"Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed."
- Maria Montessori
Practical Life is one of our favorite areas of Montessori homeschool because it promotes independence and confidence in life skills. Often times, you don't need a lot of time-consuming alterations or expensive purchases to make items accessible for young children.
Since we have three little ones using our kitchen alongside us (and one infant), this is a good time to take a look at how we do Montessori food prep while turning a fig harvest into some delicious jam.
Montessori Food Prep
Kitchen Space for Montessori Food Prep Tools, Supplies, and Water
This is the area of our kitchen reserved for our kids' food prep materials and it's also where we keep our Berkey water filter. The drawers and cabinet contain their food prep tools, dishes, and utensils. Meanwhile, the Berkey provides easy access to water. It's a huge hit with our kids. This space is simple but functional and it fosters the independence they're looking for in their daily routines.
Most handwashing takes place in our wash room because it's conveniently located right next to the kitchen and there is a step stool already in place at the sink.
Child-Sized Montessori Food Prep Tools in an Accessible Drawer
This is a good example of how our kitchen space supports freedom within limits and order. This drawer contains their most commonly used items. It includes child-sized utensils in their own cutlery tray, as well as a children's 3-piece knife set for food prep. The basket contains vegetable shape cutters, cookie cutters, a bamboo vegetable brush, and funnels.
The drawer above contains similar tools, such as a manual citrus press, apple slicer, wooden spoons, a spatula, etc. These are all items that are accessible to our kids and they help themselves as needed.
Placemats and Napkins for Order and Cleanup
This bottom drawer contains placemats, napkins, and washcloths for cleanup. This is our go-to drawer for encouraging independence with cleanup. It also happens to be our 2 y.o.'s favorite drawer for play. Who doesn't love a good napkin hat?
With these tools and materials at their disposal, it's easy to see how they could be interested in food preparation and assisting in the kitchen whenever possible. This brings me to our favorite food prep activity this week.
Now that you've seen our kitchen setup and tools, it's time to share how we use them.
Making Fig Jam
With an abundance of figs in our possession, we set out in search of a healthy and easy recipe to enjoy. This is our first experience working with figs and we knew we wanted it to be special. Luckily, Emily from The Evergreen Acre has The Best Sugar Free Fig Jam and she was kind enough to share it with us. If you follow us on Pinterest, you'll find it pinned under Practical Life in the Kitchen - Inspiration.
You'll notice, as we follow the recipe, we're engaging in Math, Sensorial, Science, Botany, and Zoology lessons. As a result, time spent in the kitchen is not only reinforcing Practical Life skills, it's integrating several other subjects in a meaningful way. This interdisciplinary approach provides the type of learning experiences we enjoy most in our homeschool.
Ingredients & Materials
- Lemon Juice
- Lemon Zest
- Vanilla Extract
- Cutting Boards
- Measuring Cup
- Kitchen Scale
- Box Grater
- Sauce Pan
- Mason Jars with Lids
Measuring Ingredients, Slicing Figs, and a Science Lesson
Using their Montessori food prep tools, our 4 and 5 y.o. practiced their Montessori Math skills of Measurement and Fractions by measuring the ingredients and slicing the figs into quarters.
Next, we talked about the shape of the figs and how they resemble the ovoid from their Montessori Geometric Solids, while the lemon is the ellipsoid.
They noted how soft to the touch they are and how easily they are punctured with the knife. In addition, they spent a lot of time inspecting the inside of the figs and feeling its tiny seeds.
We've been learning about pollination this month in our Montessori Bee Unit Study, so we got curious and did some research about fig trees. It wasn't at all what we were expecting (Spoiler Alert: It's NOT wind pollination), but a very interesting lesson for all of us on how a fig tree is pollinated and the life cycle of a fig wasp. Never a dull moment in a Montessori homeschool!
Zesting the Lemon
Our kids took turns zesting a lemon using a box grater and a cutting board. They took turns grating and rotating the lemon, avoiding the pith as they worked. Each child changed sides on the box grater frequently, examining the size of the resulting lemon zest.
Once they had exhausted their interest in the grating tool, they took to smelling the zest, noticing the burst of lemon scent that was suddenly infused into the room. Since we already had some fresh lemon juice, we decided to save our lemon-squeezing fun for the next recipe.
Combining the Ingredients Over Heat and Blending
After we had all of our ingredients ready, we combined them over heat according to the Fig Jam recipe. Using heat via the stove or the oven is always exciting for our kids. Items such as a Learning Tower are helpful for assisting children at counter height when necessary.
Afterwards, we blended the mixture while enjoying the sweet aroma of figs and lemon. Our son spooned the jam into a few mason jars when it cooled, sneaking a few yummy spoonfuls as he went. Appropriately-sized tables and chairs promote independence during food prep and meal times.
Finally, we cleaned up our mess and washed ourselves and the table using the items shown in the drawers above.
Montessori Food Prep and Fig Jam Summary
This recipe served as an excellent homeschool lesson and experience for us. Our kids had the opportunity to practice skills such as setting up a food prep area, following a recipe, slicing, grating a lemon, combining ingredients over heat, using a blender, and transferring.
While sharpening their Practical Life skills, they enjoyed a Sensorial experience that integrated lessons in Math, Science, Botany, and Zoology. This Practical Life work is a great extension to our Montessori Gardening lessons. It was such a fun day and I'm so happy to have the opportunity to share it with you.
We hope you all are enjoying the remainder of your summer. What are you up to in the kitchen? Looking for some Easy Baking for Kids? Let us know.
More Montessori Practical Life
- Kids Cooking Ethiopian Sambusas: A Printable Recipe with Pictures
- Montessori Practical Life in the Kitchen: Baking Blueberry Cake
- Montessori Grace and Courtesy
- Practical Life: Care of the Environment
- Montessori Third Great Lesson Materials and Follow-Up for Primary & Elementary
More Montessori for Your Homeschool
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