As we approach Thanksgiving, we’re thinking about all the practical life skills we can introduce to our toddlers.
This season is a perfect opportunity to include your child in food preparation tasks. It’s likely they’ll appreciate the meals you serve even more when they have been a part of the process. We recommend using the classic dish of mashed potatoes to give your child a special Thanksgiving job.
Here are the steps for Montessori approaches to making mashed potatoes with your child. You might want to make mashed potatoes as a side dish once or twice before Thanksgiving in order to practice some of the steps and get familiar with the food.
Toddler-friendly Mashed Potatoes
You can modify this activity to meet your child at their own level. For a younger toddler, prepare the environment with the potatoes already peeled and boiled, for example.
Watch: How to prepare the environment and simplify steps
If your child would enjoy seeing how potatoes in your kitchen transform into the soft, peeled potatoes ready for mashing, follow the steps here.
Mashed Potatoes: Step-By-Step
Wash the potatoes.
- Fill a low basin or a baking dish with an inch of water.
- Place one potato at a time in the water, and show your young child how to scrub it all over with a small brush that fits in the palm of their hand. Putting more than one potato in the basin is likely to distract them from the process in front of them, so try to prevent them from adding all the potatoes at once.
- As they finish scrubbing each potato, they can move it to a clean bowl and add a new potato to the basin.
As with all practical life activities, the purpose is the process and not the product, so do not worry if they are not scrubbing the potatoes thoroughly. (You can give the potatoes another scrub before moving on to the next step.)
Dry the potatoes.
- When the potatoes are all washed, show your little one how to dry them, one at a time.
- If they lose interest, do not try to make them finish the work. They can try again another day!
Peel the potatoes.
- Introduce a peeling tool. Show them how to peel each potato by holding it with one hand and moving the peeler along the potato with the other.
- If they are struggling, you can put your hands over theirs to show them how to do it. You will want to watch them while they do this work as the blade on a peeler can be sharp.
- If your child is not ready for peeling, you can be the peeler and they can “organize” the scraps.
Once each peel comes off the potato, show your child how to use their pincer grip to pick up the peel and put it in a discard bowl. This work with the fingers is an indirect preparation for writing. Every time they exercise their pincer grip they strengthen their fingers!
Prepare a Mashing Station.
First, boil the peeled potatoes and drain them.
- Set up this kitchen activity so that your child will use the ingredients and tools from left to right. We do this because it reinforces the practice of reading from left to right.
- Clear a space so that only the materials for this project are within reach. This helps your child focus.
- Measure the ingredients into small bowls before inviting your child to join you. This will enable them to focus on combining ingredients.
- If your child is ready for more participation, you can include them in measuring.
Monti Kids has put together a Cooking Together Kit to help families enjoy food preparation activities in age appropriate ways. It comes with 10 illustrated recipes to help you get started.
Montessori Cooking Together Kitencourages little ones to build skills and confidence in the kitchen as they develop healthy eating habits
- Wooden Stand for Recipe Cards
- 10 Innovative Recipe Cards
- Child-Sized Wooden Spoon, Whisk, and Masher
- 3 Bowls for Food Prep, Small Pitcher, and Silicone Cutting Board
- Melon Baller, Spreader, and Tongs
- Egg Slicer
- Wooden Crinkle Cutter
The Set-Up: Boiled Potatoes, Bowls, and More
The set-up for potato mashing should include a large bowl, cream or milk, butter, and pre-measured salt and pepper so that you child can simply add all the ingredients together in the large bowl.
Finally, offer a masher. As with all materials, a child-size masher is ideal, but if you cannot find one, show them how you use both hands to push the masher into the potatoes. If they are at a low table, they may want to stand up to do this work.
Your little one will feel a sense of pride when you serve the potatoes at the meal and thank them for their contribution.
To further this sense of ownership, you can set up the mashed potatoes, along with the other foods they will be eating, at a low buffet table so that they can serve themselves before sitting down to eat.
Every moment that they can participate in and do something for themselves will enhance their confidence and joy.
++ Free download: 25 Holiday Activities for Toddlers ++