I thought I would share my 2 year old’s favourite Practical Life work; setting the table. He has been helping to do this in some way since he was about 16 months old. Both of my children at 2 years and 4 years love to do this.
This is my toddler’s silicon placemat. This is the same one his sister used when she was younger. As much as I would have loved to have sewn a beautiful placemat for them both, I just never got around to it. I will say that this placemat is non slip and so easy to clean and it’s light weight and rolls up.
When my son was just starting to learn to set the table I put what he needed in a wooden tray like this just above the placemat and showed him where each item goes giving him the language what each piece is called. At 2 years he knows and can say what each item is called as he places it on his table setting. In our kitchen space my children have access to a cutlery draw, plates and bowls, glasses and mugs and anything else they may need. At 2 years my son can get his own drink and collect the items needed to set the table including filling up this small sized jug with water from our water purifier that is at child-height.
At 2 years he does not always want to use cutlery, sometimes he just wants to use his hands, especially with fruit, but that is ok with me, I just ensure he has the correct cutlery to use when he wants to use them. Often when we all sit together to eat, he wants to copy us and will practice using his fork and spoon.
In the Montessori toddler school setting at my children’s school (18 months-3 years), children are encouraged to set the table when wanting to eat a snack. Often parents pack a container/compartment lunch for their children, but will then transfer some of those items onto a plate and encourage their child to collect a placemat, plate, cutlery and to pour themselves a drink and take it to the table. As there is no plastic in the classroom, plates are made from ceramic and the children drink from toddler sized glasses and use a glass pitcher.
Above is the same glasses and pitcher that they use in the toddler classroom, just the smaller sized ones. These are what we use at home at the moment. My 2 year old uses the smaller pitcher and my 4 year old uses the larger sized pitcher.
In my 4 year old’s Montessori classroom, The Children’s House (for 3-6 year olds), for snack time, children set their own table and can eat at the inside or outside table, but for lunch the children work in small groups to help set the table for all of the children and they all sit down to eat together. So nice.
For more table setting inspiration see Living Montessori Now.