A unique feature of the Montessori classroom is the ready availability of snacks. We place healthy, easy-to-eat snacks at the children’s level so that they can help themselves when they are hungry.
There are several elements to this routine that works well for the developing child.
We set out snack foods between 8:45 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. every morning. We find that this is the best time to offer a snack without distracting them from work earlier in the morning. If a child asks for a snack before it is put out, we will say, “Snack is not available until 8:45.”
Everything that children need to feed themselves is prepared on a tray. This includes utensils. Favorites include:
- clementine + bowl
- hard boiled egg (brown) + egg slicer + bowl
- half banana in peel + cutting board + slicing tool
- ½ graham cracker + small dish of flavored cream cheese + blunt spreading knife
After snack, children are responsible for cleaning up for themselves. This is a central feature of Maria Montessori’s method - respect for one’s environment. Children are introduced to the cleaning station and are guided towards how to throw away trash, clean dishes, and put the dishes away.
Preparing the environment is easy. Teaching the child how to manipulate the food comes over time. The real mastery of this work is guiding children in understanding their hunger cues. By limiting the times that snack is available, we introduce the child to patience. We help them to grow comfortable with the idea that they will not be able to eat anytime they would like. However, by providing healthy options at reasonable times, we honor the child’s innate desire to eat when hungry. Snack work is not forced or recommended; it’s merely available. Sometimes children choose to do the work without the eating, and that is ok too. In this case, we talk to the child about taking their work home.