Food preparation and cooking are some of the most fun practical life activities in a Montessori environment!
My personal preference is to create individualized food preparation activities that children can choose on their own, rather than group cooking activities that have to be done with a teacher. I want to show the children how to do something, and then let them repeat and practice over the course of the year.
It can be tricky to get a food prep curriculum going in your class if you’ve never done it before, but hopefully the ideas shared below by members of the Trillium Community Facebook group will get your juices flowing!
You can start simple and build from there.
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Toddlers: Serving yourself a little snack
Tammy Boch uses a muffin tin to separate out some of the food choices for her toddler.
She also has this little setup so he can serve himself a bowl of cereal.
Here, her toddler is spreading hummus on crackers while his older sister slices cucumbers. Spreading is fun! Try, jams, butter, cream cheese, and a variety of other spreads on crackers, bread, or pita.
Even spreading pizza sauce on pizza when making dinner at home!
Here’s a simple grape-kebabs setup shared by Becky Powers Musial.
I love the idea of having a little pitcher and strainer to wash the grapes first!
Tammy has a setup for putting grapes on skewers too!
Simple Chopping and Cutting
Here’s a fun banana slicer! I’ve never used this before but I hear it is a lot of fun!
These crinkle cutters are very versatile! The large ones are great for the younger children because they’re stable and allow the child to get a good grip. We also like the smaller ones like this with a handle. We use them for all our vegetable chopping needs.
Cream cheese is great when you’re learning how to cut with a regular knife! We also use slightly harder cheeses like Monterey Jack or Cheddar. This is a photo from Tammy’s home and her little guy is standing on a Learning Tower to reach the counter.
Slicing cucumbers with a regular knife! Shared by Ginnette Shaffer.
Apple cutting is a perennial favorite in every classroom I have ever been in! You can find an apple corer and slicer at most stores where kitchen utensils are sold. I think the children love this work not just because they get to eat yummy apples, but because it takes so much full body effort to cut through the apples. There’s something very satisfying about the sensation of the blades first piercing through the apple skin and then making it all the way down to the cutting board. Done!
If you cut the apple in half first, the child has a much easier time slicing it with the apple cutter. You may even want to try cutting it into discs like this if you have younger students.
Add a cinnamon grating work to your shelf! Children can sprinkle the cinnamon onto their apples for a little extra flavor.
Set Up Your Food Prep Shelves
Mandy Boyle showed us a picture of her food prep shelves!
Left to right:
1st shelf: Tangerine peeling, Banana slicing, Apple cutting, Cheese slicing. (These are the four I had out on my shelves year round too. We’d switch out the tangerine peeling with cucumber/carrot slicing regularly.)
2nd shelf: Baking ingredients (prep table and oven to the left, not shown), Orange juicing, Egg peeling and cutting (use of knife and fork).
3rd shelf: sewing activities and polishing (if you’re wondering!)
Mandy says that they typically place enough for each activity to be used twice each day. Children are also welcome to bring in and prep their own food (an orange, apple, hard boiled egg, etc).
I love this beverage mixing work created by Becky. The one above is making lemonade with a mix. The image below is for making hot chocolate! What fun!
Tammy has a smart idea for using a garlic press for juice squeezing! The top image is for making limeade (notice the little sugar cube?!) and below they are squeezing clementines for a little orange juice, yum!
Making tea is another favorite in Montessori classrooms.
Cathie Perolman has a tea making station.
All the ingredients you need to make tea!
A little sand timer to make sure you’ve brewed it long enough!
You can even do individualized cooking and baking activities.
Start with something simple like making grilled cheese sandwiches using a toaster and a microwave. This activity was shared by Renee Feibel.
Here’s Mandy Boyle’s baking area in use! In the pictures below, the child is baking cheesy muffins (grated cheese, self-raising flour, milk and a pinch of salt- recipe from Stay at Home Mum). They have also done oat bars, banana bread, and non-baked things like salsa and guacamole. Mandy says, “Typically we bake three days a week (non baked items for snack on Monday and Friday). Once a month we bake/make something special.”
This is Cathie Perolman’s setup for baking banana bread. Cathie’s banana bread recipe:
1 mashed banana, 3 t oil, 1/3 cup flour, 1/3 cup sugar, 1/2 t baking soda and 5 shakes of salt. Stir and turn into a greased and floured mini loaf pan. (Adults do the greasing and flouring) Bake for 30ish minutes at 350-375 degrees in a toaster oven. (Depends on your toaster oven.) Cool and cut into chunks or slices for the child to serve!
Cooking is also fun to do with a group under adult guidance… specially when you have to prepare a lot of food! Jasmine Ong from Three Minute Montessori shared these photos of her children making sausage rolls.
And here, Cai Yin Huang and her students are adding toppings to pizza!
More Resources for Setting Up Your Montessori Food Preparation Curriculum
Montessori Services has this fabulous set of step by step snack cards set of step by step snack cards for simple food preparation. If you’re feeling intimidated at the thought of setting up a food prep area, then start here!
You can also find a number of child-sized food prep materials on Montessori Services.
One of our Trillium Community members, Lisa Rabe, recommended this cookbook for children, available on Amazon.
Seemi holds a Master's degree in education, and an AMS Early Childhood credential. She has twenty years of experience in Montessori as a teacher, school administrator, and school owner. Seemi is the founder of TrilliumMontessori.org.