Ever thought of using Montessori ideas to enable and empower your little ones to learn table skills? We are glad that we did in our house!
Though I do battle Joseph’s inclination to stand up dare-devil style in his booster seat, and my kids can be silly at the dinner table (if they weren’t I think I’d worry!) . . . I never buckle him in. In fact, we haven’t used our high chair since he was 7 months old, and we took the buckles off his booster seat completely – to the surprise of our friends and neighbors who are over at our house frequently for dinner and playdates.
“I’d never be able to get her to sit still without buckling her!”
“How do you know he won’t fall out?”
“I wish my kid had table manners like that.”
Our toddler has (knock-on-wood) table manners. Yes, he can be a hooligan while eating just like any other child, and like I mentioned, he has his moments of dare-devilish devil-may-care table antics. . . but he is able to
- sit still, with good posture
- use a fork and a spoon (and fingers)
- drink from a cup
- and wipe his face and hands with a napkin during and when finished eating.
- And he can tell us when he is “all done.”
We rarely if ever spoon feed him (only sometimes when he is really really tired) and he also knows to clean up messes that he makes. He loves to wipe the table, even if at this point, he doesn’t get it very clean.
He has these skills because we have been enabling him to learn and use them since he began eating solid foods. We allowed our child to learn these skills by presenting him with the means to discover his own abilities through a Montessori-inspired presentation and nurture of table skills.
The Weaning Table
We started him at a Montessori weaning table at 9 1/2 months. The idea of weaning table is that the infant is able to rest his feet firmly on a flat surface, helping him to keep balance and focus on learning eating skills while maintaining good posture. Children can also crawl in and out of the low table with ease, allowing them to have control over their bodies as versus being strapped into a chair, and carried to and from the table. Thankfully, Joseph really took to the weaning table. Abbey, our first Silly Bear, wouldn’t eat at it unless we sat with her on the ground and kept putting her back in her seat. . .
But I digress.
Presenting a Napkin
Though we spoon fed hungry, hungry, Joseph for a short time (he would get really frustrated trying to feed himself when he was 6-7 months old), we never fed him unless he indicated that he wanted food, and as soon as he was able to, I allowed him to feed himself. As Joseph started showing that he could grasp and pinch foods at his weaning table (and get them to his mouth), I offered him a cloth napkin and showed him how to clean his face and hands.
True to a Montessori method, I presented this work to him, and then we (as a family) modeled it for him at the table. Sometimes napkins don’t get used at a meal, but we always set them at the table (Abbey likes to do this chore) so that we have a cloth to wipe messes, drips, and our hands and faces when we are finished eating.
Joseph was about 11 months when I presented the napkin to him, and now at 16 months, he uses it like a pro! Better than his sister and sometimes more consistently than Hubs and myself!
Using a fork and a spoon is something that many toddlers (and even our preschooler) can’t handle with much grace. And in our house, it’s not much different. Don’t let me fool you – we end up with forks, spoons, and food on our floor, just as any other family does. But presenting a child with the tools of eating at an early age allows them to be empowered and interested in learning to master them.
At 14 months, Joseph could eat about half of his serving of yogurt, applesauce, or pudding with a spoon without assistance. Now, he can clear a bowl or plate portion of yogurt at breakfast using a spoon. Right now in his development, he is learning to push the food around to make it easier to scoop (consolidating it into piles, etc).
Working with a fork is a lot of loud and frequent plate stabbing. . . but every few stabs, he gets some food, and is so proud when he does! My husband remarked the other day that we need to buy more child-sized utensils because both kids are using them at every meal now (as versus using their fingers routinely).
Happy Child, Happy Mama
Joseph is thrilled to use the skills that he has to feed himself, and I’m not gonna lie, I love the fact that I can sit and eat MY food while he eats HIS, instead of having to spoon feed or help him cleanly finger feed himself. But the best park of having a toddler that’s been presented with table manners, proper seating posture, face-cloths (napkins), and utensils is that I get to see the smile of pride beaming on his precious little face as he feeds himself, cleans himself, and indicates that he’s “all done!”
Happy, able child – makes one happy, proud mama!
Have you considered using Montessori table methods with your young child?
What is meal time like for your family?
Do you have any questions about the way we facilitated Joseph’s table skills?