Motherhood Mondays: Toddlers in the Kitchen

This weekend, I read two fantastic posts (by a mom whose child goes to a Montessori school) about toddlers pouring their own drinks and making their own snacks. A basic Montessori motto is “help me do it myself,” and I see how by encouraging toddlers to help in the kitchen, we help them build confidence and feel a sense of accomplishment. And why not? Toby is two and a half, and I’ve always just poured his water, washed his strawberries, and peeled his bananas myself without thinking twice. But of course he can help with those things. Mama forehead smack!

Inspired this weekend, I got out a small pitcher and Toby poured water into his glass by himself. When he spilled a bit, I handed him a tea towel, and he happily mopped up the water himself.

Then Toby and I made these two-ingredient cookies (bananas + oats!), and they were a HUGE hit with both Toby and my thirty-year-old brother who stopped by that night:) Toby loved helping peel the bananas, pour the oats, add a few handfuls of cranberries just for fun, squish everything together, and eat the dough.

Do your kiddos help in the kitchen? Any recipe suggestions? Guacamole might be fun? This book, Kids in the Kitchen, is now on my wishlist.

P.S. In other news: French kids eat everything.

(Top photos by How We Montessori, and cookie photo by The Burlap Bag. Thank you for the huge inspiration, Kylie!)

  1. NN says...

    I love this! I have an intrepid 18 month old and I’m going to let him give it a go! Who cares if he spills? Can’t be worse than a bored toddler who decides to throw cheese! :p

  2. This post hits way to close to home. My daughters love to spend time with me in the kitchen. Although she gets in the way at times her heart is always in the right place.

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  4. Nice! I work in a Montessori classroom of 3-6 yr olds, and our kids love them some food preparation. We do a lot of straightforward things: having the kids spread their own jam, butter, or cream cheese onto bread at snack; having kids cut up carrots and then offer them to other kids in the room; slicing cheese and then putting toothpicks in them to serve others.

    It’s a big time. We also found this knife :: :: which is good for little guys and gals.

  5. I have to say, I was out to brunch with my husband the other day, and I looked over at the table next to us where a large family (mother and father, 2 younger kids, a grandmother and teen) was sitting. And I was shocked to see the mother cutting up her teenage-daughter’s pancakes for her… PANCAKES! This mopey teenager looked fully uninterested, yet slightly impatient for her mother to finish, as if she does this for her every meal! HOW IS THIS OKAY? I have friends who had never once cooked themselves dinner or used a washing machine to do their own laundry until they left for school, or even later! I think it’s great to teach kids how to be confident and self sufficient at a young age.

  6. My toddler son helps me cook about half the time, even the most complicated dishes. He likes to pour ingredients in and stir. When I don’t want his help with a task (cutting veggies, putting something in the oven) he is perfectly (most of the time) happy to stand back and watch as long as he’s wearing his itty bitty apron. It’s one of my favorite things we do together. I hope cooking holds his interest for all the years to come.

  7. My toddler son helps me cook about half the time, even the most complicated dishes. He likes to pour ingredients in and stir. When I don’t want his help with a task (cutting veggies, putting something in the oven) he is perfectly (most of the time) happy to stand back and watch as long as he’s wearing his itty bitty apron. It’s one of my favorite things we do together. I hope cooking holds his interest for all the years to come.

  8. Someone may have already mentioned this, but I you may really enjoy Bringing Up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman. While living in France, Pamela draws a correlation between French parenting and good behavior. It’s a really fun and quirky book that focuses on how to give your children a lot of freedom in a strict guidelines to ensure good behavior. One thing she says the French stress is encouraging children to bake because it involves discipline, patience, and concentration. I definitely encourage exhausted parents to check it out!

  9. When I was three I walked up to my mom while she was breastfeeding my little sister and said “go get me some apple juice.” She was so stunned by my demanding tone she looked right at me and just said “go get it yourself.” I went into the kitchen and remarkably got the job done, but returned and said, “I spilled everywhere” and tried to just keep walking. I think you can see where this is going, but so began her “if you’re old enough to sass, you’re old enough to do things yourself” philosophy.

  10. So glad you posted about this. I agree completely with this. It reminded me to do this sort of thing more often.

    Thank you!

  11. My kids go to a Montessori school, and it is exactly that “do for yourself” mentality that inspired me to start The Kids’ Table. We get kids as young as two in classes making anything from Oatmeal Choc Chip Cookies to Farro Risotto. The benefits of cooking with your kids are so numerous that I’m not sure where to start…. It gives you the opportunity to impart a valuable (and delicious) life skill on your child, to learn a lot from your own side, to eat more homemade foods, to spend good quality time together, and to nip picky eating habits in the bud. Did I miss anything??

  12. i just pinned this recipe. can’t wait to try!

    kid in the kitchen is must! they love helping, it teaches them to love food, and allows them to be involved and entertained while you get something dinner. lol

  13. My cousin (age 2 1/2) would love to grind salt into a bowl for her parents to use. Then we would also pour salt back and forth from bowl to bowl. Same thing for pepper. That would keep her occupied for an hour or more. She also always loved to crack eggs when we were baking together!

  14. Cute!!

  15. Em says...

    LOVE it. Gus started Montessori at 6 months old and has pretty much refused a sippy cup, plastic silverware etc since. We use all glass, ceramic, real silverware etc. We have a special low down cupboard where his plates, bowls and cups go and he LOVES to set his own place. The recipe is awesome. Gonna try it tomorrow.

  16. Thank you so much for this post Joanna. It made me think and look at my daughter and all the things she CAN do. She should have been born on 23. May 2010, but she was nine weeks premature and very ill and we’ve been told all sorts of things that she might not be able to do. – She’s fine now. She does all the things a nearly three year old should be able to do and more. After reading your post we made pizza and I started watching her and then filming her. Despite I just using my phone and imovie and the fact that this is my fist ever edit, it shows that she’s overcome all difficulties. Your post made me aware of that. Thanks again.

  17. Fantastic post, Joanna! My daughter in in her second year at an AMI Montessori preschool, since she was 18 months old. It’s difficult for me to say whether all children are suited for this type of school, but she certainly was. As a toddler, she loved to help around the house, had great concentration, loved to pick up stuff and transport it around (cans of food, boxes), and was more interested in adult life than her own toys. This was a good fit with the school’s focus on practical life — besides that, I like the emphasis on manners and a certain conscientiousness about oneself and others. You will often see a child helping another child get dressed or fetching a tissue for someone who sneezes. I really take to heart an expression I heard recently, “It is easier to raise a bright 3-year old than a pleasant, unspoiled 3-year old.” For me, the beauty of Montessori is the engagement with the child’s mind, body and heart.

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  19. My son is still a little young to pour his own water, but I’ve let him try to drink out of his own cup since we first started him on solids at six months! I was really interested in trying Baby-Led Weaning and that’s what we did with Miles. The premise is introducing food to babies in the same form that we adults eat it- at developmentally appropriate intervals, of course- and to include them at mealtime by letting them eat what we eat. Miles loves his little fruit and veggie puree pouches for on the go, but at home he has always eaten what we are eating and has been able to eat for himself from the get-go. Now, he is teaching himself to use a spoon and he’s really quite good at it!

    I can’t wait for the age when he will be able to bake and cook with me!


  20. I don’t have kids of my own yet, but whenever I cook around my nephews, they always insist on helping out however they can. When the older one was around 2, he would help me make green beans and other hands-on veggies. The amount of pride you saw in his little face when he told everyone at the table “I make beans…MEEEE!” was pretty amazing. Now they’re a little bit older (5 and 7), and they’re HUGE fans of making their own pizzas: rolling out the dough, shredding cheese, piling on the toppings, and slicing them up right out of the oven. I make them a dinner every year for each of their birthdays, and they get to choose whatever they want – and they always choose things they know they can help make. It’s a lot of fun…a little bit of a mess…but mostly a lot of fun!

    I think it’s great to get kids involved in cooking when they’re young and think it’s fun. They will learn skills that stick with them for life, take an immense amount of pride in sharing what they made, and will be more likely to cook for themselves later on in life. As long as you can find age-appropriate things for kids to do, I think it’s never a bad thing to get them in the kitchen with you!

  21. I’ve never heard of Montessori, but I’m checking it out now. What a great way to teach confidence in youngsters and make meals fun and hands on for them. I love these sort of posts that you do. Great ideas :)

  22. I went to Montessori school myself (my years ago) and I still remember doing things like pouring water from a jug and setting the table during snack time. It have only happy memories of that time, and I hope to send my own kids to Montessori someday. I wish every parent would read some of Maria Montessori’s work; I think we would all be happier and more productive in our families.

  23. i’m reading Montessori’s theories now that my little one is turning 2. i love the idea of let her being more indipendent and self confident! in the kitchen i need to let her help me; otherwise she doesn’t let me cook!!

  24. I love Kylie’s blog! And those biscuits! Made them for a playdate this afternoon & I think my son ate every one! Thanks for the link!

  25. I’m a Lead Guide in a toddler Montessori community and you’d me amazed by what our children are capable of doing… only if give the opportunity. I could write for days on my daily observations but will leave it with… thank you for sharing your experience and bringing awareness.

    “Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed.” ~Maria Montessori

  26. Being an employee of Williams-Sonoma not only does Dylan help in the kitchen but has all the gear from his Sesame Street apron down to his Elmo spatula. He loves it and I think it really helps him to try new foods, because he helped make it. If he sees the kitchen aid mixer come out he grabs his apron and pulls a chair up to the counter. Makes my heart melt.

  27. This is so crucial to remember, even beyond the toddler years. Growing up, my parents always expected me and my sisters to the things we were capable of. If we wanted pizza for dinner, it was up to us to call and order it. It taught me to be comfortable speaking to strangers, and taught me the importance of being able to do things for myself. It’s a valuable lesson that I cherish. Now, as a fourth grade teacher, I need to constantly remind myself that my students are capable of figuring things out without me spoon feeding them the answers. It’s tough (I’m sure it relates to the “mom knows best” mentality), but it’s important to remember.

  28. My 4 1/2 year old daughter LOVES to cook. I cook and bake a lot and she has been “helping” ever since she was about 2 years old. She loves looking at beautiful food photography and chooses what we will try to make next. I once showed her a short youtube clip of Julia Child and she’s been obsessed ever since. I think because we have involved her in cooking from a very early age, she has grown an appreciation for trying anything. The bottom line, food aside, is that I think our little ones love to be with us and have our attention. Cooking together is a great way to do it while helping them grow an appreciation for food.

  29. My little girl has been by my side in the kitchen since she was in a sling. She has a butter knife now that is slightly more serrated then most so she is my official soft vegetable cutter everyday. She is in heaven.

    She is 6 years old now but since she was 5 she has been allowed to make her own breakfast and snacks. I’m always nearby. She loves making toast and bowls of fruit and yogurt etc. She gets way more pleasure eating the food if she makes it herself and I love seeing how chuffed she is with herself. It never fails to give me little mommy flutters of the heart to see her proud of her own accomplishments. everyday.

    My son is not so interested in making his own snacks (he’s 4) but our little girl loves taking care of him too and always wants to make for him as well.

    It’s really a beautiful thing to nurture.

    By the time I was 9 years old, and after a few quick lessons from my older brother, I was responsible for cooking dinner one night a week. All my older siblings had a day already. Granted it was simple foods for those first few years. Chinese stir fry and rice or Pasta and Salad etc.

    My mommy was one smart lady. She even had the older siblings teaching the younger ones! Makes me laugh when I think about it.

    I appreciate greatly being allowed in the kitchen, makes me fearless now and I am starting my kiddies of even younger then my own busy mommy did.

  30. We’re a Montessori family too and most mornings my two and a half year old son scrambles the eggs and calls for me to grab the plates. He’s still a terrible egg cracker and I watch him carefully stove side but for the most part he’s a great help.

    I have also always found the dinner prep hour the worst of the day as kids are cranky and hungry. All that changed when I had my aha moment and started involving them in the prep. Salads are their speciality.

  31. We all have our own versions of the mama forehead slap… I’m not a mama and I have them a little too often! These seemingly tiny, most wonderful ideas can have the most positive impact. I love that Toby jumped on the chance to help out. Most every child will, given the opportunity.
    Montessori has a great curriculum and educational foundation. When I was an art teacher, I liked to pull from their approach and, mainly, the Reggio Emelia approach. Do you know it? I feel like I remember you posting an image of one of their schools, painted the colors of the rainbow. I THINK it was of a reggio school. Anyway, I bet Toby would love it.

  32. When our daughter was less than 18 months old, I learned about Montessori philosophies for children building life skills. We started then and it was liberating. She participates (and enjoys) helping around the house. She sorts the laundry with me, hangs clothes, and puts her own clothes away. We got a water jog with a spout, so she can get her own water. We bake bread (with yeast, from scratch) regularly, as well as cookies. She loves to help her dad cook dinner. She has her own apron and all of her kitchen “toys” are real utensils…you can so many things in small sizes now. We love doing these things together. So glad you have begun!

  33. those two-ingredient cookies sound GENIUS! I am totally going to try these out – thanks for the link to the recipe, Jo!

  34. those two-ingredient cookies sound GENIUS! I am totally going to try these out – thanks for the link to the recipe, Jo!

  35. My daughter started Montessori yesterday! I went to pick her up and found her pouring her own drink ;) and in a few weeks she will start cutting up her own fruit. Their values and the way their activities pertain to everyday life is really inspiring and schools tend to recognize a Montessori child straight away because of this. Love the philosophy and would recommend the pre-school to anyone.

  36. Yay for Montessori!!! I am a Montessori teacher. I teach elementary, but my school has primary classrooms(3 to 6 years old) and toddler classrooms (15 months to 3). It is truly the ABSOLUTE best for early childhood education, in my humble opinion.

    One amazing benefit from these activities is that they also help teach children concentration, which can carry over to things like math work when they are older. So great and important. :) So glad you blogged about it!

  37. I love this too! Fostering independence probably gives him (and you) so much confidence.

  38. So glad you mentioned this book! One of the authors is starting Austin’s first public montessori school, where we are hoping to send our kids! We think Sara is the best and her cookbook is awesome.

  39. I love this! Our 18-month-old loves to carry his own dish over to the table every morning for breakfast, eat with real utensils and drink out of a real cup. I think giving them as much independence as possible helps to build confidence early on!

  40. Our favorite kitchen toddler jobs include: setting the table, making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (especially if they’re making lunch for their parents!), getting ingredients out of the fridge, using a small hand broom and dustpan, and putting things away when they know the exact spot for them.

    We’re not strictly Montessori over here, but I love a LOT of those ideas about making things easy for the kids to do for themselves.

  41. I went to a montessori school from 4-13 years old and I’m so glad I did- I’ll definitely be sending my future kids to montessori too. I remember my little sister coming home from school aged 3 and telling us about parts of the brain- it’s so amazing how much kids can learn to do when you harness the enthusiasm for learning that really little kids have!

  42. I WENT TO MONTESSORI SCHOOL! And some of my (and my childhood friends’) favorite memories all surround the “snack table”: where, in pairs, we would sit at a little table set for two and there would be ingredients and a “recipe” and we would pour one another’s water and help each other make the snack! It was awesome and we felt really accomplished! We also had bread baking once a week where our whole kindergarden class would get together and bake bread: each of us had a responsibility and when it was done, we’d all sit in our homeroom “circle” and share the loaf together. Our teacher had a giant tepee in her room and we’d all sit inside and talk. So thankful my parents sent me there!

  43. My 11month old just self feeds if I let put the food in front of him. My 6 yr old step son is just started serving his own drinks and getting his own snacks. I don’t normally let him make his own food tho, such as sandwhiches or soups (easy stuff) i feel as a mom it’s our duty to feed them. Pick up after themselves tho, that’s all on him. Idk…I guess feeding just feels like a thing I am in charge of for now, until he hits a mature enough age and can manage a microwave & knife without cutting himself

  44. That’s a very good idea. My son Fernando is 3 and a half and he loves to help in the kitchen, especially decorate cookies (and eat them!). This is the best time for sharing these moments with them. Enjoy your time with Toby.
    Guacamole is a good option if he likes it; I know that Fernando won’t eat it, so he may plays with eat, but not eat it ;)

  45. I grew up cooking from Pretend Soup by Mollie Katzen (author of the Mooswood Cookbook) – every recipe has the grown up version and then a kids version with photos. They tested all of the recipes with children and their rave reviews are sprinkled throughout. I think you guys would love it. I made something out of it just the other day after working on my thesis…

  46. Guacamole is such a good recipe for kids. I ran a kids camp last summer and cooking week, although challenging was my favorite. By far the two favorite kid friendly recipes were salsa and guacamole. Even kids that didn’t like avocados and tomatoes ate the food because they made it. Of course having kid friendly tools helps….those hand choppers they sell on tv that dice veggies are perfect (and fun) for kids that might not be ready for knives. Also smoothies are fun because kids get to experiment with picking ingredients and different flavors. Have fun in the kitchen!

  47. We’ve made it a Sunday night tradition to make pizza (dough from Trader Joe’s is really yummy!) and lately my 20-month old son has been my little helper. He loves it! Especially rolling the dough and “painting” the sauce onto the dough. Last night he also helped lay the cheese — you could which ones were his by the little bite marks in the slices :)

  48. As a kid, one of my favorite nights out was when my family would go to an Italian restaurant that gave kids pieces of pizza dough to play with. I think that giving a toddler a piece of pizza dough (or bread dough)to play with would be a fun and easy way to entertain them while you make dinner!

  49. Thanks for posting our two-ingredient cookie, Joanna! It’s so yummy and easy :)

  50. I don’t have kids but I am a long-term baby-sitter, and I’ve worked with adults with developmental disabilities in a program with a view similar to that Montessori school outlook (basically, allowing them to be as independent as possible). My favorite kitchen projects with littles are cookies (dough squishing, decorating, pouring in ingredients, cracking eggs), fruit salad (cutting soft fruit with plastic knives, mixing), making cracker sandwiches, sweeping, and, of course, playing with fun kitchen items! Pot and spoon bands, stacking tupperware, and just being silly. The kitchen should always be fun.

  51. Check out Montessori For All ( by Sara Cotner, author of Kids In The Kitchen.

  52. I went to a Steiner Primary school for a few years before we had to move to an area without one. I remember my brother being older than me and having spent more time in Mainstream schools before we arrived didn’t fit too well. Mainstream schools really fitted him, but for me it was perfect.
    I loved how hands on it was, now I’m a teacher and its my dream to teach in Steiner or Montessori schools and will be looking for preschools and schools for my children.
    I’m so glad they are becoming popular again. Such a great way to teach children.
    Thank you for blogging about this Jo.

  53. I think as parents it’s easy to assume that your children “can’t” do something and just do it for them. I know I do it, but I’m trying to let my 3 year old do more. It’s amazing what he can do without my help. I was so amazed the last time we baked together he cracked the eggs himself! Of course he makes a huge mess when he helps, but I am trying to learn to let it go. After all, it can all be cleaned up!

  54. Those cookies look great – must try them out this week. I involve my son in making dinner every evening. He is almost two and really enjoys standing up on a chair beside me wearing his apron. He does lots of little things from chopping mushrooms to washing cherry tomatoes (some get half chewed), washing sprouts/brocolli etc, squashing veggie burgers into flat patties, using a small brush to wash potatoes, beating eggs, mixing – all sorts of things. He also loves to have a jug, glass and bowl for pouring water for drinking and washing the veg. It’s always messy but he has good fun.
    Another fun thing for him is to stand at the sink with a basin full of soapy water, he ‘washes’ all the plates with a scrub and puts them in the draining rack – this could occupy him for a whole evening!

  55. funny, i made those cookies this weekend too! (although i added apple sauce and peanut better, to make them extra sweet + moist)

  56. My son is almost exactly Toby’s age, and I started doing this at Thanksgiving. Rather than shoo him out of the kitchen, I made sure the floor was clean, and brought everything down to his level. He LOVED it, and regularly asks for “kitchen projects”. He will happily stir, throw away, clean up – you name it, and then he is very proud of the outcome. This is a wonderful way to make my day to day tasks an exciting adventure for a little guy exploring the world!

  57. jm says...

    Wonderful post! I agree that it is great to include children is simple tasks as much as possible. They love it!

  58. My daughter who is 4 goes to a bilingual Montessori school here in Paris, France
    We are so amazed by all the things she can do right by herself….
    She started to go to school last year and did a lot of “practical life “as “La Bohème or something like it” talked about below.
    We really love Montessori pedagogy!

  59. Love! My son is just barely a toddler (13 months), but even now I can see a whole new world of things he can do opening up. I can’t wait to explore all of this more (let the mess begin!).

  60. HiI I am a Montessori pre-k teacher… the “help me do it by myself” is what we call “Practical Life.” In the classroom, the children have opportunities to “wash a chair” and “dry dishes;” under supervision they practice routine and organization (getting all of the necessary objects/materials and laying them out neatly on the mat or work space) and life skills! It’s very cute but very interesting to watch them work diligently. This post made me smile! As Toby gets older, maybe you’ll let him have the “job” of helping make the bed, or separating his laundry… that would help him with one-to-one correspondence and learning about “pairs” (ie a pair of socks)… cuteness.

  61. Yep, my kids help cook often. Mostly breakfast type foods (pancakes, scrambled eggs), baked goods, and sandwiches. They love cooking and spreading. :)
    My 7 yr old finally mastered cracking eggs, without making a mess or getting shells in the bowl, and he made brownies completely independently the other day (reading the recipe, cracking, mixing, pouring… ) and was so excited.

  62. I LOVE How We Montessori. Kylie’s Otis is just a few months younger than my oldest son Alec and I constantly have “mama forehead smack” moments realizing what kinds of things Alec could be doing for himself.

    Alec is 2 years old and cooking and baking are his absolute favourite activities and something he is involved in every single day. Baking makes awesome sensory play (we started when Alec was just past a year old) and our favourite thing to bake together is oat cakes!

  63. And it doesn’t take much to teach them. For the past few months my 4 year old and i have made breakfast for dinner– scrambled eggs, toast and fruit. Each week I gave him a new responsibility for the meal. Guess who cooked mama dinner last week– everything from getting ingredients out of the fridge, to mixing, to cooking to serving (he did everything except deal with the flame). He was soooo proud!

  64. Yum banana and oats xx

  65. I have a 3 year old and a 5 year old, and they get water from the dispenser in the fridge, mix up dough, and love making peanut butter sandwiches and adding toppings to homemade pizza. My youngest is a boy, and I have no gender lines or boundaries when it comes to becoming a good cook someday.

  66. great ideas! my son is only thirteen months old, but i already try to get him involved when i can because he is SO curious! last week we made your suggestion for flourless pb cookies and he was very helpful at taste testing:)

  67. I was JUST thinking about this this weekend! As long as you act like the messups are no big deal, and let them help cleanup (versus getting really upset over spills and then taking over!) I think its great! My almost 2 year old daughter helped make scrambled eggs this past Saturday! She stirred the eggs, and put cheese on top and set the table. I did the egg cracking and scrambling in the pan. Amazingly, after not eating eggs for breakfast the last several tries, this time she ate everything in her bowl and I couldn’t help but wonder if she was more encouraged to eat them because SHE was invested in making them!! Sunday night I told my husband we need to do more of that!

  68. I think this is a wonderful idea for toddlers and kids, when I have a child, I’ll be doing this. Messes will happen but they cane learn to clean after themselves.

  69. My daughter is the same age as Toby. We spend most of out time in our kitchen/living room. She’s got her own little kitchen but most of the time she pulls a chair up to stand next to me and join in. She wants to do what I do, and as long as it does not include sharp tools I let her do it. When I need time to feed my 8 months old I let her play at the sink. She’s loves pouring.

  70. we bought little cream pitchers for our now 2.5 year old twins about a year ago and they pour their own milk on their oatmeal every day! they never spill anymore, and they love to be in charge of it. we will also give them each a small cutting board and a toddler knife and let them cut up their own bananas, and they help measure flour by spooning it into a bowl when we’re baking – i use a kitchen scale instead of measuring cups, so there’s no worry they’ll dump in too much, i can just spoon it back out. over the weekend, they “helped” roll out pizza dough with the rolling pin, which wasn’t actually very successful, but one of them did very successfully poke the risen dough back to size so that was fun! we love to cook and bake and really want our kids to be interested in it, too.

  71. oh so cute and those cookies, yom! totally want to try making those!

  72. My oldest and my youngest love to help in the kitchen. My middle one not so much. My oldest is six so I let him do measuring on his own for recipes and such, but I let my 2 year old help with whatever she can too. She loves to mix. I am making those cookies today. :)

  73. oh, i love this! kids are really capable of so much more than we give them credit for, and honestly, who cares if they spill something? isn’t that how they learn? i can’t wait to cook with my daughter. for the even younger set, it reminds me of baby led weaning method which we did with our 10M old daughter (with much success). she really loves a variety of foods – salmon! lentil curry! chili-rubbed pork tenderloin! lamb! collard greens! – and i credit letting her take the lead and feed herself sometimes with her hands and sometimes with a baby-size fork preloaded by mama.

  74. I went to a Montessori preschool from ages 1-3 (my mom must have really wanted me out of the house!) and one of my few memories is of prepping for snack-time by myself. I think it taught me to be more independent right from the start.


    Kristina does the Internets

  75. Montessori is the best. I attended one from ages 3-6 and have fond memories. My mom still recalls being shocked upon walking into school to pick me up my first week and seeing a slightly older child (maybe age 4 or 5) carrying a tray with a big pitcher and glasses. It’s great to get kids doing those tasks early because it stresses independence, confidence, and concentration!

    My Montessori also really emphasized manners. At snack time 2 kids would be in charge of giving the snacks to all the other kids. We would all be seated at different little tables throughout the room and the 2 kids ‘in charge’ had to go around with the snacks on a tray and ask everyone, “Would you like some?” and you had to reply “Yes please” or “No thank you”… :) So cute.

  76. i went to montessori school and accredit that experience for most of my successes in life.

    loved it!

  77. I’ve just finished that book, French kids eat everything, and it just clicked. I loved it. And i’m going to make those cookies right now! Thank you

  78. I just discovered How We Montessori and I love it! So many ideas I can’t wait to use as a parent.

  79. Well, I went to Montessori school and I helped my dad make dinner most nights starting when I was about three. We have an old cookbook put out by my old Montessori school, so you might want to look around locally to see if you could find something similar. Getting tools for your toddler to use like an apply corer/slicer and vegetable slicer (has a handle that you push down on to cut things) is really helpful in having them be independent. Also putting stuff down at their level (on the bottom shelf of the fridge for instance) so they can easily reach it.

  80. My daughter is nearly 4, and she helps make her own oatmeal every morning. (Oats + cinnamon + nutmeg + cranberries + milk). Meatloaf is a lot of fun because she can mix it and mold it with her hands – so squishy! (Just remember to tell them not to lick their fingers, haha) She was so proud when she cracked her first egg she told her preschool teacher.

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  82. That’s such a fun idea. I teach at a Montessori school (after having taught at a traditional school), and when I first arrived I was astonished to see what even the youngest kids were expected to do. Third-years (third graders) can use the photocopier themselves, the children’s house (kindergartners) make their own snacks, and they’re all comfortable talking with adults. I’m usually off in the middle school during the day, but I’ve seen the little ones make apple butter, pie, and other seasonal goodies (with adult help, of course). It’s such a cool model for teaching kids how to be independent.

  83. I so wish my mom had had the patience with me to do these kinds of things when i was little. Now I’m a 30 year old who has fruity pebbles for dinner.

    Anyway, i will be making those cookies! Healthy and they actually look good!

  84. From the POV of a food marketer, rather than a mom (because i’m not one), I do know kids are more likely to eat food that they themselves help make. So kids helping out in the kitchen is a great way to encourage little ones to be more adventurous with their food. As somebody who believes pretty strongly that lasting food habits are formed early, I encourage a lot of moms to heed this advice. American kids are so so so much lacking in the variety of foods they eat.

    And of course there are no substitutes for parents setting a good food habit example as well.

    Just my two cents. Happy to read that Toby is a blossoming little chef!

  85. I used to teach four-year-olds and I completely agree with this. Kids love jobs, and it fosters independence.

  86. Fabulous tips! I love the “independent” idea, to an extent of course, since they are still littles! But seriously, the peeling of a banana & pouring their own drink is way cute!!

  87. I made waffles with my 3-year old nephew, and he’s quite the little helper. he actually poured & measured everything himself except for the eggs. (while on a step stool — adorable!) he even poured the batter in the waffle iron.

    it was so much fun for me :)

  88. our weekend tradition is to make breakfast together. mom, dad and kid. she’s 3.5 now, so it’s getting easier as she can do many things with minimal supervision (like scramble eggs). for about 6 months now she’s been in charge of setting the cutlery out for all of our meals.

    and it’s her FAV thing to help out with baking cookies at Christmas time.

  89. I remind myself this all of the time. My son is 19 months, and he likes to do things ‘by myself’. I encourage him to unzip his jacket, take off his hat and put it in the correct place, use a fork or spoon, and use ‘real’ glasses rather than plastic. He always surprises me with the things he can do!