If you are interested in the Montessori method or are already using it in your parenting, here’s all the advice you need on how to choose the perfect Montessori play kitchen.
We all want our children to learn as they play. Ideally, we can provide a place for this in every room of the house. One room that is stuffed with opportunities to learn is the kitchen. But with hot appliances and sharp knives, many parents are wary of letting their kids loose in there. One solution is to buy a toy kitchen.
There are tons to choose from. You might like to pick one that matches your décor or one that has a lot of accessories.
If you are trying to create a Montessori-friendly home, there are other features which are important to you. You may even be worried about whether to get a play kitchen at all.
Your mind might be swimming with questions.
How can I increase my child’s independence? What kitchen should I buy? Is there even such a thing as a Montessori kitchen?
As parents, it’s our job to worry. But you no longer need to worry about this. Everything you need to know is here.
Read on to find out the best way to include a kitchen set in your Montessori home.
Dr. Maria Montessori developed her educational approach based on scientific observations of how children behave, learn and develop. Montessori’s work happened at the beginning of the 20th century but the method is still popular all over the world.
There are many different ways in which people interpret her system. However, some of the basic principles include:
· Observing the child and making decisions based on what they are interested in.
· A carefully prepared environment, with child-sized items at child height.
· Free choice from a limited number of options.
· Encouraging independence and exploration.
Many public and private schools and nurseries use the ‘Montessori method’. It is also popular with individual families like yours.
Do Montessori kids have play kitchens?
This is a complicated question. Every parent or teacher has their own understanding of the Montessori method. There is not necessarily a ‘right way’, as different approaches may suit different families.
An important aspect of Montessori education is a focus on practical ‘life work’. This means your child joining in with household chores and taking responsibility for self-care early on. It is also built on the idea that children have a very ‘concrete’ understanding of the world. They base their learning on direct experiences and things they see around them.
This means there is no such thing as a Montessori toy. Instead children use real objects and certain specific materials. Imaginative play involves imagining they are taking part in a real-life activity they have already done or seen. There are no superheroes here!
A traditional toy kitchen with pretend food and plastic knives does not support a Montessori education. Children playing with it are doing just that: playing. They are not taking part in meaningful household activities and building their independence.
So how could you have a Montessori play kitchen?
The key is to rethink how your child uses it.
How can a play kitchen fit in with the Montessori method?
When you think of a child’s kitchen, you might imagine it filled with toys. Tiny pans and plastic food stuck together with Velcro look very cute.
Don’t buy these for your Montessori home!
Your child’s kitchen needs to be a functioning part of your kitchen. Something they can use for real food preparation that just happens to be the right size for them.
Instead of pretending to prepare snacks, your child can really do it. Provide safe knives, fruit, a chopping board and plates and their independence will grow. Of course, you know your own child and will know what stage they are at. Lay out things that they are ready to use safely. Younger children can start by washing their hands and fetching their own bowls. They can move on to washing their dishes and onwards and upwards to preparing their own food.
What should you look for in a Montessori play kitchen?
It almost goes without saying that the kitchen unit should be the right size for your child. They need to be able to stand in front of it and comfortably access all parts. The cupboards should open easily. Limit the number of items that are inside the cupboards and on the shelves so your child can easily see what is there.
You can buy play kitchens in many bright colors with cute decals and details. They may look lovely, but they don’t fit in with the Montessori approach. When planning your décor think: practical, simple, calming. Neutral wood or simple pale colors are your friends here.
There are tons of play kitchens on the market that are very complex. They have integrated appliances, lights and sound effects. Some of them look fancier than my own kitchen! These are not suitable as a Montessori kitchen because the pretend appliances are not functional.
Each element of your child’s kitchen needs to be something they can actually use. So avoid models with electronic special effects and complex ovens.
Which brings us to…
Ideally, you are looking for something that you can easily adapt. The elements which do not fit in with the Montessori approach should be quick to strip away. You can find lots of inspiration online for ways to simplify toy furniture or add parts to plain furniture. There is a great roundup of ideas here.
Most come with some sort of oven and stove top. Make sure the kitchen you choose has a cooker that is straightforward to remove or cover up. Your Montessori kitchen is for real food prep, not mimicking cooking.
Remember that adaptability is the key. You need to be able to change it when you buy it and as your child grows. Take a look at this family, who modified their kitchen set up as their child developed. They even ended up adding a real electric skillet so he could cook simple dishes!
The sink is another key feature to get right. For the Montessori method, it needs to be as real as possible. This means taking out the plastic faucets and arranging a water source. A popular choice is to put a glass water dispenser next to the sink. Look for a toy kitchen sink which lifts out so your child can pour away dirty water. If you are feeling handy, you could even cut a plug hole and put a bucket inside for drainage.
So which toy kitchen should you buy for your Montessori home? Here are a few specific models to consider.
The Classic Ikea Play Kitchen
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You will find this kitchen in thousands of homes all over the world. It is very popular, and for good reason. It is wooden, plain white and endlessly adaptable. Pinterest is filled with examples of Duktigs that have had an elaborate makeover. For a Montessori home, however, you’re not looking for cute wallpapers and shiny retro faucets. Have a look at this example of a hacked Ikea kitchen. It not only looks gorgeous but has enabled a young toddler to reach a level of independence that you might expect in a much older child.
ECR4Kids Birch Pretend Play Kitchen
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This is as simple as they come. In fact, it’s basically just a cupboard. But for a Montessori kitchen, that’s perfect. There is cupboard and shelf space to store your child’s crockery and utensils and a surface they can use to prepare food. If you think you need more space, you could always buy two and have them side by side.
TP Toys Muddy Maker Mud Kitchen
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Hear me out. When I went looking for a Montessori kitchen setup there were so many overly complicated designs. Then I remembered that a simple shelf, surface and sink can be found in many kitchens designed for outside play. I looked for mud kitchens and this one is great. There’s even a chalkboard so your older child could note down items they have run out of to go on the grocery shopping list!
So there you have it. Purists may not like the idea of a ‘play kitchen’ in a Montessori home, but you can definitely make a miniature unit that meets your child’s needs in the real kitchen.
Choose a simple toy kitchen and adapt it so it is functional. Add a water source and equipment that suits your child’s stage of development. Show them how to use it and marvel at how their independence flourishes.