Blog

Spreading Cream Cheese

Spreading Cream Cheese by Jeanne Marie Paynel from voilamontessori.com

If You Only Do One Montessori Activity at Home, Do This One

I challenge you to think of one activity that exposes your child to math, language and science, while helping her develop concentration, motor skills, and delayed gratification. It’s not found in workbooks, and you probably won’t see it taking place regularly in most schools (unless they’re Montessori schools).

I’m talking about cooking.

Food preparation is a central part of any quality Montessori classroom. With a little planning, it can become a fun part of your child’s home life, too. If your toddler can hold an eating utensil, she can help prepare food, as this week’s video illustrates.

You don’t have to be a talented cook to involve your child in the kitchen. Here are a few parent-tested tips to help you and your child succeed:

Prepare the environment: Provide a safe workspace by investing in a helper platform (like a Learning Tower) or setting up a food prep station at a low table. You can find child-sized cooking equipment, including bowls, spatulas and dull spreading knives, at many cooking stores. And, of course, keep your child away from hot water and oil.

Choose age-appropriate activities: Cooking activities for children from 14 months of age can include: spreading soft cheese or butter, peeling hard-boiled eggs, washing and drying fruits and vegetables, and mashing cooked (and cooled) potatoes.  Preschoolers can practice cracking and scrambling eggs in a pan, pouring batter for waffles, and peeling onion and garlic.  School-aged children can read recipes, measure ingredients, and learn to chop vegetables with a sharp knife.

Channel your inner Montessori teacher: Start by naming the activity and showing your child what you expect her to do.  Move slowly and don’t talk while you work. Let her take over when she’s ready and respect her way of doing things (as long as she’s not putting herself or others in danger). If you need to correct her, don’t tell her she’s doing it all wrong! Simply ask for a turn and repeat your presentation, making sure she’s watching. When appropriate, you can count food items, use terms like “half” and “whole”, or discuss the reactions that took place during the cooking process.

Deep breaths: Young children are often more interested in the process of preparing food than in the outcome, and they love to experiment!  Control the mess by limiting the amount of food she has access to (i.e. give her ¼ cup of peanut butter instead of the whole jar), let her taste along the way, and if worse comes to worse, redirect her to a low-mess activity like scrubbing vegetables.

If you would love to cook with your child but don’t know where to start, my Montessori Parenting Program can help you! Click the “Let’s Talk” button to discover how easy it can be to bring Montessori principles into your kitchen and home! What will you and your child cook today?


Toddlers love to be self-sufficient, and this activity will satisfy their need for independence. A dull spreading knife with a chunky handle is great for little hands. Your child might want to lick the knife; acknowledge his desire, remind him that the cheese (or jam or peanut butter) goes on the bread, and tell him that he’ll be able to eat as soon as he finishes his work. Remember to show him how to clean up when he’s done enjoying his snack.

For more tips on how to introduce Montessori activities, read The Nine Key Points to Sharing a New Activity with Your Child.

P.S. Would you like my support and guidance setting-up your Montessori home? If, yes then go ahead and schedule a ‘Discovery Session’ with me. It’s free and you’ll know if we are a good fit. 😉

5 thoughts on “Spreading Cream Cheese”

  • Stella says:

    Wonderful idea, thank you!

    • Jeanne-Marie Paynel says:

      Glad you like it. Cooking with children can be so much fun, if you take the time to prep a little bit before had. Do let me know if you try it.

  • Connie Rivera says:

    My children grew up “A la Montessori”, and cooking was by far our favorite activity. In fact as a homeschool mom, we not only created a picture cookbook, but science and math were very much involved; measuring, dividing, adding, temperature, reactions of different ingredients…etc. writing was also involved. I would take pictures of all the ingredients and each step by step instruction. My child/student had to take the photos, sequence them and write out the instructions and description of the finished product. The pictures and written work would then be put into a composition book.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Pin It on Pinterest