Toddlers in the Kitchen – How to Set Them Up For Success

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Toddler years are generally characterized by a child’s untamed desire for independence. They observe us closely spending hours preparing food, entertaining, and naturally, that creates an infinite desire to imitate adults and gain autonomy in the kitchen. In this guest post, Eva of Mimia Montessori shares some practical and excellent tips on how to support toddlers’ independence in the kitchen and set them up for success.

Pin Toddler in the Kitchen. Children washing kitchen tools in the kitchen.

Typically, in a Montessori environment, you will see babies start eating at a weaning table at a very young age. They use ceramic plates and real glasses instead of plastic ones, to practice eating like the grown-ups, which helps them develop a sense of independence from a very early age.

Personally, I preferred my children to eat together with us at the family table, as I think the social aspect of eating together as a family is so important. However, we also foster independence in this setting.

By using a bib with an elastic neckline, the child can put it on and off by its own. No need to tie it, as it has an elastic neckline. I suggest providing a hook near your child’s eating area where he can reach for his bib and hang it up all by himself after mealtime. The bibs I make are very adsorbent as they are made from cotton fabric in the front and soft toweling in the back. Moreover, it is big (28×33 cm) so to cover well the clothes of your little one.

A pull on bib for little ones.
Elastic Montessori bib. Click on the image to learn more.

In the Montessori method, infants are presented with placemats that have markings for their dishes and cutlery to help them learn where everything goes. As soon as a child can walk and carry objects, she/he can independently set the table at mealtime. Make sure to place all the items the child needs at an accessible height.

I am offering placemats made of water-resistant fabric, so they easily wipe clean with a damp cloth, or you can just rinse them under the water tap after use. They can also be washed in the washing machine.
The shapes of the plate, glass, and utensils are easy to identify and the right place for everything is clear. Children enjoy setting the table with no instruction, stimulating them to be independent. The placemat also helps to prevent any drink spill, as children are very conscience about placing the glass on the provided circle.

A red handmade placemat for little onces with patterns.
Click on the image to learn more about water-resistant Montessori placemats.

Of course, toddlers not only enjoy eating… food preparation is a real celebration! As toddlers grow, they become more observant and helpful with the activities that parents do every day. … A first step is making your kitchen safe and accessible to your toddler. You can use a learning tower, which I think is a great tool. However, a chair will also do. Yes, we used a chair, and yes, my children felt off a couple of times, but it isn’t that high, they never got injured (I can’t say the same of what happened at the playground), and yes, they learn quick enough to stand in the center of the chair to avoid falling. Some ideas to start food preparation with very young children: cutting bananas, peeling a hard-boiled egg, making a garden salad, juicing an orange…

Children grating cucumbers in the kitchen.
A woman talking to her daughter, both wearing waterproof aprons.

Wearing an apron while preparing food keeps clothes clean and dry, but it also helps kids to focus on the task at hand: to “become” the chef or the dishwasher. I offer Montessori-inspired aprons for 1-2 years old (difficult to find on the market!), 3-6 years old, and 7-12 years old. The smaller sizes come with an elastic neck strap and a Velcro closure at the waist, easy for young children to manage. Since the child needs no help from an adult to put on or take off the apron, it fosters independence and contributes to self-confidence.
I offer aprons in both “normal” and water-resistant fabrics.

Waterproof children's apron
Montessori apron. Click on the image to learn more
A child fastning an apron on the side.

As you can see, by choosing the right materials, you offer your child more independence. After all, Montessori always fosters a Prepared Environment. I hope the above ideas will help you to create joyful moments in the kitchen with your toddler!

About the Author

The athor of the post

Hi! I am Eva Vanderlinden from Mimia Montessori. I discovered Montessori when my oldest daughter was one year old, and then started sewing Montessori materials. Growing together, I shifted from baby puzzle balls to aprons and language materials… selling my products worldwide now in my online shop:

Montessori Learning and Living - Books and Learning Resources

  About Anastasia. Anastasia is a former Early Childhood Teacher and the founder of Montessori Nature, a blog about Montessori - inspired and Nature-based explorations. She taught in a Montessori setting for 10 years and has been practicing the Montessori way of learning and living for the last 20 years. She loves designing engaging educational printables for children. Browse Anastasia's educational resources on Teachers Pay Teachers.

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