raising competent kids

107a8701-1I spent a whole day in Poet’s Montessori classroom last week; a rare and wonderful opportunity.

I was there to take photos but I also had the privilege to quietly observe and listen. It was marvellously inspiring and absolutely intriguing to witness the children (aged 3-6) explore, create, learn, and communicate.

But most importantly, it was affirming to witness their competence. Their independence and ability shone throughout the entire day. These kids know how to use cutlery and wash dishes and sweep floors and build towers and spell words and cut fruit and water the garden.

And it made me think: how easy it is to forget that the little person at your feet can help you…and wants to help you.

Including a toddler or a pre-schooler in household tasks is never the most efficient route to getting the job done. It is almost always easier to do the job yourself. Gently guiding your child through a task or activity requires time and patience – even when it’s in short supply. But in those moments you have to ask yourself: do I want to raise an independent, skilled child or a child who can’t and won’t lift a finger?

So then I find myself rummaging around in the time/patience bucket and discovering just enough to get us started…and then I’m pleasantly surprised at the experience and conversation that unfolds.

So where to begin? Pre-schoolers and six, seven and eight-year-olds can sort washing, pick up toys, put books on the shelf, sweep under the table, wash and dry dishes and help prepare meals.

Encouraging kids to help in the kitchen has a plethora of benefits. Firstly, it means that their interest in food skyrockets so there’s a good chance that they’ll actually eat the food that they’re making. Secondly, it’s a great catalyst for talking about food origins, food waste and how food fuels the body. And thirdly, they’re developing skills for life. Need I say more?


107a8668-1I’ve always been a bit scared of letting the kids use knives but my fears have subsided since Dragonfly Toys sent me Le Petite Chef; a children’s knife by iconic French brand, Opinel. I’ve bought Opinel garden knives as gifts over the years and have admired their quality and longevity so I was pleased to find a range for children, too.

Le Petite Chef is not a toy – it’s a tool; a 10cm rounded stainless steel blade that is perfect for cutting and slicing. It has a beautiful beech handle, a ring to encourage ideal handling position and it also comes with a Finger Guard which protects the hand while cutting. It’s a simple yet genius device that will put your mind at rest and have you retreating from your helicopter-parenting-she’s-going-to-cut-her-fingers-off position.

Since it arrived Poet has sat at the table in the late afternoon and chopped the vegies for our evening salad. Granted, for every three slices she cuts, one goes in the mouth, but they’re the perks when you’re sous chef.

107a8681-1If you’re inspired by practical toys and want to create a collection for your child, you may also like these tools for the home:

This is a sponsored post. Thank you for supporting the small businesses who so generously support me.

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Showing 4 comments
  • Sarah @ Say! Little Hen

    I’ve seen some people give their toddlers soft things to cut – like bananas, so that they can use a butter knife. What a clever idea that guard is for older children who are still in danger of cutting themselves.
    I think it’s so important for children to learn to enjoy preparing food from a young age. Aside from any other reason, it’s something that we all have to do daily throughout our lives as adults, and it’s made better by finding the joy in it and knowing how fun it is to experiment and create with meals.

  • Anna Rathgeber

    I think this is absolutely fantastic. Of course you don’t want your kids to use a super sharp blade and no protection (actually I did that as a child, cutting a roll of cookie dough, it ended in a bloody finger and lots of tears) but this is a perfect way to teach them responsibility and care. I love it! And they even feel involved. I mean, there is nothing wrong with giving children a chore to do, just something small that they will even enjoy!

  • Mackenzie Glanville

    Aspen attended Montessori and I was with her most days, I love their philosophy. We moved and April and Adam attended main stream kinder which was very different, but in our home we have always encouraged helping out and pitching in. Aspen and April love to cook, Aspen loves to bake and decorate, April also loves baking but loves cooking with vegetables too. Adam has not taken to cooking so much. They all pitch in with our pets, we no longer have our chickens which I miss dearly, but we have bunnies, cats and dogs and the children feed, clean and help with them all. The benefits are amazing.

  • Manny Burki

    Just found your blog by chance when looking for minimalist lifestyle blogs to follow. I am not yet a Mum (far from it) but I adore your family posts. Your writing flows super naturally and your photos are gorgeous.


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