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Deliciously Messy Food, Montessori Style

Blog

Deliciously Messy Food, Montessori Style

Theresa Heiden

As a foodie myself, I was eagerly anticipating Dakota's introduction to solid foods. Avocados, delicata, plums, oh my! As most things in child rearing, there are numerous methods for when and how to start solids, so you have to just pick your path and go with it. I leaned on my mama intuition, my fellow Montessori bloggers, and Dakota's readiness to figure out how to start this exciting food journey.

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Dakota started showing signs of readiness for solids a little after 4 months, so we started at 4 and a half months. Specifically: good head control, super interested in our food (and licking her lips accordingly), doubled her birth weight, and 2 early bottom teeth. Most importantly, when I tested out giving her a little spoonful of food, she closed her mouth around the spoon, swallowed, and smiled wide!

Though I was tempted to start with baby-led weaning (no purees - just small bits of whole food), I felt more comfortable starting with homemade single-food purees, to help her ease into solid foods and digestion. I purchased this all-in-one baby food maker to easily steam and puree my own veggies and fruits. I started with whole-grain cereal, followed by avocado, butternut squash, sweet potato, and then apple. I wanted to start with vegetables rather than fruits so that she didn't only want the sweet stuff! To make the purees extra creamy and digestible, I mixed in a little breastmilk too. Because Dakota's body still only needs the nutritions that come from milk at this point, she's really just tasting each of these foods rather than filling up on them.

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Although we have this awesome high chair that will grow with Dakota through the years and be perfect for family meals, we are starting Dakota off at this weaning table. This is a baby-appropriate table and chair that she can sit up in by herself and eventually get in and out of without adult assistance. The weaning table promotes independence, child participation, and a focus on treating infants as "real" people. Very Montessori. :) Already I can see that Dakota wants to do as I do, particularly when it comes to eating, and this is one step in that direction. 

My favorite elements of the Montessori "weaning" set-up is that Dakota gets her own spoon to self-feed. While I started out feeding her myself, she right away wanted to take hold of the spoon, so I began to let her. I was surprised at how good she was at getting the puree right into her mouth (or at least close)! We have some lovely bamboo & rubber spoons but they are still too big for her, so this week I purchased these sweet little espresso spoons for her to feed herself. You can see photos of her first experience with this spoon - not bad! For now, I'm scooping the puree with the spoon and then handing it to her. I still feed her too, so we each have a spoon and take turns. Obviously we are just embracing the mess. But with a bit (a lot) more practice, she'll be feeding herself like a pro.

Why the silver spoons, pictures above the table, and glass bowls? They all promote the feeling that our home is just as much Dakota's as it is ours. She is just as deserving of the kind of dishes and set-up we have ourselves, and she learns to care for them as we do. It's a way to show Dakota respect while also teaching her how to respect her environment. Obviously there are many ways to do this, and using plastic is totally fine, but this is one way to go about introducing food, Montessori style. I imagine we'll do some breakable and some non-breakable dishes depending on time and place!

In the next month or two we'll introduce a small glass for her to learn to drink water from and more whole food to explore and taste. There'll be breaks and messes, but also lots of opportunities for learning and enjoying glorious food! The beauty of an independent weaning table. But one baby step at a time. :) The food journey is only just beginning!

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