This was recently shared on How We Montessori blog. However, I have decided to share this on my blog as I would like to talk about the reasons why we do what we do.
Joshua’s snack table is a small table that was made by Joshua’s great grandfather and will eventually become Joshua’s bedside table when he is ready for a big bed. I love that the table has such sentimental value. It served as a bedside table for Joshua’s Daddy and has been a side table in our house until we needed it for Joshua. I’m sure that when Joshua’s great Pa crafted this he could not have imagined that this would be passed down to his great grandson! Sometimes it pays to have woodworkers in the family and we are very lucky to have had one in ours.
Every day Joshua takes a snack, usually in the afternoon. I make glasses available to him in a small wooden shelf made by my cousin Paul and leave water in a small jug so that Joshua can pour himself a glass of water if he is thirsty.
To enhance the aesthetic of the snack area I rotate reproductions of beautiful artworks above the snack table. I am particularly interested in impressionist artists so I have been putting a few of my favourites there for Joshua to appreciate. I will soon be displaying some life prints of butterflies and bugs as he has expressed a strong interest in these lately.
Tips for the area (from our personal experience):
- Give the area some visual interest.
For the younger non-mobile child they would be more engaged with the area if there is interesting art work in the area, especially if they are using the table for meal times too.
- If you make water available in a jug make sure you don’t overfill the jug.
If the jug contains more water than the glass or cup will hold, this can result in overflow spillage. Full jugs are also heavier and therefore more difficult to control, especially for a younger child. Something we are considering doing is having a water dispenser so that Joshua can get as much water as he wants to drink without anyone else having to refill the jug to the appropriate level, though for the moment we are content with the current setup. Another tip is that if you are concerned with spillage of water is to present this on a small tray so that if there is any overflow this will be collected in the tray.
- Don’t put out too much food.
While we wanted Joshua to access snacks himself we know that if we left a mountain of strawberries out he would eat them all as he loves them so much! We tend to leave out sufficient food for an acceptable snack so that he won’t spoil his dinner. As he gets older he will be able to access snacks from the fridge and prepare them more independently, so he will have to make food choices for himself, but for now we do not put out too much and provide more on if the need arises.
- Don’t be afraid to use glass and porcelain.
We use glass and porcelain glasses and plates. We all use glasses and porcelain plates. These are items we use and we afford Joshua the opportunity to eat off these too. We purchased smaller glasses and bowls from Ikea that are appropriate for the size of Joshua’s hands, and Joshua takes his meals on side plates from our dinner set. These teach him to be careful with fragile dinnerware and glass/cups. Joshua has been using glass and porcelain since he was quite young and we have only ever had 1 breakage in that time. We have done a lot of practical life activities with him to reinforce the proper usage of these items, including drinking from a glass and using two hands, carrying plates horizontally from the shelf to a table and setting these down with care and not lifting crockery off the table during mealtime. The opportunities provided ensure further practice is made at meal times which satisfies the need to use these skills in “real” situations.
- Make kitchen tools available for snack preparation.
We have a container in an accessible shelf which has all of his tools in it ready for use next to his snack area.
So why have we gone to so much trouble to set up this area for him? Couldn’t we just give Joshua a snack every day when he asks for it? Yes we could. But I love how this is a little area just for him to use; that it fosters his independence by facilitating opportunities to practice life skills – pouring water, cutting, slicing, self feeding, putting used dishes away; that even though the goal is to eat and satiate hunger, the process of doing it himself satisfies him beyond what the food does. Most of all I enjoy the look of pride and satisfaction on his face when he has succeeded at a task without my help. Again Aid to Life has some succinct points and suggestions on independence for eating which are easy to implement.
Our items for Joshua’s snack table were sourced locally. The table was made by Joshua’s Great Pa, glass and chopping board are from Ikea and the jug and wavy chopper are sourced from small local shops. When Joshua was learning to use a glass these glass were too big for his little hands so I have some much smaller glasses which were just some espresso glasses until he was able to use the bigger glasses that he uses now. These were again sourced locally from a small shop. There are some places you can specifically source weaning items which are beautiful to use. Some ones that I particularly admire are listed on Michael Olaf, Fishpond and How We Montessori Shop however postage is a consideration so I would encourage you to purchase items locally if possible. There are plenty of local options that can meet the needs of the growing child and are affordable, reusable and beautiful.
Joshua enjoys his snack table and it is a key part of his work area. I hope you get a little inspiration from our setup!