Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Montessori at Home: Practical Skills in the Kitchen--Opening Cans, Measuring Spices, Equivalencies

Pantry Full of Canned Goods, But Can You Open Them?

And How Do You Shove a Tablespoon into the Chili Powder Jar?

Problem Solving, Occupational Therapy and Executive Function Skills in the Kitchen

Does your child know how to open the can of kidney beans?

It was September 1977, an autumn day on Princeton University's campus.  My husband, a new freshman early to his dorm before most students arrived, was thirsty, so he bought a grape soda (that's what they call fizzy drinks in the Midwest).  But he was used to pull tabs and didn't recognize the new stay-tab opening at the top!  ARGH!  Eventually this physics major at an Ivy League college did figure out how to open the drink.  (Here's how.)

Fast-forward to the current pandemic.  My "Armageddon Closet" is full of canned goods, from garbanzo beans and tuna to V8 and coconut milk.  But do my children know how to open any of them?  Should the power go out (ahem--Texas Snowmageddon 2021), could they still whip up some chili and heat it over a fire in the backyard?

Silly as it sounds, I've discovered over the years that this stuff matters.  There are ten different can openers out there (not counting the screw driver on your Swiss Army Knife) and your kids may be hard- pressed to use some of them unless they've been taught.  Add to that, if they are easily frustrated or weak in executive function skills, there are lots of little problems that can be hard to solve in the kitchen.  As I mentioned in my previous post, this mother to a son with cerebral palsy wrote about how many smaller steps go into even simple recipes.  If this is something interesting to you, check out occupational therapy articles on helping the elderly, who can have a lot of the same struggles with the skills of daily living.

In America, 1 T = 3 t

Yesterday I made a new chili recipe from one of my new favorite cookbooks, The Honeysuckle Cookbook, by Dzung Lewis.  I paid close attention to small "issues" that cropped up as I cooked--things I could imagine a young child would ask for help with:
  • how do you measure out a tablespoon of chili powder when the tablespoon won't fit into the jar? 
  • how do you unwrap the plastic off of this new jar of smoked paprika?
  • how can I scoop out this garlic powder when there's this plastic grill thing on the shaker?
  • how do you use a church key?
  • etc.
(For the record, my husband's answer to these questions is usually, "Easy!  Just dump out the spices and measure what you need."  But that's wasteful and messy, so .....). Not only are these good life skills to teach your kids before they leave for college, but you can easily incorporate math and tons of other subjects while cooking (chemistry, geography, etc).

So enjoy this video of how to make Smoky Slow-Cooker Chili!

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