemon thumbprint cookies in pairs. The cookies turned out deliciously – I even baked an extra batch for the parents to enjoy! 🙂 In this blogpost I will walk you through how I prepare this baking workshop and share with you the vegan, gluten-free recipe that I used with my students. Enjoy!

Step 1: Prepare the trays

I had to practice the workshop a few times to make sure that the trays were set up for the toddlers to have maximum success during the workshop! The proportions also had to be perfect. In the end I used the recipe below divided into 5 portions to be baked by 10 toddlers working in pairs. Here’s how >>>

download recipe card:

(for 15 thumbprint cookies)

Step 2: Set out the mixing bowls and first trays

Two toddlers are sharing one mixing bowl and one tray of work. On each tray there are at least two tasks to make sure that every child has something to do during the whole workshop.

The reason I don’t give each toddler their own bowl and tray is because
a – I like for them to work together on group cooking projects like these
b – If one child is not interested and leaves their work, the other can continue
c – Children of different ages can work together on tasks of varying difficulty

THIS TRAY INCLUDES:
(in baking order + left to right)

  • Transferring the dried flowers (rose petals and lavender) using the pincer grasp
  • Transferring the sugar using a spoon
  • Pouring the lemon juice
  • Zesting the lemon using a cheese grater (grater from Joie)
  • Mixing it all together (wooden spoon from Ikea set)
  • Smelling the sweet, citrusy scent*

Step 3: Set out second trays

As the pairs finish mixing – in their own time- you can remove everything except the mixing bowl and wooden spoon. I set them up and bring them the next tray.

THIS TRAY INCLUDES:
(in baking order + left to right)

  • Chopping the margarine using a toddler knife (from Tescoma or Joie)
  • Transferring the flour mixture using a spoon
  • Mashing the margarine (masher from Ikea set)

Step 4: Form cookies and arrange on baking trays

I bought a mini baking tray for each toddler so they could make their own cookie forms. This is done by rolling the dough into a ball, placing it on the baking sheet, and pressing the thumb down. After each child finished arranging their cookies, They placed them on a large tray and started washing up.

TIPS:

  • I pre-cut parchment paper for the mini baking sheets to save myself time with cleaning
  • If the cookies are too large or too thin they won’t all bake properly, so I had to re-shape a few of them before putting them into the oven
  • You MUST pre-heat the oven before putting the cookies in or the will spread
  • The cookies are finished baking when the tops are dry. If they start to brown on the edges they are burned.

Step 5: Cleanup

I prepared 2 basins with a small amount of warm water, 6 half sponges, 4 dry rags, and 2 broom and dustpan sets. The toddlers had just as much fun cleaning up as they did baking, maybe more. 🙂

Step 6: Decorating the cookies (optional)

For the Open Day Baking Workshop we decorated our cookies by spreading lemon frosting and sprinkling dried coconut. This was such a cute touch and the toddlers loved it. However since frosting is so sugary, this step is, of course, optional. The cookies are also delicious without frosting. 🙂 I have included the fluffly lemon frosting recipe below.

FROSTING RECIPE:

To decorate 30 thumbprint cookies – whip together the ingredients below and cool frosting in the refridgerator while baking.

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons softened margarine
  • 10 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp applecider vinegar

Extra cookies were sent home in a paper cup and mini paper sack. 🙂

Montessori at Home, The Montessori Method

Montessori Food Q+A

Montessori weaning in the parent-infant class
Snack time in the Montessori Baby Class where babies enjoy food together and parents learn about Montessori-style weaning.

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.

babies eating bread and strawberries at Montessori weaning table
These babies have the choice between strawberries and soft bread.

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.

toddler eats at Montessori table
A toddler enjoying strawberries during snack time, which he cut for himself in Montessori Toddler Class.

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.

Our adjustable weaning table by Community Playthings and handmade cube chairs by Montessori Mother Materials

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.

Snack table in our Montessori Toddler Class

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. 

6 | A Montessori Mealtime Set