Food: Preparation & Serving

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Shared with permission ofA The Joyful Child Montessori Company: www.thejoyfulchild.usA


Arranging the cooking and dining areas for the work of the child does not have to be a giant undertaking, and it does not need to be done all at once.A Consider giving the child one low shelf or one drawer in the kitchen in the beginning.A This could contain a cutting board and a safe knife, or cereal bowls and spoons - whatever the child is most likely to use most often.

A stool is a good first investment, so the child can reach the sink or the counter, for work.A Even better, if there is room, have a small table and chair or stool out of the way where the child can prepare and eat snacks, or do his share of the food preparation.

In the classroom, there should always be a space for children to prepare snack at any time of the day, and lessons on how to do the work, and how to clean it up in preparation for use by the next child.

This is an exercise in contributing to the good of others - preparing and serving snack, and cleaning up.


It is not uncommon for the value of practical life or family life exercise to be misunderstood.A I have heard parents exclaim in dismay that their child is "wasting time cleaning in her new Montessori school when she should be doing math!"A However, math and all other intellectual work requires the ability to move carefully, to focus, to complete sequential steps, to concentrate, to make intelligent choices and to persevere in one's work.A This is exactly what is learned during practical life work.A As a result of periods of time spent concentrating on such a task a child becomes calm and satified and, because of this inner peace, full of love for others.

Perhaps an even more important result of this work is that the child sees himself already as an important and contributing member of the group, and as an intimate friend, when he is welcome to participate in the work of the adult.A Think about the difference between how close you feel to your own guests.A If all the work is done by you in anticipation for the guest's arrival, that is one relationship.A When a friend joins you in your preparation of the meal, that is a closer relationship.A The child benefits most from this close relationship with the parent, whether it be in scrubbing or cutting up the vegetables, washing or drying the dishes, setting the table, cleaning out the cupboards or refrigerator, mixing the muffin batter, and so forth.

When a child has a lot of experience with the important developmental tasks called "practical life" he becomes more successful in all other areas of study and in relating to others.

The most important discovery is that a child returns to a normal state through work.A Countless experiments made upon children of every race throughout the world have shown that this is the most certain datum that we have in the field of psychology and education.A A child's desire to work represents a vital instinct since he cannot organize his personality without working: a man builds himself through working.A There can be no substitute for work, neither affection nor physical well-being can replace it.A A man builds himself by carrying out manual labor in which he uses his hands as the instruments of his personality and as an expression of his intellect and will help him dominate his environment.A A child's instinct for work is a proof that work is instinctive toA man and characteristic of the species.

..if we showed them exactly how to do something, this precision itself seemed to hold their interest.A To have a real purpose to which the action was directed, this was the first condition, but the exact way of doing it acted like a support which rendered the child stable in his efforts, and therefore brought him to make progress in his development.A Order and precision, we found, were the keys to spontaneous work in the school.A A A A A - Dr. Maria Montessori


Parents do not always have the time to include the child in everything and should not feel bad about this.A A teacher is available to the child for this work all day long, and trainedA to give lessons and help the child grow toward independence.A It is too much to expect a new parent, or a busy parent to do this perfectly.A We must be easy on ourselves in the home and plan a time when we will enjoy work as well as the children.

Being with just one thing, perhaps putting the napkins on the table for a meal, and gradually add to the tasks in which the child can participate, and eventually take over.A This effort on the part of the parent pays off for the adult as well as the child as we observe that the child's method of working is not just to get the task finished, but to enjoy it!

One of the most important lessons we can learn from the child is how to bring our whole selves, mentally, physically, and spiritually, to the task at hand, to focus on each thing we do, and to enjoy each moment of life.

I remember once reading a study on teenagers.A A group of happy, balanced, academically and socially successful, and physically healthy teenagers were identified by their peers and teachers and studied to find out what they had in common in their upbringing if anything.

There was no correlation with family social status, economic level, race, religion, types of school, private classes, camps, IQ or anything else obvious.A The onlyA thing that they had in common was that they shared a meal once a day with the rest of their family, without television.A It did not matter which meal, orA any of the other details of a meal.A The implications of spending this time each day communicating with a group of people who care about one, give us a lot to think about.A I have never forgotten this.A

Life has changed, but the need to feel part of a group, for the adults and for the children, has not.A And cooking and eating are something everyone does every day.A Perhaps taking a few moments to work together to cook something, to set the table, just one little thing each day, can keep the whole family on the path to wholeness.

"Shared with permission of The Joyful Child Montessori Company:"A