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Monday, January 27, 2020

Developing the Senses - Taste

One of the most amazing ways that Montessori helps to respect a child's natural development (both in and out of a classroom) is by focusing on the development of the senses. Each sense is given specific opportunities to develop in its own way. Even the sense of taste is honored and developed through Montessori work. 

Montessori ideas for developing the sense of taste - and why it is important

The Sense of Taste and Montessori Homes

Recently, Theodore has been watching everyone eat with intense concentration. He's trying to figure out what exactly we are up to as we all sit together around the table together. While he isn't quite ready to eat (we will wait until he can sit more independently) it has made me think about the ways we do isolate and develop the sense of taste in Montessori. 

Babies and Young Toddlers

While Teddy is at this stage, it's very amazing to think that he has already been developing his sense of taste before he was even born! This is a time for exposure, and a time for exploration with taste. Here are some specific ways to help your child develop their sense of taste during this time: 

Eat a wide variety of foods during pregnancy. I find it so amazing that what we eat during pregnancy has such an effect on our children later on. That's not always the best news after I binged an entire container of Oreos, but it's good to keep in mind as we think about what we are eating. This article is a great overview of the development of baby's tastebuds. 

Savor Your Time at the Weaning Table. In the Montessori world, the introduction of food is called weaning (this doesn't necessarily mean stopping formula or breastmilk.) This process should be a fun one where you savor food together with your young child. Take time to really enjoy meals together, to eat a variety of food and give your baby/toddler real and delicious food opportunities.  Read more about the weaning process: 
Offer tastes in the Kitchen. Isolate the tasting experience for your child in the kitchen. Traditionally Montessori weaning would offer a variety of small tastes of juices before offering food to a child. I personally don't love that advice but I do think it is important to remember to isolate the tastes we are offering our child in these early moments. Often there can be this desire to just get through the cooking process and offer our child a full meal. But slow down, let your child taste ingredients in the kitchen, let them taste that raw carrot (where safe) and then the cooked carrot. Let them experience how the orange or lemon might taste alone. 

Allow for Mouthing. Babies will explore the world through their mouths for a long time. This will include both food and non-food options. Let it happen, don't remove (safe) items from their mouths, but let them explore. Provide safe opportunities to explore a variety of options.

Older Toddlers

I've written a lot about this before, but by the time a child is around 2 they are ready for SO much more work in the kitchen. They can really become these amazing independent beings with their own desires, preferences, and skills. The more exploration a child gets in the kitchen, the more their sense of taste will become refined. Here are some things to consider with older toddlers: 

Give Language to Taste. As adults we can tend to focus on the the product of what we are making in the kitchen, but for the young child that is often far less important. As your child works more and more in the kitchen, allow for oral exploration. Allow your child to taste the sauce you are putting together, eat that cilantro, bite the onion - but go a little further. Slow down and enjoy with your child but give language to your child. Things like sweet, biter, salty, sour, spicy, bland, acidic, savory, etc. Go beyond good/bad/yucky/yummy. But dig into the language of taste. 


Cook Together. Get your toddler into the kitchen. Do it! In whatever capacity you can, start cooking and baking with your child. 

Match By Taste. Toddlers love to match, creating a matching game out of tastes can be a fun way to explore tastes. In a Montessori classroom you might find similar sensorial work that isolates salty, biter, sweet, and sour flavors. You could do something similar at home by mixing these flavors with water and offering in small amounts. Another way is to use real flavors and small tastes. I have used small picture cards and matching a small taste of something (like lemon juice, carrot juice, milk) and then matching that flavor to a picture. A blindfold could also be used for larger items like fruit, vegetables, and herbs. 

Preschool 

By the time a child is 3 or older, they really have a fantastic ability to work in the kitchen and recognize flavors. By this point they can start to really branch out and try things on their own and make choices that we might not even think of as adults. Here are some ways to continue developing your child's sense of taste as a preschooler: 

Allow for Exploration. At this point, let your child start to combine flavors and tastes on their own. For my kids the easiest way to do that without wasting food is through smoothies and popsicles. They can think of all the things they might like to go together, experiment and try again. 


Plan Meals. Not only can your child be part of the cooking process but give your child the opportunity to start to put together whole meals. This is easiest at breakfast and lunch in our home, but over time bigger family meals can be included. Picking not only flavors that go together, but making healthy choices across food groups. 


I hope these ideas help to give you inspiration on how to develop your child's sense of taste and gives you some motivation to get into the kitchen with your child! 

Montessori ideas for developing the sense of taste - and why it is important - including tips and activities to try at home for babies and toddlers.

How have you helped your child develop their sense of taste? 

Read about how to support other senses in Montessori environments here: Hearing | Visual | Taste | Touch | Vestibular

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