Humble Horizons Montessori

Feeding and dining, the Montessori way

I wanted to share this video with so that parents can get a glimpse into how we teach ‘dining’ the Montessori way. It’s here at this link and entitled “everyday food”.  This video is from the Association Montessori Internationale.

Montessori Guide – VimeoThe Association Montessori International/USA is pleased to premiere this new online resource tool for Montessori teachers. It has long been our intention to find…

This video has an abundance of excellent examples of what’s possible when you start young and/or teach children at any age the expectations around dining.  This can be especially helpful for parents with multiple young children living in the same household, such as a toddler and an infant; or a three year old with an 18-month old.

If any child entered my montessori classroom starting say, tomorrow, at any age, they would also join us in dining exactly in the ways you see unfolding in this video.  And over time, they would begin to learn to dine in the ways you see happening.  

For a baby, she would also be seated at the table with a bib, her placemat, and an infant-style place setting, including an open cup.  In the video you can see as many as 4+ infants dining at the same table, at the same time. So that really shows you what’s possible.

Yes, messes may happen as a trade-off for the learning process (they all have to learn to feed themselves at some point; and like you’ve heard my typical motto before, “teach them once, teach them for life).  :: BUT:: the secret is that their portion sizes are so small that whatever mess they make should be minimal in impact. If babies or children are making a huge mess while eating, it is the result of either a) serving messy foods, or b) serving portion sizes that are way too big.  

If you take a close look, or try to see this through my “trained eye”, you will notice:

  •  the baby receiving tablespoon-sized portions
  • the toddlers eating off of very small, toddler-sized plates
  • adults controlling the food and how much food is placed in the serving bowls
  • the children who have access to the “bigger” serving bowl portions have already developed the skill and self-control to serve themselves one portion, then put the serving bowl back down. 
  • everyone is seated at the table– that is the default way we dine, Montessori style. 
  • how relaxed this experience is.  Eating food should be an enjoyable and anticipated experience; and we strive to pair positive associations with the dining by making it welcoming,  beautiful, and for all intents and purposes, ‘special’. 
  • part of what makes it special is that children are involved in preparing the food that is eaten, and they help to set the table every day for every meal including snacks (setting the table is taught in the Montessori classroom). 

One of the biggest aspects of unfolding the Montessori ‘weaning table’ or ‘dining’ process is that the adult controls the bulk of the food and serves very little portionsuntil the children begin to display self-control around eating nicely.  A younger baby will get a little messy; but with tablespoon-sized portions it should be a controlled mess. In the Montessori method in general, the room will only get as messy as the adults allow the children access to objects.  More toys= more mess.  More food= more mess.  

 I have seen parents line under the kids’ table with a carpet protector or a separate area rug (ruggable has a great washable option). Have that wet face cloth prepared and waiting in a dish nearby, to immediately wipe your child’s hands and faces after the meal is over. The toddler can learn to wipe their own face. Have your cleaning rag, mop and broom ready to go as soon as the meal is over.  Sometimes the children are shown how to wipe the table themselves, how to sweep, how to mop, and how to scrub the carpet clean (this might sound unreal but I most assure you it is very real).  

Another key to success is that for a younger baby, you only let them work on one aspect of dining at a time; and there is this ebb and flow between the food and the drink.  So if they’re working on eating food, I do not offer the cup of water/milk and I pull that away out of reach of the baby. When the eating slows, I ask if they want milk or water and I sign (language) the words for these.   If they are drinking, I pull away the dish of food.  When they’re done drinking I pull away the beverage and give back the food.  And again, I’m only serving maybe tablespoon-sized portions of food and water in a tiny cup.  Sauce ramekins make great cups for babies.  

If you would like a single Hawaiian-style dining placemat sewn by hand and you live in the state of Hawaii, feel free to reach out on my instagram @humblehorizonsmontessori

Mahalo (thank you) for reading! Enjoy the video!

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