How in the world does a toddler to sit at a table, use a real plate, drink out of a glass and clean up after he finishes?! Lots of repetition and patience (oh, and paper towels). Please remember, every child is different and what works for one might not work for another. Give yourself some grace. We’re all figuring out this parenting thing one day at a time!
Like everything else in Montessori, mealtime starts with a well prepared environment. You should make things accessible if you expect your child to do things independently. They should be able to get their own plates, bowls, cups and utensils without any help. Encourage your child to help you set the table before snacks and meals. I also suggest having easy access to fresh water. Some people set up dispensers on a counter or table top, while I prefer to use a small pitcher. It all depends on your personal preference and your child’s ability.
There’s no telling how many times I’ve said, “please sit down while you’re eating” and “please keep your food on your plate.” It’s important to have firm, consistent guidelines when it comes to meals. If food gets thrown or glasses intentionally poured out, I simply state facts: “I see your banana on the floor”, followed by, “If you throw your food on the ground again, snack time is over.” I give them the opportunity to eat correctly and stand behind my statement. Stay strong, they will survive until the next snack or meal.
At the end of the meal, they push in their chairs, clear their own dishes and help wipe off the table. Believe me when I say I’m far from perfect and definitely a work in progress! I admit that sometimes I rush the clean up process by helping when I shouldn’t. I constantly remind myself that by stepping in unnecessarily, I’m hindering their independence. Children are capable of so much if we set them up for success and believe in their capabilities.