Sunday, December 11, 2011

Cooking with Michael

I'm totally inspired with how some parents have made their homes 'kid friendly'. One of the bloggers that has inspired me the most is Meg at Sew Liberated. Meg is a former Montesssori teacher and has done an excellent job of making a toddler friendly home. Check out the video of her kid picking up his play dough (that video will knock your socks off, my husband and I just sat in awe as we watched it, and he's only 20 months in this video) and the watering station in her kitchen too. Wow. Her blog is seriously inspiring (not to mention her sewing projects).

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.


Michelle said...

I love your kitchen. Ours is very dated here, and if we do ever buy it, that will be one of the first things I replace.
I think them being apart of the cooking process, or at least in the same room, makes them more respectful of the kitchen. I know the kids I watch, are gated to the living room at their house. So, mornings are stressful when I'm doing breakfast, they try to terrorize my cabinets. K never did that, and the only cabinet we lock is the one with the extra knives and sharp stuff. Now, for lunch time, the kids keep out of the pantry and cabinets and love to help. I love when the 3 yr old helps because she's so into it and fun.
And I love that water system on that link! Awesome idea.

Jessica White said...

I try to involve my daughter in the whole kitchen process, but sometimes it really does end up being more work (mainly because MIL allows her to do and touch EVERYTHING in the kitchen).

We have a little step ladder that we use for her to help in the kitchen.

Amanda said...

I let Michael help me make a cake the other day. We took turns stirring the batter. Then I let him try to brush the pan release on the cake pan, which he enjoyed a lot. And after it was cool he got to try frosting it. This was just a fun snowman cake for us so it didn't matter if he butchered it instead of correctly icing it.

LORI said...

I'm a silent follower...just chiming in with a little info hopefully to give you peace of mind.

I have an education degree and part of our experience was an abroad trip to Italy where we got to observe and interact with the original Montessori school. One of the biggest methodologies they have is that it is child-led, and self-paced. Kids show interest in things and they do them. As much or as little as they want. Once they master the skill, whether it's peeling a carrot or sorting colors, they move on the next thing. You dont force or pressure because if a child isn't interested, they won't devote to the skill to learn it.

All that being said, my point is that everyone, every child is different. They have different interests...they learn differently...they master at different rates. Michael is inquisitive and he loves being around you will you do new things so he can see what there is to learn and choose his way to learn it. Hang tough and, as hard as it is, compare Michael's accomplishments to what he could do yesterday or a year ago...not to what someone else's kid can do. Because that amazing kid who can peel a carrot, may not be able to pretend playing dress up or may not know their colors. Everyone excels differently and those are the things that make growing up fun and keeps Mommies on their toes. :) :)

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for this post! I love hearing about how people handle child proofing and making their home kid friendly. You do so many awesome things with Michael!

I feel kind of bad because I don't really let Birdie help with cooking, even though I love the idea. As a former preschool teacher (one of the strange curves in my career paths!), I should know better. I think that Montessori does have a lot of things that I like, but some things, not so much. I think it's great to take what appeals to you and leave the rest. I like some of the Waldorf stuff but some of it is really kooky. I think I am most drawn to the Reggio Emilia approach.

I have tried to make our kitchen toddler friendly. Birdie has access to the pantry, and she has a great time rearranging the bottom two shelves, though I have found her tearing open some cardboard packages that she wants to open and eat (like crackers). I do have latches on most of the cabinets except one, partly because she was taking out the pots and dropping them on the new wood floor and leaving dents. Most of my hesitation to do messy activities has to do with these damn wood floors. I love them but I worry all the time about scratching them up and denting them because I know how much extra we paid for them throughout the entire downstairs. I would do lots more water play if we had vinyl flooring in the kitchen.

I love the idea of him having his own drawer for his utensils and plates. We only have two drawers down low, and one is deep that I use for kitchen towels, but I may move things around to do that. Birdie loves to sweep and has a little broom that she uses. Our living room/dining room/kitchen is all open to each other and we have made it a safe place for her. She is getting a play kitchen and shopping cart for Christmas and I think she is going to love it.

Oh, I got a pomegranate the other day and we opened it up and she loves it! She is finishing up eating it right now. Keep sharing your ideas!

Amanda said...

If there were before and after photos to show how much Michael has done to our wood floor, it would kill me. Oh yeah. I am seriously not happy with some of the damage he has inflicted there. If we have another kid it's only going to get worse. I'll worry about it if we ever go to sell.