How to design a Montessori-inspired kitchen for your kids

Working in the kitchen is great for developing fine motor skills, independence, and concentration—plus, great bonding time.

How to design a Montessori-inspired kitchen for your kids

As a Montessori teacher, I could never pick a favorite type of work in the classroom—but I must admit, I have a soft spot for "food prep" work. There is something magical about watching tiny people create their own culinary masterpieces with complete independence. Maybe it's the look of satisfaction on their faces or the way they offer to share their carefully prepared snack with a friend, but it's incredible to observe.

The best part is that this is something you can totally recreate at home. Children are naturally interested in preparing (and eating!) food so empowering them to help in the kitchen can be a wonderful first step in bringing Montessori into your home.

Creating a Montessori kitchen can sound daunting, but it can really be as simple or comprehensive as you like. Here are some easy ways to create an inspiring Montessori kitchen in your home.

1. Set up a workspace

Until your child is tall enough to reach the kitchen counter, they will need a work space. There are many ways to set this up, but the important thing is that it's comfortable for your child and they can access it by themselves.

Some Montessori families use a play kitchen (this site has beautiful options), but present it to your little as an actual workspace, rather than a toy for pretend play.

Another option is to use a child-size table in your kitchen area and let the kids do food prep work while sitting. The table should be small enough that they can get in and out of the chair independently.

Some Montessori families also use a learning tower or similar kitchen helper to helps kids work at the kitchen counter alongside the grownups. This works really well for smaller kitchens where a more elaborate child workspace may not be an option and is also useful for allowing you to work alongside your child to cook great meals together.

2. Implement child-sized tools

Providing your child with tools made just for their little hands will allow them to be both safe and competent in the kitchen. For Small Hands has a wonderful assortment of children's kitchen tools that you can pick out together. Some good ones to start with are a chopper, cutting board, vegetable scrub brush, spreading knife, small whisk, and mixing bowl.

Montessori classrooms also always have kids use an apron for food prep work. This keeps their clothes clean, but it also helps define the beginning and end of the work cycle. They'll put on an apron when they begin, and keep it on until they have completely cleaned up the work.

3. Clear out a low shelf or drawer for supplies

Encouraging independence and facilitating order are two guiding principles in any Montessori space. For a Montessori kitchen, this means giving your child access to the dishes and supplies they will need so clear out a low shelf or kitchen drawer.

Keeping their dishes within their reach will allow them to help set the table and help put clean dishes away. Similarly, keeping kitchen tools on a low shelf lets them complete the whole process independently from setting up to cleaning up.

Some families also choose to designate a refrigerator drawer for their child or include some shelf-stable snacks on their low shelf so they can choose a snack for themselves when they want.

4. Set up cleaning supplies

In a Montessori classroom, cleaning up and putting away a piece of work is just as important as the work itself. Children are expected to leave the work they use as they found it. The same goes for food prep—washing any dishes and tools used, folding aprons, and putting the work back on the shelf where they found it.

To be successful with this, children need you to show them how to clean up, and they need easy access to cleaning supplies that they're allowed to use.

The first time you present any skill, such as chopping fruit or spreading peanut butter, to your child, show them the complete process—where to find the supplies, how to carry them carefully to the workspace, how to do the work, and how to clean up.

Keep things like a sponge, a broom and dustpan, and small towels on the low shelf. Many young children take great pride in cleaning up after themselves when they are given the tools to do so freely.

While it can be hard, try not to jump in as soon as a spill is made. Watch and see what they do. If you ask them to wipe it up, they may resist, but if you just watch, they may do it of their own accord with satisfaction.

These four things are really all you need to set up a Montessori kitchen for your little one. Working in the kitchen is great for developing fine motor skills, independence, and concentration, and it can also be a wonderful bonding time for you and your child if you enjoy cooking.

As you begin, try to keep it simple. Introduce more skills as your child's abilities develop. Watch to see which parts of being in the kitchen they most enjoy. Do they love preparing snacks all by themselves? Do they prefer to bake alongside you? Each child is different and you can tailor your space to fit their unique wants and needs.

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My village lives far away—but my Target baby registry helped them support me from afar

Virtual support was the next best thing to in-person hugs

They say you shouldn't make too many major life transitions at once. But when I was becoming a mama for the first time nearly five years ago, my husband and I also moved to a new town where we didn't know a soul, bought our first house and changed jobs.

To put it mildly, we didn't heed that advice. Luckily, our family and friends still made it feel like such a magical time for us by supporting our every move (literal and otherwise) from afar. They showered us with love through a virtual baby shower (expectant parents nowadays can relate!) featuring the unwrapping of gifts they were able to ship straight to me from my Target registry.

Here's one piece of advice I did take: I registered at Target so I could take advantage of the retailer's benefits for registrants, which include a welcome kit valued over $100, a universal registry function and more. Fast-forward a few years and Target has made the registration perks even better for expectant parents: As of August 2020, they've added a Year of Exclusive Deals, which gives users who also sign up for Target Circle a full year of savings after baby is born on all those new mama essentials, from formula to diapers and beyond.

Honestly, even without the significant perks of a free welcome kit with more than $100 in coupons, additional 15% off coupons to complete the registry and a full year of free returns, registering at Target wasn't a hard sell for me: Even though the experience of shopping for baby items was new, shopping with Target felt like returning home to me… and the comfort of that was such a gift.

And of course, Target's registry plays a vital role right now, as expectant parents everywhere are being forced to cancel in-person baby showers and navigate early parenthood without the help of a hands-on village. A registry like this represents a safe way for communities to come through for new parents. If you're anything like me (or any of the other mamas here at Motherly), you certainly have emotional ties and fond memories associated with Target.

What to register for at Target was also an easy talking point as I began to connect with moms in my new community. I will always remember going on a registry-building spree with my next door neighbor, who had young children of her own. As we walked the aisles of Target back in 2015, she suggested items to add… and we laid the foundation for what has since become one of my most cherished friendships.

Even as I made connections in my new hometown, I was nervous that expecting my first baby wouldn't feel as special as if I were near family and friends. But my loved ones exceeded all expectations by adding the most thoughtful notes to gifts. They hosted a beautiful virtual baby shower and even encouraged me to keep the registry going after my baby made his debut and new needs arose.

In the years since, "community" has taken on a wonderfully complex new meaning for me… and, in these times of social distancing, for the rest of the world. I've come to cherish my newfound friends in our local community alongside those long-time friends who are scattered around the county and my virtual mama friends.

Now, as my friends' families grow, I'm so grateful that I can show them the same love and support I felt during my first pregnancy. I sing the praises of Target's baby registry—especially in light of the pandemic, since I know mamas can do everything from a distance thanks to Target's website and the added benefit of getting trusted reviews and helpful registry checklists.

And now that I'm on the gift-buying side of the equation, I've found new joy in picking thoughtful gifts for my friends. (Because goodness knows Target has something for everyone!)

For my friend who is a fellow runner, I teamed up with a few others to give the jogging stroller she had on her registry.

For my friend who is a bookworm, I helped her start her baby's library with a few books that are also well-loved in our home.

For other friends, I've bundled together complete "sets" with everything they need for bathing or feeding their children.

I know from my own experience that, yes, the registry purchases are so appreciated, but the thoughtfulness and the support they represent means even more. Because although my village may have been distant, the support they showed me was the next best thing to in-person hugs.

Start your own Target Baby Registry here to experience a Year of Benefits including a Year of Exclusive Deals through Target Circle to enjoy for a full year following your baby's arrival, a year of free returns, two 15% off completion coupons and a free welcome kit ($100 value).

This article was sponsored by Target. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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I never wanted to be a mom. It wasn't something I ever thought would happen until I fell madly in love with my husband—who knew very well he wanted children. While he was a natural at entertaining our nephews or our friends' kids, I would awkwardly try to interact with them, not really knowing what to say or do.

Our first pregnancy was a surprise, a much-wanted one but also a unicorn, "first try" kind of pregnancy. As my belly grew bigger, so did my insecurities. How do you even mom when you never saw motherhood in your future? I focused all my uncertainties on coming up with a plan for the delivery of my baby—which proved to be a terrible idea when my dreamed-of unmedicated vaginal birth turned into an emergency C-section. I couldn't even start motherhood the way I wanted, I thought. And that feeling happened again when I couldn't breastfeed and instead had to pump and bottle-feed. And once more, when all the stress from things not going my way turned into debilitating postpartum anxiety that left me not really enjoying my brand new baby.

As my baby grew, slowly so did my confidence that I could do this. When he would tumble to the ground while learning how to walk and only my hugs could calm him, I felt invincible. But on the nights he wouldn't sleep—whether because he was going through a regression, a leap, a teeth eruption or just a full moon—I would break down in tears to my husband telling him that he was a better parent than me.

Then I found out I was pregnant again, and that this time it was twins. I panicked. I really cannot do two babies at the same time. I kept repeating that to myself (and to my poor husband) at every single appointment we had because I was just terrified. He, of course, thought I could absolutely do it, and he got me through a very hard pregnancy.

When the twins were born at full term and just as big as singleton babies, I still felt inadequate, despite the monumental effort I had made to grow these healthy babies and go through a repeat C-section to make sure they were both okay. I still felt my skin crawl when they cried and thought, What if I can't calm them down? I still turned to my husband for diaper changes because I wasn't a good enough mom for twins.

My husband reminded me (and still does) that I am exactly what my babies need. That I am enough. A phrase that has now become my mantra, both in motherhood and beyond, because as my husband likes to say, I'm the queen of selling myself short on everything.

So when my babies start crying, I tell myself that I am enough to calm them down.

When my toddler has a tantrum, I remind myself that I am enough to get through to him.

When I go out with the three kids by myself and start sweating about everything that could go wrong (poop explosions times three), I remind myself that I am enough to handle it all, even with a little humor.

And then one day I found this bracelet. Initially, I thought how cheesy it'd be to wear a reminder like this on my wrist, but I bought it anyway because something about it was calling my name. I'm so glad I did because since day one I haven't stopped wearing it.

Every time I look down, there it is, shining back at me. I am enough.

I Am Enough bracelet 

SONTAKEY  I Am Enough Bracelet

May this Oath Bracelet be your reminder that you are perfect just the way you are. That you are enough for your children, you are enough for your friends & family, you are enough for everything that you do. You are enough, mama <3


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