I've been dabbling in Montessori and my opinion is overall positive, but I'm a little mixed on some aspects of it. I think bringing the child into the kitchen and teaching them practical skills like making their own snacks or washing dishes is good, but I'm not interested in making Michael sit in a weaning chair at his own table for his meals. I've always thought eating meals as a family was important. And some literature I've read gives examples of very young children being taught skills that just seems a little daunting and not well suited for our family. (Can you teach a one year old to peel a carrot? Yes. But it seems to be a bit much for a child that doesn't even have fully myelinated nerves. Maybe I just don't understand Montessori.*)
But we have tried to give Michael some of his own space in the kitchen and involve him more and more in meal preparation.
I love our house. I think we have a great floor plan, but our kitchen is small. Actually, it's a very big kitchen in a small space. It works.
This is my kitchen as is tonight. We haven't even cleaned up after a quick dinner. Notice the spray pain can on the counter top? (Yeah I need to take that downstairs). Like our wine bottle collection? Collecting has pretty much been at a dead stop since I got pregnant.
I'm kinda mixed on childproofing. I think it's important, but it can be over done. We have simple finger locks under the sink and on one cabinet that the dishes are stored in (I hate dealing with locks myself). Michael has free access to all of the other cabinets. It's a pain at times, but it has gotten easier.
We have a "baited" cabinet that has a bunch of stuff we don't use often and we let him tear through it if he wishes (and he has to put back what he gets out).
It's a general rule that anything is this cabinet should be washed before using with food. The lazy susan is probably the biggest attraction itself.
He also loves the bottom of the pantry. He'll pull out the cereal boxes and play with them or play with the paper towels.
I do keep a pretty good eye on him when he's in here because of the blades on the foil and saran wrap boxes. It handy to have a 'sacrificial' package of paper towels.
He used to get into the cabinet that had the pots and pans in it. We used to think it was cute. Were're not so enthusiastic about that one now, so we've gotten onto him enough to leave that one alone that he mostly does.
He also has a little drawer where we keep his trays and silverware. We have him get his silverware at most meals. When I'm unloading the dishwasher I let him put his things up. (And it keeps him from messing with the other stuff in the dishwasher.)
I wish I could fit his cups in here too. Just a couple of bibs shoved in the back.
When I'm making meals (mostly lunch time) Michael will push a chair in from the dining table up to the counter next to the stove, climb up on it and watch me cook**. He tries to grab a lot, so it's a chore, but I'm hoping that it's worth the trouble. Most of the time he watches, sometimes I have little tasks he can try like buttering toast or stirring. When I make pizza dough I will give him a little piece to play with. He would love it if I would let him have an egg to crack, but that ain't happening anytime soon. And when he's not listening to me, I tell him to go to the living room and play with his tractors and he's pretty accepting of that request, at least for a few minutes.
Michael loves to try to sweep and dust mop. I've asked the grandmas for little brooms and dustpans. I'm going to hang them on low hooks in the broom closet off the kitchen where he can grab them. We are also trying to collect some child size cooking utensils. I'd love to have one of these, but no way do we have the room.
I'm always a bit challenged by what I should be trying to get him to do and what's appropriate for his age. When I think about this for too long, I get stressed out and my anxiety creeps back up. "The one year old in that book could peel carrots and my kid is almost two and can't even eat a carrot!" But I try to remind myself to just let it be and go at our own pace (thank you CBT). I'm pretty sure that we are moving in the right direction and I just try not to worry about it too much. But it sure is fun to think up ideas and fantasize about my dream kitchen.
*It seems like anytime anyone criticizes Montessori the reply back is that they "don't understand Montessori". I have seen this excuse so many times and it comes out so smugly so often that it makes me dislike Montessori altogether... but I know not every parent and teacher that does Montessori is so drunk off the kool-aide that they have forgotten that there are other perfectly good ways to educate your child and you don't have to adhere to Montessori 100% of the time for it to be effective.
**And he has totally fallen off the chair, but if he didn't fall off he'd never learn to not fall off.