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Cooking and Baking with Your Children

By: Erin Mandalfino, Children’s House Directress

There is no greater period of development of an individual in either physical or psychological growth, than in the first plane of development. From birth to 6 years of age, the foundation of one’s personality is developed. The first plane of development is divided into 2 sub phases; birth to age three and age three to six.

In the first sub phase, the most ideal environment for a child is one that is consistent in routine and provides a positive environment with a secure attachment to the adult. A secure, healthy attachment is an important development that will lay the foundation for the child’s trust level in all his future endeavors and transitions. This primary trust level will be the basis for all of the child’s future relationships.

The second sub phase is characterized by a child’s desire to achieve greater levels of independence, resulting in self-confidence through physical interactions with his environment. Physical manipulation of the environment facilitates the cohesive development of mind and body. The home environment and the classroom environment can provide motives of activity that foster the natural development of mind and body integration.

Dr. Montessori discovered through keen observations that children enter into a new period of development around age 3. Modern neuroscience has confirmed her astute observations. When a child is born, his nerves are not completely developed. This is why in infants and toddlers, their movements are erratic, impulsive and less coordinated. Montessori described these movements as a period of unconscious absorption. The myelin sheath which covers the nerves and is responsible for sending messages to and from the brain is not completely developed until around age three. The development begins at the body’s core and moves out toward the extremities as the child ages and is completed around age 3. Unaware of this physiological development, Montessori determined that age 3 was a period of more conscious growth and development. It is this transition in development that we want to capitalize on in order to maximize the child’s potential with hopes of providing a strong foundation on which to grow. We do this through interactions with real things, in an environment that supports this developmental stage.

An environment that allows for exploration and freedom to move is supportive of a child’s natural development. Children learn by utilizing all their senses. If they are allowed to see, hear, smell, touch and taste, they are providing their brain with an immense inventory of experiences. These experiences and the engagement of the brain develop a cohesive mind and body integration.

In the Children’s House, we support this developmental stage by providing motives of activity. Motives of activity are a piece of work that is done with the hands with real things accompanied by mental concentration and movement. And this is what sets us apart from many of the traditional preschools. We understand how the brain develops through the use of the hands and we foster the natural development through purposeful motives of activity.

The emphasis in our environment on baking or cooking with children stems from the direct aims of developing concentration, developing fine and gross motor control and developing independence in the child. These characteristics are observable in a child as integrated behavior. This one activity provides opportunities to fulfill a child’s needs for movement and independence, and engage his mind and body, thus strengthening this natural physiological development of mind and body integration.

Baking is real, not make-believe. Baking satisfies and stimulates all the domains of development-cognitive, social, emotional and physical, and it provides numerous opportunities for mind and body connections. We want engagement, not busy work.

Baking with children is one example of an activity that meets the needs of a child at any age. The beauty of it is that the difficulty can be increased as the child matures. When working with children, it is possible to filter all your ideas through some very basic principles and continually provide an environment that enhances learning abilities. Give children something real to be done with the hands, accompanied by mental concentration and integrated movements. Whether it be raking leaves, cleaning windows, bathing a pet, driving nails into a log or washing the car; an activity should have a full cycle of activity with a beginning, middle and end, and it should be fun!

Ruffing Montessori School   |   3380 Fairmount Blvd Cleveland Heights, OH 44118   |   Phone: (216) 321-7571   |   Hours 8am-4pm M-F   |   After Hours Phone (216) 321-0913