Whenever I'm working in the kitchen, I can count on my little one wanting to be there next to me, hands full of flour and more tidbits going into his mouth than into the mixing bowl. And it's no wonder. With all of the different textures, smells, and sensations to feel, cooking really does offer a perfect learning environment for children. There's no need to wait, however, for your kids to be old enough to turn on the stove to get them involved in food preparation. There are plenty of activities that are appropriate for those as young as 18 months and that continue through the elementary school years. Sara E. Cotner (of the blog Feeding the Soil) and Kylie D'Alton (of the blog How We Montessori) give us step-by-step instructions on how to do this in Kids in the Kitchen: Simple Recipes That Build Independence and Confidence the Montessori Way (2012, CreateSpace).
The authors open by sharing with us their paths to Montessori and the positive impacts they've seen the philosophy bring to their homes. They are raising happy children who have a healthy sense of themselves as contributing members of their families. They have achieved this, they say, by providing an environment for that is engaging and capitalizes on the fact that in their earliest years our kids are little sponges ("Absorbent Minds" in Montessori's terms), soaking up everything around them. This book is a nuts and bolts guide on how to create such an environment in your own home kitchen.
After the overview of why these activities are important and a listing of the developmental milestones that will be most supported, Cotner and D'Alton get down to business. There are simple instructions on how to set up your kitchen to best allow your children to participate and explanations of key tools that you will need. Next, they list 20 kitchen skills and give detailed descriptions, both narrative and pictorial, of how to teach them to your child. Finally, there are 10 recipes that are, again, represented in both photos and words. They close with suggestions on how to take the next step by applying this methodology to other household tasks.