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4 min read

If your child is interested in helping in the kitchen, snacks are a great place to start because:
  1. It’s less food prep than an entire meal

  2. It usually happens at a less busy time of day

  3. You can foster your child’s autonomy by inviting them to choose what they want to eat/prepare for themselves more easily

To Invite Your Child To Prepare A Snack

It starts when your child shows an interest in food preparation.

The Montessori approach is all about following the child - wait for their interest.

You might notice them watching you prepare food or wanting to help, reaching for your kitchen tools, or asking to be picked up to counter height.

The desire for independence typically starts around 18 months so look for the signs around this age.

From a physical development lens, a child typically has strong enough fine & gross motor skills to learn to prepare foods around this age too. They're not perfect but they can learn.

This is important to remember during the learning curve, their hands 
will get stronger and their equilibrium will develop.

Where To Start

Regardless of the child’s age, start simple. For example:

  1. Offer soft fruits or vegetables and a child-safe knife for cutting
  2. Offer smaller containers that your child can portion dry items into with spoons or tongs, i.e. crackers, cereal, etc
  3. Buy a small pitcher or two for your child to serve themselves a drink during snack or pour milk into cereal
⚠️ Important reminders ⚠️
  • Only provide as much as you’re willing to clean up because there will be a learning curve (i.e. offer a small pitcher of milk instead of the regular jug)

  • Have cleaning supplies handy to clean up any spills

  • If your child is still in a mouthing phase, you can still introduce food prep, just avoid knives for now.

    Even though the age-appropriate tools are safe if they end up in the child’s mouth, we want to discourage this type of behaviour. 
    Try these activities instead:  9 Knife-Free Food Prep Activities

  • Start with a slow, purposeful demonstration. Children don’t know how to do these things naturally so they need a demonstration or two (or five) to figure out the proper movements.

Snack Prep Activities - By Age

18 months - 2 years

Start with chopping soft fruits and vegetables.

Prepare the fruit or vegetable so that they're ready to chop (peel the banana or apple ahead of time, cut the apple into thin slices, wash the cucumber and cut it down to a manageable size, etc.

Next, have a small bowl that your child can put the chopped pieces into to keep space free on the cutting board for chopping.

In the classroom, children are taught to cut one slice of apple at a time, putting the chopped pieces into the bowl before taking another piece. This helps them find a nice rhythm in the process.

Once the food is prepared, your child can eat directly from the bowl or add a pair of tongs or scoop for them to serve to another bowl.

The tongs/scoop aren’t necessary when it’s only one child but they add a developmentally appropriate challenge that may be of interest to your child and it slows down snack time a bit. 

At this age you could also introduce a small pitcher for water. How to Introduce Pouring - a GREAT kitchen skill - The Montessori Room

2 - 2.5 Years Old

our child can continue to do the suggestions above but add the step of peeling with their hands - a banana (optional: cut a slit lengthwise down the banana to make it easier) or clementine.

You could also introduce snacks that have wrappers for your child to open independently. Start by opening the wrapper ever so slightly so your child can see where they need to pull (and remember to demonstrate the first couple times).

3 - 4 Years Old

You can now introduce snacks with a couple of steps, like cereal and milk (portioning them out into manageable containers ahead of time), yogurt and washed/chopped fruit, or spreading jams, spreads or nut butters on toast or crackers.

Remember to demonstrate. Better yet, make yourself the same snack and prepare it together!

4 - 5 Years Old

At 4, you could introduce a snack drawer into the home. This is an accessible cupboard with dry snacks and a low area of the fridge for perishables, where your child can access and choose their snacks.

Children have more impulse control at this age so may not eat everything right away but if you're worried about this, you can provide a limited amount of healthy snacks. If your child does choose to exclusively eat granola bars all day, it’s a good opportunity for a conversation about the importance of a balanced diet in kid-friendly terms, i.e. fruits and vegetables keep us healthy, help us to grow, etc.

At Any Age

And at any age, you can set up an accessible space in the kitchen for your child's cutlery, plates, and glasses.

This gives them the freedom to get the tools they need for snack prep, as well as set their own table once it's time to eat.

For instructions on setting up a low cupboard or drawer, check out this post - The Easiest Way to Foster Your Child's Independence in the Kitchen