As a child’s hands become more capable — able to carry items while walking, turn knobs, and open containers — there are so many things they can do around the house! Inviting toddlers to participate in kitchen-related tasks can be daunting for adults who fear mess or chaos, but looking for opportunities to say “Yes, you can help,” will support their growing independence.
We’ve rounded up some inspiring kitchen set-ups to share ideas on ways that young children can participate in meal preparation.
Montessori Kitchen Ideas from Around the Web
These are not “play kitchens”. The Montessori approach encourages children to use real household materials and practice real life skills.
A place for everything and everything in its place
Offering a low cabinet where your child can reach items will boost their self-esteem when you entrust them with tasks such as:
- Putting dishes away
- Placing items from the dishwasher into their special shelf
- Setting a place for themselves at their own weaning table
- Filling a cup with water
Ideas for things to put in a Montessori kitchen area for toddlers:
- Water in a small pitcher
- Cloth napkins
- Dish towel
Many families suggest having only one of each item. This way washing, drying, and putting them away become part of routine use.
Monti Kids Tip: Offer a sponge and a dishtowel in a kitchen setting to normalize the idea of spills. They will happen and we can model calmly wiping them up. The Montessori approach guides us to praise the child’s effort to pour water, so it is not important for them to do it perfectly. We want to notice that they use their muscles, that they guide the pitcher to the cup, that they observe the cup becoming full, and finally, that they self-correct if they spill.
Placing approved snacks where a child can help themselves works for some families, while others worry that their child will not eat a balanced meal later in the day if they have unlimited access to dry snacks. The Monti Kids learning team suggests offering a limited amount of snack foods to balance concerns of “overeating” with a desire to promote independence.
In her kitchen cabinet for toddler Teddy, @madetomontessori shares her perspective on messes.
“It’s inconvenient, it’s even annoying at times, but there’s a reason I haven’t put all the kitchen items away or out of reach… it’s because this is his space too, and part of learning is through exploration. Items can be put back, messes can be cleaned, and through that process he learns. Each time, he learns.”
Finally, a common solution for a toddler-friendly kitchen area is to use the IKEA play kitchen, designed for pretending. Many Monti Kids families have repurposed this little kitchen as child-sized food prep station by adding some tools that children can use at their own height.
While you are preparing a meal, a preschooler can use their own workspace to fill small water glasses and bring them to the table; rinse berries or other fruit; or use a kid-friendly knife to chop something.
When your child is included in household chores, they feel pride and confidence, which will inspire them to take on more tasks as they grow older.