raising competent kids
I 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?
I’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.
If you’re inspired by practical toys and want to create a collection for your child, you may also like these tools for the home:
- vegetable peeler
- enamel cooking set
- stainless steel cooking set
- wooden clothes horse
- wooden chopping board
- mixing set
- dustpan + brush
- horsehair broom
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