Pasta Puttanesca is one of our favourite go-to dishes in the Kids’ Kitchen, and one of the easiest ways to get kids helping with cooking is to set up a Montessori Practical Life Invitation that helps isolate a skill and build fine motor strength and dexterity.
Ella loved pitting olives for the pasta sauce and this is such a simple skill to master (with the right tool) that I wanted to share it with you for your own kids’ kitchen adventure!
Montessori loves order, and by presenting the task in a self-explanatory way children intuitively understand where to put things and what is expected of them in a given activity. For this activity all that is required is two bowls, some olives, and an olive/cherry pitter.
Kids start out by using the pincer grip to pick up individual olives and place them in the olive pitter’s chamber. They have to make sure to place the olive lengthwise with one end resting on the hole leading to the “pit catcher.” (Someone please tell me if there are actual names for the parts to the olive pitter and save me from my horrible nicknames.)
After the olive is secure, there are two ways for children to pit the olive. One way is by pushing down firmly with one or both hands to plunge the pitter into the olive and remove the pit, as shown by Ella.
Another way, for children with longer fingers, is to use the thumb to push the plunger down — similar to the action required with a syringe.
Once the olive pit is removed from each olive, the (gentle) spring-loaded pitter returns to the starting position and children can remove the olive from the chamber and place the pitted olive in the “completed” bowl. All of the pits are stored in the secure pit catcher until the bottom is twisted off and emptied.
There is something really satisfying in this work, feeling the pitter plunge through each olive and remove the pitt, and then gently return back to the starting position, awaiting the next olive. Ella loved pouring the completed olives into our Pasta Puttanesca and eating the final product knowing how she had contributed to it.
What’s your child’s favourite kitchen skill to practice?