For all the beautiful Montessori homes with parents who are raising Montessori kids, this article has so many tips on how to turn your Montessori play kitchen into a functional kitchen so that your little ones can turn their imaginative play into practical life skills.

Montessori kitchen

Anytime an adult does something for a child that they could do for themselves with a bit of training, they rob them of an opportunity to learn and become more independent – the hardwired goal of every child

Dr Maria Montessori

Often, parents feel overwhelmed when considering implementing the Montessori method at home. There’s a common misconception that you need to completely overhaul your household and replace everything with Montessori items. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Like any significant change in life, transitioning to Montessori should be gradual. Begin by reducing toy clutter, then focus on making your home more accessible so your child feels encouraged to participate in everyday chores alongside you.

Montessori play room

The Montessori approach doesn’t necessarily discourage play kitchens outright but rather emphasises the importance of providing children with real, purposeful work over simulated ones. However, from a Montessori perspective, some within the Montessori community may question the use of play kitchens in favour of more authentic, hands-on learning opportunities.

So if you already have a Montessori play kitchen, there’s no need to worry. You can tweak and adjust minor details to set it up in a way that allows your child to use it as a real kitchen, thereby enhancing their learning experience.

play kitchen with working sink

Why a Functional Kitchen with Realistic Features Matters for Young Learners

I often get asked by other parents, How do you manage to tackle household chores with the little ones around? Do you wait until they’re napping? Well, my eldest has outgrown daytime naps now. However, my straightforward response is that I simply carry on with my day, extending an open invitation for them to join in if they wish. Surprisingly, most of the time, they eagerly jump at the chance. You’d be amazed at how eager and adept children can be in the kitchen!

Fine Motor Skills Flourish:

In our bustling kitchen, my two young daughters, Clarisse and Cleopatre, are always eager to lend a hand—or should I say, a tiny, determined finger? As they carefully pour ingredients into mixing bowls or delicately sprinkle toppings onto pizzas, I can see their fine motor skills blossoming with each task.

kitchens Montessori

Clarisse, my eldest, takes pride in making perfectly round pizza dough, while Cleo, the youngest, giggles with delight as she stirs batter with a miniature whisk, her tiny fingers mastering the art of coordination with every rotation. Through these seemingly simple actions, their hands grow stronger, their movements more precise, and their confidence in their abilities skyrockets.

cutting board

Problem-Solving in Action:

In our kitchen, problem-solving isn’t just a concept—it’s a daily adventure that my daughters eagerly embrace. Whether it’s finding a healthier alternative to sugar or improvising when a key ingredient is missing from our pantry, Clarisse is always eager to put her critical thinking skills to the test. Just recently, when she was craving candies, I suggested we try making something healthier at home instead. Clarisse remembered we had ripe blueberries and suggested we make jellies with them.

snack stations

And just like that, we had beautiful and colourful jellies made with fruits as natural sweeteners. These moments of culinary creativity not only result in delicious dishes but also instil in my daughters the invaluable lesson that there’s always a solution to be found, no matter the challenge.

Transforming a Toy Kitchen into a Functional Kitchen: Tips and Tricks

Many retail stores like Kmart, Target and Ikea sell wooden play kitchen that sometimes come with pretend food and cooking toys. If you already own one, I suggest displaying the pretend food and cooking toys on a shelf or in a handy cupboard so babies can get to know them. Then, use these tips to make the play kitchen functional.

Ikea Play kitchen
Photo Credit:

Puncture small holes into the sink to let water drip.

kitchen work

For the water source, you can either use a simple water dispenser jar or an Electric Water Pump Dispenser.

Remove the shelf on the right side of the kitchen cabinets and place a container to catch the dirty water.

DIY Your Own Montessori Kitchen on a Budget: Creative Solutions for Little Chef

If you have enough space in your kids’ playroom, consider building your own little kitchen using old furniture that you no longer need. It’s a perfect way to repurpose old furniture and add realistic features to create a functional toddler kitchen.

cutting board

We repurposed a $15 bedside table for this project. Using items we already had at home, like a water dispenser jar and a kitchen bowl, we didn’t need to spend anything extra. If you have an old bedside table or a small table lying around, you can easily create this adorable handwashing station for your little one.

My daughter eventually outgrew her old kitchen, so we decided to make her a bigger one without breaking the bank. I went to the local thrift shops to find a high quality piece made from natural materials, as these stores often offer such items at budget-friendly prices.

Montessori kitchen with running water

Knowing that messes are inevitable, especially during the learning phase when they may not understand the boundaries of playing with water, it was crucial to find furniture made from non-toxic materials.

Just make sure to supervise your little ones until they understand the concept of not playing with water and promptly wipe away any spills to prevent mould growth.

Additionally, to safeguard against water damage to the wood, we applied beautiful vinyl paper as an added protective measure.

Creating a Functional Montessori Kitchen: DIY Transformation on a Budget

I found a small TV unit at the thrift shop for just $25. We used the same bowl, but this time we added holes to the bottom so we could attach a water tap instead of using a jar.

snack stations

We removed the shelf on the right side of the unit and placed two plastic containers—one for clean water and the other for dirty water.

Montessori kitchen setup

Finally, we added a water pump purchased from Amazon and connected it to the container with clean water.

Essential Items to Display in Your Montessori Kitchen

While browsing at the thrift store, I picked up a few small real dishes. This is a great way to create a realistic kitchen environment, where children can wash their hands and even prepare their own snacks.

Add a hand towel for drying hands after washing, and some handy cloth napkins for wiping away any spills.

real dishes for kids.

Include a chopping board for food prep, as well as a small bin and a duster for tidying up small messes.

Additionally, consider adding a small plant. This teaches children the responsibility of caring for something. If you have more than one child, encourage them to take turns watering the plant.

Have them help in the big kitchen.

Although it’s great to modify or DIY play kitchens, it’s best to involve children in the real-life kitchen from an early age. This fosters not only practical skills but also social interactions as children spend time with adults in the kitchen.

Due to their natural curiosity, children consistently ask questions while in the kitchen, whether about ingredients or simply what you’re doing at each cooking step. This aids in their language development and helps them learn about where their meals come from as they watch you prepare them.

In our experience, we’ve found that our children eat better when they help us prepare the meals, and this is essentially how our blog, “The Well Fed Family,” came about.

How To Make your Kitchen Accessible?

Create a help center where they can feel free to join at any time without having to ask.

A kitchen helper, also known as a learning tower, is a great option if your child is under 2 years old. A step stool is also a good option because it takes up less space.

kitchen montessori

Choose a low cabinet and fill it with their own dishes like water cups, plates and real utensils.

water glass

Make sure to place the sharp knives in a higher drawer and out of children’s reach.

By trying out these practical tips and fostering a Montessori-inspired environment in the kitchen and your home in general, you’ll soon see your child getting involved and enjoying cooking with you.

Setting up a special spot for them to join in, like a low cabinet with their own dishes, and using child-friendly tools like a step stool or learning tower, will make it easier for them to participate.

father and daughter in the kitchen.

As they spend more time in the kitchen, they’ll naturally learn new skills and become more confident. Before you know it, you will have a little chef helping in the kitchen at all times.