Andrew: One of the most important practical life tips that we got from the “Montessori in the Home” course (read more about our takeaways from session 1 and session 2), which we’ve really applied is that of getting our kids involved in the kitchen by looking at a recipe and identifying which steps the kids can get involved in.
For this post, rather than go through the recipe step by step, I thought I’d share 5 tips on how we helped our kids to enjoy the process.
To complement this recipe for mini-sausage rolls, this visual of the dough at different stages was useful:
This was actually the first time we got our kids involved in baking, so I have to admit to being rather apprehensive, especially about the mess and whether they would be able to follow the steps. However, they participated fully in Steps 3-6 of the recipe and were pretty much in flow state throughout.
1. Explain first, then demonstrate silently.
Our tendency is to demonstrate and explain at the same time, but we forget that it requires a lot of processing to listen and watch at the same time. When getting the kids to roll the dough into balls, I first explained the steps – ‘Dust your hands with flour, pull a ball of dough, then roll it into a ball’, then I showed them how to do it.
(Jasmine: demonstrating in silence is so important and so overlooked! During AMI training it was explained as allowing the child’s absorbent mind to fully take in the demonstration, without having his attention split between the hand movements and the stream of talk, since he may likely be in a sensitive period for language. One might even be more succinct and say, “today we are going to roll a ball of dough”, or just simply, “watch”.)
This stems from the principle that the challenge offered should always be appropriate for our children. If it’s too difficult, they will also be frustrated or disengaged. This depends on your knowledge of your child and is up to you to observe!
For this recipe, I personally felt that the requirement to shape the balls into cones would be too tedious for them. So I broke it down further and we collaborated for Steps 4 to 5.
- The kids would roll the balls into flattened pancakes, then fold the ends in.
- I would shape the rolled up dough into a cone, then flatten it out.
- The kids would wrap the flattened cone around the sausages.
3. Set up an enabling environment.
Children need a sense of order and structure – where to pick the dough from, where to roll it out, where to place it next. This was where Jasmine came in to structure our production line:
Our process was that I would pass them the sausages, then they’d take the dough to wrap it around the sausages. What was really cute was that Emmy decided that she wanted to take charge of the sausages, so she’d look at her brother’s supply of sausages and totter across to him from time to time to pass him more sausages very eagerly.
4. Appreciate the child’s work – tolerate imperfections.
There were many times I was tempted to ‘correct’ the sausage rolls because they hadn’t wrapped it as precisely. As you can see from the picture below, there were rolls where the dough hadn’t been ‘sealed’ completely, or not as well shaped. If it was structural, I did tell our children that they needed to seal it up because it might cause the sausage roll to fall apart. (Jasmine: I might have left one or two like that so the child would witness the natural consequence of it falling apart after it had been baked!) However, if it was merely aesthetic, we just left it as that.
5. Incorporate the practical life task around your daily routine.
To keep practical life sustainable rather than just as one-off events, it’s useful to think of how it can be fit into your daily routine and be done at times where the cooking is not time sensitive. For this situation, the kids happened to finish wrapping the sandwiches just before their nap time. So they went for their nap while the rolls proofed and I applied the egg wash and baked it. They woke up to this:
And of course happily enjoyed the fruits of their labour for breakfast and snacks the next three days!
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