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3 min read

One of my five year old's favourite morning activities is preparing a fruit salad for the family.

He feels so proud when he brings the big bowl to the table and encourages everyone to have some.

While most Montessori families understand the value of encouraging participation in the kitchen (builds confidence, develops fine motor skills, increases concentration, etc.)...

I completely understand why some parents wouldn't feel comfortable giving their child a knife (especially one like this).

But there is a three-step process to introducing kitchen skills safely that Montessori teachers use the classroom:

  1. Demonstration
  2. Supervision
  3. Child-sized tools

1. Demonstration

To demonstrate properly, set everything out that you need for the demonstration and wait until you have your child's full attention.

Before you start, you can say something like, "I need you to watch my hands first and then it will be your turn" and then carry out the demonstration very slowly.

2. Supervision

Once the initial demonstration is over, you can give your child a turn and observe them.

If they’re doing it safely, you can continue to observe without interference.

If they're not being safe, stop and demonstrate again. Ideally you want to give them a second chance.

If they aren't being safe after the second demonstration, gently stop the activity and say "This activity is all done now. We have to be safe when DOING X. We'll try again tomorrow."

It might take a few demonstrations but they will eventually get it.

3. Child-Sized Tools

It's much harder to cut, mash, mix, or pour when the tools are too big. Imagine yourself, cutting with a knife 3x the size of your regular knife.

It's much easier for your child to succeed if you offer child-sized materials that they can easily handle.

Rule #1 when it comes to risk...

An essential part of managing risk throughout childhood is following the child.

Rather than rushing your child towards independence, simply follow their lead and wait until they're showing an interest in an activity or skill.

Rushing your child along can make the activity more dangerous. It'll also likely be more frustrating - trying to teach someone that doesn't want to learn.

For example, rather than pushing them to climb a Pikler or a large piece of equipment at the playground, wait for your child to show an interest and initiate.

It's then that you can guide them on how to do.

When they reach the limit of what they're capable of, we don't push them further or move their body into a place they can't get into on their own.

You simply end the activity, helping them figure out how to safely get back down.

The Canadian Paediatric Society's recent statement on risky play did an excellent job outlining the difference risk versus hazard:

  • Risk - where a child can recognize and evaluate the challenge and decide on a course of action based on personal preference and self-perceived skill


  • Hazard - where the potential for injury is beyond the child’s capacity to recognize it as such or to manage it

When we follow a child's lead, it's based on their comfort and understanding of what their body is capable of.

The other benefit to 'following the child' is that it builds trust - both with us, the adults, and themselves.

Our children learn to listen to their bodies. They also learn they can ask us for help when they need it, which is exactly what we want.

And if you're looking for demonstrations in the kitchen, these posts might help: