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Cooking with Children in the Montessori Classroom

Whether it is slicing bananas or hard-boiled eggs, chopping vegetables, or cracking walnuts, children love to prepare and eat food. I’ll never forget the “egg yolk-between-teeth” smile I’d see when a child completed the egg-slicing activity! Of course, serving food to their friends is an important aspect and one in which the children delight.

No matter how you slice it, food preparation and cooking are part of the Montessori curriculum.

When children cook in the classroom they are participating in many developmental activities. Cooking calls into play the greatest number of skills used simultaneously, more than any other activity in the classroom.

As teachers, we’re all familiar with the basic food preparation I just mentioned. How can you spice up your Practical Life food preparation activities? Here are some additions to your tried and true favorites:

  • Pomegranate tweezing. Great for older children who need help with their pincer grip.
  • Kiwi slicing. Use your egg slicer. Kiwis (peeled by the teacher) are easy to slice and delicious treats!
  • Cherry pitting. Children love to use a cherry-pitting machine.
  • Jicama slicing. Children love to hear the crunch when they bite a piece of jicama.
  • Strawberry hulling. Fresh strawberries…need I say more?
  • Orange squeezing. What a refreshing treat!
  • Nutmeg grinding. Nutmeg can be used in a baking project.

The more the merrier! Let’s talk about group cooking projects you can do with your children…

Children love the process of preparing, cooking, seeing the finished dish, and then eating something delicious. One of my fondest childhood memories is the day we made apple sauce at Happy Time Nursery School. Whenever I smell cooked apples and cinnamon, I remember that day.

Rely on the seasons to help you decide what to cook with the children in your class. There’s nothing like choosing fresh vegetables for a home-made soup. Is there a farmer’s market in your town? Take a class trip.

See Fruit & Vegetable Seasonality Charts from the Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture.

After a field trip to the pumpkin patch, bake a fresh pumpkin pie. Do you live near a strawberry patch? Make a delicious fresh strawberry smoothie.

Do you have a school garden? Children love to eat the fruits of their labor. Here’s a wonderful way one teacher in Idaho brought gardening to life.

The class planted potatoes in the spring. In the fall, the children harvested them.

She set up Practical Life activities: scrubbing potatoes and peeling potatoes. The children saved the peels and put them in the compost bin at the end of the day.

The next step: Cut the potato with a vegetable chopper. After a child completed the potato activities, the potato was taken home in a jar of salted water, ready for cooking.

The teacher attached a note to parents and explained the Potato Work and the importance of completing the cycle at home. The children and their parents cooked the potatoes and enjoyed them with dinner or breakfast!

Are you studying a particular continent? A country within that continent? Incorporate cooking into your cultural area.

Make an authentic dish. The vegetable stir-fry my colleague, Miss Yui, demonstrated was a huge hit. My Irish soda bread scored high (after we added some jam!). The children loved Miss Socorro’s lesson on tortilla-making. The possibilities are endless.

Bread is a staple around the world. Try your hand at grinding flour and baking bread.

Ask the children in your class for ideas. Perhaps parents can participate by sharing a family recipe. Cole and Connor’s mom came in and helped the class churn butter… yum!

Your food preparation activities might even become part of a larger snack or lunch program. See Bring a Montessori Lunch Program to School

And, as you do your grocery shopping, keep an eye out for unusual foods you can incorporate into your classroom cooking activities. Remember, there’s usually at least one child who will like the vegemite!

Bon Appétit!

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