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Food Preparation, Food Prep, Food Work…it is all a way to provide an opportunity for children to “prepare” food for themselves. I know that in many Montessori school classrooms, food work is not introduced or even offered to the children. I remember that food work was a big part of my training, and I absolutely LOVE having food work as a part of my Practical Life Area. Food work could include things like bread and jam, bread and butter, fresh orange juice making, banana slicing, egg slicing, nut cracking (providing there are no allergies), carrot peeling and slicing, cinnamon stick grating, apple slicing, spice grinding…the list could go on and on. The objective of food work is to provide opportunities where children are putting to use their “practical life” skills, using their independence, and depending on the work, preparing food for others.
In the school that I am currently working in, I am one of the few teachers that has food work in their classroom. It is a large task to choose appropriate food works to introduce into your classroom or homeschool. It is wise to take into consideration food allergies of the children, as well as the developmental stages of each child. For instance, nut cracking is a great food work to have in a Montessori environment. Unfortunately, with many children having a severe allergic reaction to nuts, I can not introduce this food work into my classroom environment. Other things to consider are your access to food items that you will need on a regular basis, shelf space, safety, and sanitary and cleanliness.
Over the years, I have narrowed down the long list of possible food work choices to just three; bread and jam, fresh orange juice making, and banana slicing. I normally wait and introduce food works during the school year in January. By then, we have been in school for about four months, and they have already been introduced to and have been working with the water works for at least a month or two. Each food work is introduced separately, one at a time; in order from simple to complex.
A few things to consider when choosing the tools needed for successfully introducing and implementing food work into your classroom or homeschool.
-Choose tools/materials that are safe for the children to use.
-Try to make the steps and process of starting and completing the work as simple as possible.
-Keep the food works to at least three, but not more than five. Too many choices makes it difficult to keep track of things such as cleanliness and proper use of the work.
This is the first work that I introduce to the children.
Materials: inexpensive tray, sponge, plastic spreader, plastic bowl, inexpensive basket for bread and napkins.
Process: The children first get a napkin, and then a slice of bread and place it on the napkin. They then take the tray to a table. They use the spreader, spread jam on the bread, then eat. Once done, they must wipe the spreader using the sponge, put their napkin in the trash, and return the work to the shelf.
Materials: inexpensive tray, juicer, bowl, sponge, basket for oranges
Process: The children put a half an orange in the bowl, then they get their glass cup with their name on it. They then begin to juice their orange slice and drink the juice. They must then go to the sink and wash out the juicer. They then put their used orange in the trash, wipe sown the tray, and return it to the shelf.
Materials: inexpensive tray, plastic cutting board, plastic slicer, sponge, bowl, basket for banana slices. (I precut a banana and place in the basket).
Process: The must get a napkin (next to the bread and jam work), choose a banana slice and place it on the cutting board. They go to the table, peel the banana, and place the peel in the napkin. Wrap up and place aside. They then slice the banana, placing the slices in the bowl. Once done slicing, they eat the slices. They must then wipe the slicer and cutting board, put napkin in trash, and replace work to shelf.
These works are fan favorites in my classroom, and could be a great addition to your Practical Life area. I hope that I have inspired you to add food work to your classroom or homeschool!
I must note that at the end of every day, I disinfect all of the food work materials.