When you have a Montessori inspired home, your children (preschooler and twins) know what is ON limits (there is not that much that is OFF limits). This is a good thing for them, but sometimes challenging for me, the Montessori parent who is also trying to get things done.
I have a very helpful four-year-old, and toddler twins who to be very honest, slow me down! It takes a LOT of patience and some (mental) preparation to successfully have them (ALL) participate in the kitchen. But it IS doable, I’ve listed a few helpful ways to have multiple kids help out in our Montessori inspired kitchen.
Usually, it is just Big Brother (my four-year-old) who actively participates in the kitchen. But the last few weeks, my toddler twins (22 months old) have been extra eager to help. It is impossible for me to cut vegetables, do the dishes or do anything on our countertop without them pulling up a stool right next to me (I will miss these helpful hands one day!). Up until recently, they would wait at their learning tower and watch me but those days of observing are behind them, they are ready to get their hands dirty.
A Montessori inspired space can mean many things. For our family, it includes a space that welcomes our children to participate, in a safe and kid-friendly environment. Creating this space in the kitchen is always tricky for us since our kitchen is a VERY active part of our home (read: there is always something cooking, being cut or being eaten). Here is a view of what our active kitchen typically looks like, along with some things that make it work…
Accessibility: In order for kids to participate they really need to be able to access things on their own. Our Learning Tower (that big wooden thing in the corner) & this little stool have been lifesavers. We either have 1 or all the kids hanging out on the learning tower or we have 2 of them squeezing onto this foldable little stool(we really need to get another stool for our downstairs space). A learning tower (also referred to as a kitchen helper) is not a must, stools work just the same but in our old house, the counters were MUCH higher and the stools were not high enough or safe for those counter heights, so our Learning Tower was a safer option. We also move tables and surfaces around to give them space to work, especially when the countertops are not available.
Multiple Workspaces: I feel like this is a MUST with multiples, whether it is twins or kids close in age. One thing I really struggle with in having a Montessori environment with multiples is allowing each kid to focus and complete a task. This is not limited to the kitchen. This is because more often than not, they all want to be together (how cute, right?). No, really! I mean same exact space. (See stool picture below). If there are times that I really want them to work on their own (or if Big Brother really wants to do his task uninterrupted) I try to spread them out a bit and give them different things to work on, it keeps them a bit out of the others business (to put it nicely). You can see in the picture above, the learning tower is empty, but it’s an additional place for work to be done. And when that doesn’t work, we all plop on the floor and do some teamwork by working on the same thing to avoid pulling, tugging and tumbling.
Kid-friendly tools: Those of you who follow me on Instagram asked me about what knives my kids are seen using. It’s these little, kid-friendly knives often called Crinkle cutters. They really are the perfect size for toddler’s hands and super safe (but supervision is always recommended). Look at those fine motor skills work when it’s the perfect fit!
The other knives we really like are these avocado butter knives (we always use them to slice our avocados, who knew they were butter knives?!). I have them in two sizes, the smaller size is perfect for the toddlers to use. They are great for spreading peanut/almond/sunflower butter (oh, that makes sense now) or any other spreads.
Here is Big Brother using a REAL butter (not avocado) knife at age 3 to cut some olives. This is one of my favorite pictures showing his fine motor and pre-writing pincer skills!
The other set of kid-friendly knives we have in our Montessori inspired kitchen are these. They are a bit large for my (almost) 2-year-old twins to use but Big Brother enjoyed using them at around 3 years.
And another fun one to use with supervision is a pizza cutter. There are a lot of uses for it but we most often use it when we are making Indian food (Gujarati Daal Dhokhri). It’s perfect for him to cut the thinly rolled dhokri’s. He’s been using this cutter in the kitchen since he was almost 3 years old, here is an old post with his kitchen work at that age.
And on a few occasions (I need to dig up some pictures) he just preferred to use an adult knife, so I gave him one with a very dull blade and highly supervised the task. He did great with it because it was dull. He just needed a few reminders of where to keep his fingers and also to put the knife down when he wanted to talk with his hands flying all over the place.
Be prepared: Montessori is all about a prepared environment. Now, add 3 busy bodies to your prepared space and you need even MORE preparation, not just for the space but for yourself. Be prepared to go with the flow. I try to set out various things for each kid to be engaged in but more often than not, everyone wants to do the SAME thing, surprise, surprise right? Like I said, this is one of the challenges with a Montessori environment with multiples. You have to be quick to redirect because it really does distract the one who is focused on a task. The multiple workspaces really help to spread everyone and gives me some time to react (aka be prepared).
Have fun: It really isn’t about what gets done (I mean, unless it’s dinner time)! It’s really about having fun, learning and exploring what THEY are doing. It’s the process, not the product. Recall, being in the kitchen is a way for the kids to get some practical life work (play) in, so don’t make it stressful for yourself or for them. Keep the tasks simple – I gave a few examples at the bottom of this post! Today, the twins spent 30 minutes taking apart a cabbage head. Yes, the simple task of peeling the layers off a cabbage head, no tools needed. Just a bowl and a head of cabbage. Who knew?
Twin talk: Is this a good idea? I think so, let me get bowls. Let’s work together. Done, a bowl full of cabbage!
This is usually where you can find us using all these wonderful tools!