Montessori at home: Meal times

Special thanks to Emma from Montessori Play School Victor Harbour for allowing me to use the beautiful images of children’s involvement in meal times in this post. 

For the second post in our Montessori at home series, I had a request to look at mealtimes in the home, and how to involve your child in preparing for them. 

The process is often just as important in a practical life experience as the end result. If children are involved in preparing for a meal, they are more likely to eat it, and giving them responsibility and encouraging their independence will make life a lot easier for everyone! Check out my previous post about independence if you want some more ideas about how to improve your child’s independence and links to resources or ideas sources on the topic. 

Below are some suggestions for how to involve your child.

Choosing food

While it’s not always possible, providing your child with a choice (within limits) can give them a feeling of control and help them want to eat it. I would recommend giving 2 to 3 options, leaning towards 2 options for the younger children. You can make this easier for yourself by only offering things you want them to have or know they like. For example, “would you like spaghetti bolognese or beef tacos for dinner?” 

Preparing the food

Involving children in the preparation of food can be very simple. It will probably take longer though, so allow more time than you think you’ll need!

Some people do not feel comfortable with young children using sharper knives, but there are options available to you. Kiddikutter knives (retailing at AU$12.95 each and pictured below) are useful as a starting point, but you will find it hard to cut anything with much firmness with these. Another option is using a spiral peeler with things like apples, pears, and potatoes (pictured). These you can usually find at cooking shops in person or online. 

If you want to teach your child to use a proper knife, you can find some serrated knives that they are able to use (example below). If used properly, they are safe. I have taught 3 and 4 year olds how to use these knives and over 2 years we only had 3 minor cuts  (and those children hadn’t waited for a lesson on how to use it). But, ultimately it is up to you what you want to provide them with. 


The age of your child and their maturity may affect what cooking you are willing for your child to do. Ensure that appropriate supervision is available, and always ensure you demonstrate how to use everything properly. When demonstrating, I recommend limiting the amount of words you use, as this becomes more of a distraction. It is important that children learn the appropriate way to use all aspects of the kitchen for their own safety (whether they are helping you cook or not) and also to assist them in later life when they have to cook for themselves.

Cooking together is a wonderful way of passing on family knowledge and recipes, and gives you further chances to bond. And you never know – soon you may be having lovely dinners cooked for you!

Setting the table

Setting up the table for a meal is an easy job for children to accomplish. If you model how to do the job and have all the things easily accessible, children will quickly take over how to do this themselves. Some people like to use template mats to show younger children where to place things. For example, with an outline of a fork, spoon, knife, and bowl/ plate (example pictured). 

We work as a team in the classroom to set the tables. With regular routine the children know what to get out and how to set it up. Or, it could be the job of one person and you can use a roster. Whatever works for you!

Make the process enjoyable, however works for you. Start your conversations about the day then, use a ‘setting up song,’ and make the table setting visually appealing. Use table cloths or placemats, and maybe place some flowers or plants in the middle. It is also important that the children use ‘normal’ crockery and cutlery rather than plastic as soon as they are able to. For one thing, this shows that they are of equal importance to the adults and that you (as the adult) trust them to be responsible. For another, they will need to learn how to use these things sooner or later, so would it not be better to get as much practice as possible? Children are often more capable than we give them credit for. It might be messy to start with, but a mess can be easily cleaned and the lessons learnt and the trust treasured will stay with the child forever. 

Eating together

Making meal times a family affair is important for a child’s sense of worth. It is a wonderful time to connect as a family/ community and talk about each other’s days. Having the adults and children eating together also means that children feel they are a valued members of the family and not considered less important than the adults. 

Eating meals together becomes a special ritual, and this can also be transferred to other smaller meals (not just breakfast, lunch, and dinner). For example, children seem to really enjoy the process of making tea. Obviously you would use a caffeine-free variety like fruit or herbal teas, or Rooibos so you don’t have them running up the walls! Sitting down together to enjoy a pot of tea is a pretty precious thing, or even having one all to oneself. 

Packing up and cleaning

Montessori believed it is important for the whole cycle of learning to be achieved – that is, start, middle, and end, ready for the activity or material to be used by the next person. The same can be said of everyday occurrences. Involving the children in packing up after a meal and encouraging them to assist with cleaning will enable them to see the whole process involved in the situation. 

For instance, if the dishes are not washed, they will not be ready for the next meal they are needed for. What’s more, young children actually enjoy cleaning! So make use of it while it lasts! Clearing the table or doing the dishes are simple ways that the children can help. Include them in a washing/ packing up roster or have everyone involved as a family to get the job done. 

Involving children with packing up and cleaning also shows the importance of community participation. Everyone benefits when we help and look after each other, and these lessons will then be applied to wider society. 

I would love to hear from you the ways that you involve your children in meal times at home. Or, if you have any questions, please feel free to ask away and I will answer as best as I am able!

Montessori at home: Independence

I am often asked how parents can implement the Montessori method at home without buying all the materials. My first suggestion is this: give the child as much independence as you can!

Independence and freedom for the child is a huge part of the Montessori philosophy. Children are not viewed as vessels to be filled with wisdom from the all-knowledgeable adults. Instead, they are seen as people in their own right, that we as adults encourage to develop and grow, explore the world, and absorb as much knowledge from their surroundings as possible. To this end, there is so much that families can do at home to ‘follow the Montessori way’ and encourage their child’s independence. 

This blog post will explore a few simple ways to enable your child to be as independent in the home as possible. 


Ways to enable your child’s independence

There are so many ways in which you can encourage your child’s independence, from the practical way you set up the living spaces, including them in regular routines, and in the way you communicate with your child. 

Communicating with your child

The way you speak to your child can make a huge difference in how they view themselves. If you speak to them as you would an adult with respect and as though you are actively listening to what they are saying, they will come to think that you value what they are saying just as much as when you listen to an adult. This increases their self-confidence and self-worth. 

Children like routine and the security of knowing what is happening in their life. Talking with your child about what will be happening in the day prepares them for what is ahead and will enable them to possibly take some more responsibility and control of their life for that time. Children are often more capable than we realise! Having a regular routine assists the child to move through the day with confidence, and allows them to expand and extend their learning because they don’t need to expend energy on everyday recurring instances. 

Setting up a child-friendly space

If your child is able to easily access things within the space, they will need to rely on you less, increasing their independence and giving you a bit more freedom too! 

Setting up a child-friendly space can be as simple as putting things within their reach. For example, enabling the child to help get their own breakfast would be made simpler by having all the parts accessible to them in the lower shelves or cupboards in the kitchen. Some people buy specially designed furniture, while others modify their current space like using ladders with platforms and safety railings for the children to stand at the bench and sink. 

Giving them responsibility

Giving your child certain jobs about the house will improve their level of responsibility and once they become accustomed to doing it regularly they will become independent in it as well. For example, this can be as simple as giving them the job of packing away their toys every afternoon, or getting them to help with food preparation or the dishes. If a child is involved in preparing food they will also be more likely to eat it! (A helpful hint for those fussy eaters!) 

Encouraging your child to choose their own clothes for the day will also boost their sense of responsibility and independence. Obviously, the clothes need to be situation and weather appropriate, so provide them with two options that fit into those categories. For instance, two tops, two bottoms, two warmer layers (if required) and two footwear options. This way, you know that they will be dressed appropriately but they will feel like they have controlled the situation by you providing them with the freedom to choose. This links in with Montessori’s concept of freedom within limits

Having a regular routine

If you have a regular routine your child will become so accustomed to it that they won’t have to think about it, freeing them up to extend their learning, explore and experiment, and challenge themselves in different ways. This includes their independence. Within the security of a regular routine the child becomes more confident in knowing what will happen next. Therefore, they are able to preempt it and take control of the situation themselves. 

Obviously, there are sometimes situations where your routine will change. This is fine, as it is realistic of life. But if you can, try to explain this to your child beforehand so they have prior warning. 



In this online day and age, there is a veritable treasure trove of resources available! There are some great blogs about using the Montessori method at home, wonderful instagram accounts to follow, and some fantastic videos, books, etc.

Edison’s Day

If you’ve never seen the video Edison’s Day by NAMTA I definitely encourage you to find a copy! You can access it online to rent or buy, or watch snippets for free. 

It follows 20-month-old Edison as he goes about his day, showing some of the ways his parents have modified the space to be more accessible to him and how their routines and lives are set up to enable his independence and development. We see how he dresses himself (but asks for help if he needs it), sets the table, gets his breakfast things, spreads his toast, and some of his time at his childcare. Most of the strategies we see his parents use are easy to apply at home.

‘Montessori at home’ blogs

To get some ideas about how you can encourage your child’s independence at home, there are already several great blogs available. These range from simple changes you can implement to complete Montessori-style re-decorations! Some of them are written by teachers, others by parents, some are both. I have collated a few below for your perusal, but Living Montessori Now has collated a much more detailed list. Check out any that take your fancy! 

Montessori-themed accounts on Instagram

There are now HEAPS of accounts on Instagram by centres or parents or teachers of the Montessori method. By simply searching for the phrase Montessori a whole gamut of accounts will come up. Also, once you find one, you can then check out who they’re following! If you follow me on Instagram (@themontessorianaus) you’ll be able to see who’s following me and who I’m following! 

Here’s some suggestions for ‘Montessori at home’ accounts:

I hope this has given you some food for thought! Let me know how you implement the Montessori ways in your home or classroom.