March Pigeon Plum

Dear Pigeon Plum Families,

Some of my fondest memories from childhood are of cooking and baking with my mother and grandmother. I loved nothing more than to sit on the counter and watch the magic happen and of course getting to lick the leftover cookie dough from the mixing spoon. Food preparation and baking play a big part in a Montessori toddler classroom and it is no different in the Pigeon Plum classroom. Why do you ask? There are several reasons. Food preparation and baking are sensorial experiences; experiencing the different textures through touch, smell, sight and of course taste. Manipulating the ingredients oneself can awaken the appetite. This not only makes one curious about the food item but also more willing to try new, unfamiliar food. Food preparation and baking are outlets for refining fine motor skills and assisting eye-hand coordination. It gives toddlers an opportunity to work with real tools (with adult supervision of course!) such as slicers, graters, knives, and scoops while also building confidence in their own abilities. It encourages patience and concentration, something that we strive for within the Montessori toddler classroom. Finally, food preparation and baking gives toddlers the feeling of being important to the classroom and the community just by taking part. Being able to prepare food for the ones they love develops the feeling or sense of belonging, makes them feel useful and fosters their self-esteem.

“The child has a different relation to his environment from ours…the child absorbs it. The things he sees are not just remembered; they form part of his soul. He incarnates in himself all in the world about him that his eyes see and his ears hear.” – Maria Montessori

At this point, you may be asking how do I prepare food or bake with my toddler? Even very young children can help with things in the kitchen; gathering ingredients, measuring and adding the ingredients, mixing, scrubbing fruits and vegetables, cleaning up and helping to wash the dishes. The following are some age-appropriate ideas for food preparation and baking at home with your toddler.

Under 1 Year Old:
-watching, touching, tasting, smelling and talking with your child about what you are doing in the kitchen
– provide a safe way for your child to be at the height of the countertop so that they can observe what you are doing
– washing fruits and vegetables
1-2 Years Old:
– adding and mixing ingredients
– gathering ingredients
– helping to set the table, a Pigeon Plum favorite
– kneading dough
– peeling and slicing eggs, fruit, and vegetables
– pouring water
– shelling peas
– spreading on crackers or toast
2-3 Years Old:
– grating cheese
squeezing orange juice
– peeling and slicing fruits and vegetables
– scooping
– tearing lettuce for salads
– whisking
3+ Years:
– following simple recipes
– measuring ingredients
– more advanced knife skills
– using kitchen appliances with supervision
– using scales

Okay, you say to yourself, these are great examples of what I can do with my toddler, but how do I successfully prepare food and bake with my toddler? The key to doing this successfully is preparation. Think about what you are going to need from start to finish and have everything you are going to need assembled and ready. Have sponges/cloths, a small broom or dustpan and brush handy for cleaning up spills because spills happen. Additionally, you may want to have a child-sized apron and utensils for your toddler. Lastly, lower your expectations and gather your patience. Expect that things will not be perfect, food will fall on the floor, there will be spills to be cleaned up, and that it will take longer than you anticipated. But in the end, it sure is worth it!

Happy baking!
Ms. Dori and Ms. Šárk