Lower School Blog: Fostering Independence through Food Preparation

Adults often underestimate the capacity of young children. We tend to do things for them—mostly out of love—but also because we don’t think it is safe to give them tools like knives, peelers, or scissors, because we’re afraid they might misuse them or hurt themselves. 

One very important lesson for adults is to give your child a means to participate in the world around them. Children want to do what they see the adults and older children in their world do. Practical life lessons provide children with the means to participate and allow independence, care of self, care of others, and care of their environment to develop. We already know that when we believe in our children, they believe in themselves—so trust that your child is capable of much more than we give them credit for. 

A great place to start is to examine the food your child and family eat. Think about how your child can contribute to food preparation (see ideas below). Break down the steps of the task to make it safe and simple for your child to understand and be successful, and gather the appropriate tools. Then go through the sequence of steps yourself first, before you offer it to your child, so you can think of any areas of difficulty. When you are ready, demonstrate the lesson to your child. If your child does the activity differently than you and is safe, roll with it! They are different people and will likely tackle things slightly differently than you. If they are struggling in a specific area, break that area down and demonstrate again. If they make a mess, remember that cleaning up is part of the work and should be part of the lesson. 

Some food preparation ideas:

  • Wash/scrub fruits and vegetables
  •  Peel or chop veggies and fruit (cucumbers, carrots, bananas, apples, etc.)
  •  Prepare a salad (wash lettuce and other veggies, slice, add to a bowl, add dressing and toss)
  •  Spread cream cheese, butter, or hummus on a bagel, a slice of bread, or crackers
  • Measure ingredients to bake bread, muffins, cookies, or a cake, stir ingredients and spoon them into pan
  • Slice cheese and arrange with crackers on a platter
  • Squeeze fruit to make lemonade or orange juice
  • Peel (cooled) hard boiled eggs, slice them, make egg salad, or make deviled eggs
  • Make guacamole (scoop out avocados, slice tomatoes, add salt and pepper, mash, stir and arrange in a dish with chips)
  • Make quesadillas (sprinkle cheese, add other ingredients to a tortilla, then you heat on stove or in microwave)
  • Make a parfait (layer yogurt, berries and granola in a small jar or glass)
  • Make a sandwich
  • Prepare and pack lunch for school the day before, or for a picnic in the back yard or park

You can find additional ideas and see how to prepare materials on a tray here. If you don’t have small choppers, knives, or tools for your child check out Montessori Services to help equip your kitchen and home for all the members of your family. 

Once you hand off the lesson/work to your child, soak in the delight when you witness them participating in their world, caring for themselves, learning new skills, and developing their independence.  

When you trust in your child, they trust in themselves. 

In partnership,

Teri Eckel

Redbud Primary Teacher

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