‘Tis the season of festivals, feasts, and all the merry things that help us get through the winter, and food sits at the center of it all. Our classrooms have been busy since the start of the year as children have learned to prepare food for themselves and others. But why the focus on food in the classroom?
Skills. Scooping, chopping, stirring, measuring, making grocery lists, preparing a full meal: It’s sometimes hard to imagine that your child can do these things independently. In our classrooms, though, you can see children actively participating in food preparation in each of these ways. Incorporating food preparation into our classrooms offers children the chance to practice practical skills in a safe environment.
Taste. When children are a part of making decisions about and preparing their food, they become more willing to try new things. Exposure (without pressure!) is a powerful tool for even the pickiest eaters, and when your child is the one chopping the zucchini, it’s all the more likely that she’ll see how it tastes, too. Even preparing the same food in different ways can encourage children to try it. Maybe raw carrots are out of the question, but involve your child in preparing carrots for roasting. There are so many ways to make something delicious!
Etiquette. Not only are children learning to prepare and try foods of all sorts, they’re also becoming more familiar with food culture–that is, the communal nature of mealtime and how to partake in it. They learn the etiquette of setting a table, carrying polite conversation, and moving carefully with breakable dishes and glasses. In the Montessori world, these things are often called “Grace and Courtesy,” which aid children in navigating the social world.
In this series of excerpts from the CMS Observer, we have reflect on the ways that our students have been engaging with food preparation in their classrooms and offer a few considerations of how to get children involved in the kitchen at home. We hope these provide an opportunity to gather around the table to enjoy food that the whole family has helped to prepare!