In the heart of the Montessori philosophy lies the belief that children are capable of remarkable independence and that the skills they acquire in their early years profoundly shape their lifelong journey. Practical life activities are at the forefront of Montessori education, teaching children the everyday skills they need to thrive independently.

One often-overlooked arena for practical life experiences is the kitchen. While it may seem chaotic to introduce your child to the culinary world, it’s an ideal setting for imparting essential life skills the Montessori way. Children love to help in the kitchen. Though they may be prone to extra messes, letting them help has many benefits.

Cooking with Kids the Montessori Way

Here’s why cooking with kids at home dovetails perfectly with the practical life lessons they are learning at school:

  • Independence: Practical life activities are all about fostering independence, and cooking is a prime example. By involving children in meal preparation, you empower them to contribute to the family and gain a sense of accomplishment. The practical life skills they’ll acquire in the kitchen aren’t just for now; they’re for life. Cooking with kids equips them with essential abilities they’ll carry into adulthood.
  • Fine Motor Skills: Montessori emphasizes the development of fine motor skills. From pouring and measuring ingredients to stirring and chopping (with age-appropriate utensils), cooking refines these skills while having fun.
  • Order and Sequence: The kitchen is a realm of order and sequence—essential concepts in the Montessori curriculum. Cooking naturally involves following a recipe’s step-by-step instructions, reinforcing a child’s ability to sequence tasks.
  • Reading and Math: Cooking teaches children reading and math. While the younger ones might enjoy counting while adding ingredients, older children can read recipes and work with fractions and time.
  • Concentration: One of Montessori’s pillars is deep concentration. Cooking demands focus and attention to detail, making it a perfect medium for cultivating this vital skill.
  • Practical Problem Solving: Whether it’s adjusting a recipe, substituting an ingredient, or troubleshooting a kitchen challenge, cooking fosters practical problem-solving skills—another cornerstone of the Montessori approach.
  • Sense of Responsibility: Practicing safe and responsible kitchen behavior—such as handling utensils, respecting hot surfaces, and cleaning up afterward—instills a strong sense of responsibility, a core Montessori value.
  • Sensory Exploration: The kitchen is a treasure trove of sensory experiences, from the aroma of herbs to the texture of dough. Montessori encourages sensory exploration, and cooking offers rich opportunities to engage all the senses. It often encourages children to try new foods. When children make a meal themselves, the pride they feel in their accomplishment and the interaction they have with the food often takes away apprehensions they might have had about trying it otherwise.
  • Nutrition Awareness: Whether you grow your own food, visit your local farmer’s market, or head to the grocery store, the kitchen is the perfect place to talk to children about where their food comes from. Understanding the origins of food and the nutritional value of ingredients aligns with Montessori’s holistic approach to education. Cooking opens a door to nutrition awareness and healthy eating habits.
  • Family Bonding: Preparing meals together is a wonderful way to strengthen family bonds. It fosters communication, cooperation, and shared experiences—values Montessori cherishes. Children also gain a sense of contribution. When a child helps cook a meal, they have done something important to help their family community. This is just another way to promote confidence and independence.

Emphasize Safety

Make sure to emphasize safety. Talk to your child about what you expect of them and remind them often. Let them know what is off-limits, and whether you want them far from hot stoves or sharp kitchen utensils such as knives.

Give your kids kitchen tools that’ll work for them.  Make sure they get to use the real things but ensure that the utensils are comfortable for little hands to hold.  One good resource to find such tools is For Small Hands.

Remember that it’s supposed to be fun so make it so! Choose recipes and meals that are colorful, for example. Put on some music and dance around the kitchen while preparing your meal. Make silly faces on your pizzas. The entire activity should be an enjoyable and memorable experience for everyone in the family.

A Few Recipes to Get You Started

French Bread Pizzas

Who doesn’t love a good pizza? Unless you have kids that are older, you may want to do some of the chopping and ingredient cooking ahead of time. Even the littlest ones would enjoy assembling their own pizzas with whatever toppings they like.

Grilled Nutella Raspberry Sandwiches

Children as young as three often practice spreading butters in Montessori classrooms, so they may surprise you with their skills! It doesn’t get much simpler, or more delicious, than this.


Bean and Cheese Burritos

These burritos from Isabel Eats can be prepared ahead of time, or even frozen for later. Not only is this recipe easy to make, but it’s a great quick dinner option for busy weeknights.  Feel free to add guacamole and other toppings to make the recipe your own.

Cookie Cutter Fruit Salad

Consider this recipe an inspiration.  You could use so many different fruits and veggies in an unlimited number of shapes.  The final product could be a fruit salad, or you could make kababs, or perhaps put them on pancakes. The possibilities are endless.

Salad in a Jar

Looking for ways to teach your kids to make their own lunches and eat more vegetables?  Look no further than this recipe!

Waldorf Chicken Boats

For those of you looking for something a little fancy, check out these Waldorf Chicken Boats.  If you cook the chicken ahead of time and stand by to assist in measuring, children can make this recipe almost entirely on their own.

Looking for More? Check out these resources:

Kids’ Cooking Recipes from BBC Good Food

Easy Recipes that Kids Can Make from the Food Network

More Recipes from Cooking With Kids

Big Lessons Await

Allowing your child into the kitchen may require patience and a dash of mess, but the rewards are immeasurable. It’s a Montessori-inspired journey that nurtures independence, refines motor skills, and cultivates a love for life’s simple pleasures. So, don your aprons, gather your ingredients, and embark on this culinary adventure with your little ones. As you whip up delicious meals, remember that you’re also developing capable, confident, and self-reliant individuals—the essence of the Montessori way.

Happy cooking!

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