Dakota has always been a big fan of food and all things related. Now that she is 14 months, we’ve expanded on this “passion” by finding ways for her to be involved in the food making and clean-up process. She LOVES it. Dakota isn’t alone in this. A core element and toddler favorite in a Montessori toddler classroom is practical life, which are the activities of everyday life. This includes tasks such as setting the table, preparing meals, wiping the table, washing hands, dusting, watering plants, etc. Often the things we find monotonous toddlers find energizing. ;) Toddlers are natural imitators, and these types of activities give them the satisfaction of repetition, purpose, sensory experiences, concentration, and belonging in their family or community.
Since Dakota is still a young toddler and not yet walking, I found it challenging at first to come up with appropriate activities for her. But when I introduced activities such as banana peeling and water pouring and watched her handle these tasks with such precision and care, I was reminded of just how capable toddlers can be. Not every activity has been so successful, and it’s important to remind myself that the important part for toddlers is the process rather than the product. Even if she isn’t successfully scrubbing dirt off of a carrot, she is concentrating and figuring out how things work together each time she practices or explores with her hands. And she is more interested in trying new foods. With practice comes precision!
We have a few areas of the kitchen/dining area for her to work. One is the kitchen helper my husband made. He made a simplified version of this one I saw on Etsy. Dakota loves to stand up at the counter with me and both watch and participate in her food preparation. She also sits at her small weaning table to do precise work such as water pouring and peeling at meals. Lastly, she can work at her modified IKEA kitchen, where I fill a sink with soapy water for her to practice doing the dishes, and have a cutting board for her to practice chopping. Variety keeps it interesting!
Here are a few of the practical life activities we have enjoyed in the kitchen:
Spreading - I found this pack of 3 tiny spreaders that are perfect for little toddler hands. She practices spreading mashed avocado, hummus, or nut butter on toast. Often the spreader ends up in her mouth! ;)
Water pouring - These small creamer pitchers are perfect for the tiniest of hands! She loves to pour water into her glass or just pour rice or liquid between two pitchers.
Transferring - Sometimes the simplest tasks have a purpose for toddlers. She always enjoys having two little plates on the table, and we practice moving the food from the “serving” plate to her plate before eating.
Mashing - This little masher is perfect for mashing avocado, banana, or even mashed potatoes!
Scrubbing - Dakota uses this scrubber to scrub vegetables such as carrots in her Ikea kitchen sink. She loves the feel of the bristles.
Chopping - This wavy chopper is the easiest way to start. Dakota has had some success with the banana, and next we’ll try cucumber.
Washing - We have a set of these swedish dishcloths for Dakota to wash her dishes with. She especially likes to wring it out in the sink!
Sweeping - Dakota loves to sweep the floor with this little broom and dust pan!
Washing hands - This soap dispenser is simple and easy for little hands to push to get soap out. She still needs our help with this, but we keep it accessible at the Ikea kitchen sink.
Peeling - We started with banana slices with the skin on for her to peel off, and are now trying satsumas. It helps to cut slits in the peel to help them get started.
And there are endless more to come! What are your toddler's favorite practical life activities?