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Baking with Toddlers

I baked with toddlers every day for a week and here is everything I learned!

How did you use Montessori to bake with a group of toddlers ?

  • colour matching
  • trays of activities/isolation of difficulty
  • the children could join in or leave at any point/allowed the children to follow their own interests 
  • it was age inclusive, children from 15m to 4yrs participated together
  • we had a big cleanup session afterwards that was enjoyed by the children as much as the baking.
learning through observation

How keen were the toddlers on baking?

During the first hour of the class I invited the toddlers to cook with me at our group table and we started peeling pre-cut pieces of bananas. Some groups were more interested than others. Having a group activity was something we hadn’t done before and I many toddlers decided to continue with their normal class day, as if to say, “No thanks. I have work to do. See you at snack time!”  The children who attended multiple baking days were generally more interested and aware of what we were doing, of course.

It was fun to make sure that each child involved in the process had a task to do that they were interested in. Some preferred wiping up the table and floor, some were very involved in the cooking process, while others preferred to observe or eat batter with a spoon. Some loved pouring in ingredients, but didn’t want to smash the bananas. All the toddlers got to eat their muffins together before the end of class, even if they didn’t help make them. This way every child got to be part of the group. The children were very generous and sweet sharing with each other.

What do you want to do differently next time?

I wish I would have included more language and vocabulary. On the last day a parent was going over the ingredients with two toddlers as they ate their muffins and I realised I could have done the whole workshop as a 3 period lesson: giving vocabulary, letting them explore each texture, taste, and smell, and then give demonstrative instructions of what we do with each ingredient.

What is the BEST thing about baking with toddlers?

Giving the children the opportunity to see the whole process of where their food comes from— from bananas and flour into a muffin. To go even a step deeper, with 3-6 year olds, you could ground dried oats to make your own oat flour. It’s really easy.

Working together on a group project was also interesting. It’s not something that happens very often with more than two or three students at a time. 

Step-by-Step:

Step 1: peeling, chopping, mashing

Step 2: pouring, transferring, mixing

Step 3: sorting, scooping

Step 4: sponging, sweeping, drying

Vegan mini-Banana Muffin Recipe

Ingredients (makes 3 dozen mini muffins)

  • 2 cups gluten-free oat flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1.5 bananas
  • 1 cup soy milk
  • 1/2 cup organic maple syrup
  • 2 mini muffin trays
  • mini paper muffin forms
  1. Mix dry ingredients in a bowl
  2. Mash or puree banana in a separate bowl with milk and maple syrup. 
  3. Stir in dry ingredients
  4. Spoon batter into paper muffin forms in the baking sheet
  5. Heat oven to 200℃
  6. Bake muffins for 10-15 minutes
  7. Ready when the sides are golden brown. Remove from baking tray and let cool in a separate basket.
  8. Let the toddlers enjoy and offer each other muffins!

>> recipe tips when baking with toddlers <<<

  • Start off with twice as many bananas as you need to make it into the batter. The toddlers will probably first like to sample them and make sure they are tasty enough. 
  • Mix all the dry ingredients together yourself and then give them the mixture. They can use a spoon to transfer it into the bowl of liquid ingredients.
  • Measure out the milk and syrup in advance and pour into 2 separate pitchers
  • The muffins will turn out fine even if the ingredients don’t all make it into the bowl, and even if the batter isn’t evenly spooned into the forms. I promise. 🙂 
  • Flour on a hard-wood floor is a great sweeping opportunity for toddlers. They LOVE it!

Thank you for reading! I hope this was helpful. Comment if you have any recipe ideas for Baking with Toddlers Pt. 2!

Montessori at Home, Montessori Materials, The Montessori Method

The Way Children Play: how to use a Montessori shelf at home

what makes Montessori toys special?

Montessori toys are not built to entertain the child, but rather to engage their curiosity, creativity, and problem solving skills.

Children love to learn. They are naturally curious and fascinated by the world around them. They are eager to perfect their own skills and mimic the things they see older children and adults doing. They “play” to absorb new information and to train their skills. They enjoy repeating over and over these new skills until they have been perfected.

A child who is confident in their surroundings and their ability to approach the things that intrigue them is one who learns actively from their environment.

independence & perseverance

Montessori fosters independence and self-direction through the thoughtful design of each toy, through the layout of the play space, and through the way the adult interacts with the child. When children have more control over their learning, they work harder, perform better, retain more information, and are more creative and joyful. 

Children learn most when presented with just the right amount of challenge, not so easy that they are bored and not so difficult that they are frustrated. The Montessori curriculum is thoughtfully designed and timed so that children are repeatedly entering this ideal zone for learning.

Montessori maps a child’s development so that with each toy, the child goes through the experience of struggling with a new skill, practicing and then mastering it. Mastering challenging activities helps children to develop healthy self-esteem and the self-awareness that they can improve their abilities and increase their intelligence. Children with this independent mindset also persevere longer on challenging tasks, a valuable life skill.

how are Montessori toys different from commercial toys?

Montessori shelf for a child 12-16 months old
  • Montessori toys are designed to meet the child’s developmental stages.
  • They provide just the right amount of challenge, without being over stimulating.
  • They isolate the difficulty of learning one new concept at a time . This allows the child to challenge themselves without getting overwhelmed.
  • Montessori toys help children to self-correct. This encourages your child to repeat and gain the tremendous benefits of solving a problem independently.

how to use a Montessori shelf at home

Montessori shelf for a child 20-24 months old

The goal of the Montessori shelf is not to fill children with information but rather, to provide a rich environment and support their natural drive to learn through play.

rotate, guide & observe

  1. Add 6 toys to the shelf
  2. Allow them to play with the toys on a carpet or low table next to the shelf
  3. Rotate toys according to their interest:
    If they don’t use one of the toys on the shelf, it might be too easy or too difficult for the child and should be altered or rotated out
  4. Show them how to use a new toy when you add it to the shelf, then let them use it independently from then on

which toys should I buy?

less is more

 You probably already have a lot of toys for your little one. Before buying anything, go through what you have and choose 6 good toys to start off with and the rest can be stored away for later. 

levels of difficulty

The best toys for at home are ones that will grow with your child, offering multiple levels of difficulty. I have included a table with 6 examples below to demonstrate what this means. 

level one | 12-16 months

Montessori Puzzle Box
$50 off promo code >>>

Ring on a rocking base

Pegboard with 4 kinds of wood

Box of containers
similar suitcase available on Amazon

Bead Threading
trays from Absorbent Minds

Russian Nesting Doll

level two | 20 – 24 months

from MontiKids – Level 5
MONTESSORIMOTHER

similar toy by Ancona

handmade by Mamumabird

find containers around the house your child enjoys, clean them, & add them to their box

DIY IKEA Hack – Mula
more IKEA hacks from my classroom here

different styles available on Etsy

Thank you for reading! I hope this blogpost has been useful for your family’ s Montessori journey. Feel free contact me if you have any questions!

Montessori at Home, The Montessori Method

Translating for Toddlers

“The interpreter is to the child a great hope, someone who will open to him the path of discovery when the world had already closed its doors. This helper is taken into the closest relationship, a relationship that is more than affection because help is given, not merely consolation.”

Maria Montessori. The Absorbent Mind. 1949

Understanding their position

Compare yourself to living in a country where you do not speak the language. Many of us can relate to the frustrations the child could feel when… 

  • things happen to them which are not explained
  • instructions are given hurriedly without being shown
  • being treated by speaking people as if disabled because you cannot speak the language
  • wanting to say something important but you don’t have the words

Understanding their reactions

In these situations I may not have much self-control; I may become agitated, enraged, and begin to cry. That is what happens the child of one or two years old who has tantrums. They are intelligent and know people could understand their ideas, but cannot express them through lack of language. This is a dramatic epoch in the life of the child. (Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind)

Do not misinterpret the child expressing their frustration as deviant behaviour. They are facing a great struggle and feel comfortable enough with you to let you know how they feel and ask you for your help to calm down. Imagine how misunderstood they must feel!

One word sentences

Around 1.5 years old, toddlers realise that every object has a name. They use one noun to express a whole idea. Let’s call this form of self-expression one word sentences. These words are also often abbreviated or altered. When we respond to these sentences’ translations, we give the child reassurance that they are being understood and we bring them calm.

Thank you for reading! Let me know if you have any comments or questions!

Classroom Tours, Montessori at Home

Montessori Ikea Hacks

toddler aquarium reading nook montessori

part 1 of 3

Preparing a Montessori space for toddlers may take some extra time and planning, but it doesn’t have to be complex or expensive! In this blogpost I have explained the Ikea hacks I used when preparing 5 different areas of my classroom, along with links and lots of photos.

1.Easel

This easel allows the toddler to explore their own artistic creativity. I find that toddlers are interested in painting almost as soon as they can walk from around 14/16 months old! Of course it’s important to use washable paint (like the ones sold by Ikea) and have a washrag or little mop nearby to clean up any messes. 🙂

Instructions | I used a hacksaw to cut the legs by 17cm and sanded the edges.
I also dded a plastic hook to the side from which to hang the child’s apron. Clips hold pre-cut pieces of paper from the top of the easel. A bucket to the side holds extra pieces of paper. I have also added some art to the wall at the child’s level to beautify the space.

2.Table and Chairs

montessori toddler work table

These tables can be used in the play area for concentrating on activity or in the kitchen as a snack table. I have also seen them used as sensory tables and dollhouse tables. Toddlers LOVE having their own place to sit and work or eat. It’s something so simple, yet so important for them.

Instructions | Shorten the table so that it stands at a comfortable height for toddlers (38cm). Also shorten the chairs by 7cm. It’s slightly time-consuming, but very doable to make these with a simple hand saw and some sand paper-and it’s very worth it!

3.Self Care Area

toddler self care area vanity montessori

The self care area is a place where toddlers can go to brush their teeth, comb their hair, wipe their nose, put on sunscreen, etc..

Instructions | At home you might add a self care area to the bathroom or changing area to support independence and collaboration. I also added some hats and a basket of sunglasses for the children to try on. Notice that the chair is the same as the one from the toddler table in IKEA hack #2.

4.Reading Nook (relaxation corner)

reading nook montessori quiet corner zen area for toddlers

This is a quiet area in my classroom where toddlers and babies can go to read, watch the aquarium, play music, and relax.

Instructions | I made this new cover and pillow to make the chair more inviting and beautiful. Also the Ikea chair cover is not washable (be careful!). While assembling the bead tracker, I added only one bead to each track in order to give the activity a clearer purpose: transferring beads from one side to the other. The extra beads are perfect for a threading material.

5. Newborn Movement Area

montessori newborn movement area
with mirror and mobiles

From DAY 1 we can start to offer freedom of movement. This movement area is a place where non-walking babies from 0-6 months can observe their movements and the world around them through the mirror. Visual mobiles hang within Baby’s range of sight and move naturally with the air in the room.

Instructions | Mount the mirror to the wall for safety. You can also secure the back with duct tape if the mirror is made from glass rather than acrylic glass. Attach the hanger to the wall and use a string to tie the mobile and adjust its height. On the mattress you can also put a fitted sheet for easy cleaning.


Thank you for reading! I hope you found this post interesting and helpful! I plan to make 2 more of these posts soon. Feel free to leave a comment or suggestion below if there is something more you would like me to include next time!

~ Katelynn

The Montessori Method

Imagination and Creativity in Montessori

Listen to the Podcast:

Podcast 2: Imagination and Creativity in Montessori

“Humans have a tendency to imagine, to create and to invent with the intellect. For example, an act of imagination allowed humans to use animal fur and plant fibres to construct clothing. A child in the classroom imagines a new constructive way to use a material or how the globe represents the earth.”

Angeline Stoll Lillard
(2017, The Science Behind the Genius: 3rd edition, Oxford University Press, p. 120)

There is a common misconception that the Montessori approach doesn’t encourage children to be imaginative and creative. This simply isn’t true. It is true that under 3 years old, we focus on the real world around the child to support the development of imagination and creativity, rather than encouraging fantasy. In this blogpost and corresponding podcast, I would like to discuss the following: imaginary play, fairytales, and creativity through art and music.

1. Imaginary Play

Around 2.5 + years , we will then see our child begin with pretend play. This is a sign of them processing what they see around them, not fantasy. They play families, bake us cookies, and pretend to be the school teacher.

simone davies (2018, The montessori toddler, p.94)

In a true Montessori classroom, you won’t see a pretend play-kitchen or a costume dress up corner. Instead you could find a real, child-sized kitchen area where children can prepare food for themselves or each other; a self care area; a cleaning area the toddlers can use to tidy any messes that are made during class; and a large art area where the babies and toddlers can express themselves creatively. In my school there is also a special woodworking area where the toddlers can safely use real tools to see a real cause and effect.

For Montessori at home, the adult involves the child in day-to-day activities like cooking and dressing and washing. There is no need to give toys that only represent real life (like wooden foods or a plastic toy appliances) when they are fully capable of having real-life experiences with those day-to-day activities that they find so fascinating.

At home you might also put out some open-ended toys from 2.5-3 years old. These allow for many possibilities to let their imaginations grow, without prescribing exactly how they should be used. For example, a set of blocks can be built in any way to represent anything to the child.

2. Fairy Tales

While they are allegedly intended for children, fairy tales are often very scary and not based in reality. Children under 3 and even up to 6 years old have difficulty distinguishing fantasy from reality. Everything we tell them is very real and very true to them. They trust the information that we give them entirely.

That’s why in Montessori the books we read to children under 3 and the stories we tell them all give true information to the children and have realistic depictions of the story. Hopefully toddlers’ books offer information they can relate to their own experiences so they can consider them more deeply and learn more about that topic through the book we are reading to them.

Linguistically when children are able to understand figurative speech like metaphors and symbolism, they very much enjoy fairytales and mythological stories that require critical thinking. Among other things in regards to literature, the Montessori approach aims to give children a strong base in reality from the beginning, so that they can learn to understand complex stories and figurative elements.

3. Creativity Through Art and Music

Art and music are a large part of Montessori education. Maria Montessori believed arts to be just as important as other subjects. There should be a sizeable art area in the Montessori classroom with many different creative, and open-ended activities the child can use whenever they are inspired to do so.

Music is another important part of Montessori education. Musical instruments are available at the child’s level to support musical expression. In every Montessori class we sing and dance and enjoy music together with the children.

In the art area of the Montessori classroom, children have the freedom to explore new possibilities that make them wonder what else could they do? How else can they try?

In Montessori it is our goal that children have an environment which encourages curiosity through the freedom we give to the child and the ways that we prepare the space so that children become curious about the world around them and develop the ability to think and create for themselves.

“The secret of success [in education] is found to lie in the right use of imagination in awakening interest, and the stimulation of seeds of interest already sown.”

— Maria Montessori
(1948, To educate the human potential. Madras, India: Kalakshetra)