I love food prep in the class and at home. It is a wonderful collection of activities that entice and call to almost all children, because really, who doesn’t love to eat?
Food prep activities truly get children excited about working. The works encourage independent choice, which is the foundation of all later Montessori work, general independence and development of confidence, coordination of large and small motor skills, concentration, and the works reinforce a sense of order.
For me they are the perfect practical life work. We have dedicated our top shelf to food prep and we rotate through a different activity about every 2 to 3 weeks.
- Wash Hands reminder
- Laminate Reserved sign
- Tray for carrying materials
- Stack of cutting boards – we use these from IKEA cut into fourths, you can cut them with a paper-cutter
- Bowl with spreaders – these work fine for cutting cheese sticks, but you may want something different for carrots or more difficult to cut foods
- Bowl with cheese sticks cut in half. After I cut them I stick the tip of the knife down the side and cut open the plastic wrapper about half way.
- The very first thing the child does is place the Reserved sign on the tray, then they go wash their hands.
- Next, return the reserved sign to the holder, then pick a cutting board, spreader and cheese stick and place them on the tray.
- The child takes the tray to their table.
- Show the child how to find the cut in the wrapper and to pull the wrapper down the cheese stick.
- Cut the cheese stick. I try to have the child keep their nondominate hand on top of the knife and use it to press down.
- Eat the cheese stick. We do keep it as an individual work, but I know in some classes the child might then pass the food around to friends.
- The child takes the wrapper to the trash.
- Take the cutting board and the spreader to the dish washing work. Ours is always set up as part of our snack area, if you do not have a dish washing area the child could always use the sink, or just have a place to collect dirty dishes.
- Wash the cutting board and spreader, place in the dish drainer.
- Check that tray is dry and clean and ready for the next person
- Return the tray to the shelf
In my training the child did wash and dry the cutting board and the knife and return the entire work to the shelf. I prefer individual cutting boards and knives. We have great hand washers and dish washers, but we also have great colds and stomach bugs. Just being in the classroom with 21 other children strengthens their immune systems enough, I don’t need to add a poorly washed knife to the equation.
This same setup can be used for banana slicing, tortilla/bread cutting, cucumber or pickle cuttings (some of the children LOVE pickle cutting).
This is easily adapted for home as well. You wouldn’t need 8 cheese sticks, but having a collection of cutting boards and knives, and then a variety of food available to prepare is perfect and a wonderful way for you child to develop self-confidence in the kitchen. Aubrey at Montessori Mischief has a wonderful post about giving children freedom in the kitchen.